Handbook of Sustainable Development
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Handbook of Sustainable Development

Second Edition

Edited by Giles Atkinson, Simon Dietz, Eric Neumayer and Matthew Agarwala

This timely and important Handbook takes stock of progress made in our understanding of what sustainable development actually is and how it can be measured and achieved.
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Chapter 34: Sustainable cities and local sustainability

Yvonne Rydin


The local level has been fertile ground for the sustainable development agenda. And within an urbanized world – currently some 3.5 billion people, over half of the world’s population, live in urban centres and by 2030 this is likely to rise to almost 60 per cent – this means cities engaging with the concept of urban sustainability (Satterthwaite, 2002). In this chapter we shall review the arguments for pursuing sustainable development at the local, urbanized level. While local action for sustainability cannot on its own achieve sustainable development, it is argued that such local action is both a necessary element and can make a substantial contribution in its own right. However, as at national levels, conflicts between environmental, economic and social goals mean that there are inevitable choices involved in setting a local sustainability agenda. The chapter suggests some alternative visions for sustainable cities and discusses the importance of urban politics. Finally it critically assesses the implications of globalization for a focus on urban sustainability and how this affects the potential for local action to address sustainable development.

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