Night traffic in a street in Bangkok
SEI’s initiative on urbanization aims to generate knowledge and solutions on human health and well-being in cities. Photo: Hanny Naibaho / Unsplash.

To meet the challenges of urbanization in the region, SEI Asia is driving a new initiative on urbanization to generate knowledge and solutions on human health and well-being in cities.

The initiative links what SEI calls the “urban metabolism” – a city’s system of needs for and supplies of water, energy and waste – with clean air strategies and tools and scenario planning to help city planners make informed and sustainable planning decisions for health and well-being. The initiative will also review cases of good governance that can inform city leaders’ efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11, which calls for making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

O’Connor was also part of a panel discussion at WUF on how to empower cities to take action, highlighting basic actions policy-makers at the national level can take to help city level planners, such as setting clean vehicle standards and incentives, making freight transport more efficient, enacting building energy codes and incentives and setting energy efficiency standards for appliances.

“Inclusive low carbon cities will be vital to sustainable development and the future health and well-being of citizens and communities throughout Asia,” said O’Connor. “The breakneck pace of urban growth in the region demands policy and action that results in just, sustainable, productive and resilient cities, and SEI is prepared to contribute its knowledge and skills to assist them achieve better urban governance.”

SEI Asia has already partnered on urban initiatives in the region. In 2017, it joined with the UN Development Programme’s Regional Urban Climate Resilience Initiative (RUCRI) to look at local leadership for climate resilience.

The initiative’s initial findings were discussed during a networking session at the WUF. O’Connor spoke during a panel session on human health and well-being approaches. O’Connor spoke during a panel session on human health and well-being approaches.

Key to the RUCRI approach is capacity development. RUCRI partner Hat Yai Municipality in Thailand provides an example that can inform the actions of other Asian cities. It led its own leadership discussion and works closely with its partners. “It is important we provide quality information and resources to cities so that they can respond with actions that fit their unique local context. Our urbanization initiative will use this as a foundation as we continue to strengthen our partnerships and reach out to more cities,” said O’Connor.

With this in mind, SEI Asia has identified four key needs that it’s work on urbanization can help to meet:

  • access to more and better information
  • comprehensive assessment capabilities
  • better prioritization, participatory planning and community engagement, and
  • coordinated policy and governance coherence.

The Low-Carbon Cities report is published by the Coalition for Urban Transitions initiative, in partnership with SEI.