Ecocity Builders
  • Date submitted: 4 Sep 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Ecocity Builders
  • Submission Document: Not available
Keywords: Institutional framework for sustainable development (1 hits), IFSD (0 hits),

General Content

a) What are the expectations for the outcome of Rio+20, and what are the concrete proposals in this regard, including views on a possible structure of the Outcome document?

The pathway taken by urban development over the next few decades will play a crucial role in the trajectory of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and natural resource depletion, as well as the fundamental health and well being of the human species and all life on earth. Cities consume 60% to 80% of the world?s energy production and natural resources. With the urban population of the developing world projected to reach more than 5 billion people by 2050, ideas about how to combine urbanization and sustainability are of critical and immediate importance.

The Rio+20 Outcome document should therefore focus on the intersection between society, economy and the environment: i.e. cities, towns and villages, their citizens, their economies and the rural areas and ecosystems that sustain our human civilization.

With this focus, the Outcome document should feature the adoption of an effective international framework to facilitate active engagement with members of public and private sectors. We are offering our contribution to this effort: The International Ecocity Framework and Standards Initiative.

b) What are the comments, if any, on existing proposals: e.g., a green economy roadmap, framework for action, sustainable development goals, a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development, or others?

A shared vision of what sustainable development is and what to build is imperative if we are to coordinate existing proposals and ensure overall success which we hope we could all agree is the healthy continuation of human civilization on a living earth.

Cities, towns and villages are where sustainable development happens. In order to meet the needs of both people and planet, cities must be re-designed to build soils, restore biodiversity and return the climate to dynamic stability ? becoming net positive contributors to nature as well as to human culture. We would like to propose the adoption of the ecocity approach to sustainable development, which seeks to maximize the possibility that cities and citizens can sustainably meet a majority of their needs from the natural capital of their own bioregions.

This approach has been under development and refinement for over 30 years by Ecocity Builders and our members and international associates. Ecocity leadership to date typically comes from Mayors and City Planners, NGOs and citizen activists, informal coalitions and even emerges through high level mandates, as in some countries like China. The Ecocity Vision is moving beyond Agenda 21 and the encapsulates the integrated solution set to meet the level of the global sustainability crisis we collectively facing.

c) What are the views on implementation and on how to close the implementation gap, which relevant actors are envisaged as being involved (Governments, specific Major Groups, UN system, IFIs, etc.);

Again, we feel that in order to close the implementation gaps, we all need to be working towards the same goal with a shared vision of sustainable development; i.e. what to build. We are proposing an International Ecocity Framework and Standards to outline a shared vision for an environmentally restorative and socially just human presence on earth that is both robust and transparent, verifiable and measureable. The Framework proposes indicators that can be used to drive investment and track progress as cities and citizens move towards increased balance with living systems. All actors will have their roles: local governments for local action plans and policies, major groups to provide expertise, facilitation and guidance, UN system to support all efforts with broad reaching policies and practices, outreach and communications, IFIs to help prime the investment towards the corresponding technologies and infrastructure, etc.
d) What specific cooperation mechanisms, partnership arrangements or other implementation tools are envisaged and what is the relevant time frame for the proposed decisions to be reached and actions to be implemented?

In order to support this transition, we are proposing that the International Ecocity Framework and Standards be adopted as a cooperative initiative of Rio+20. The IEFS outlines 15 conditions for healthy cities and civilization in balance with earth systems (outlined below) organized through 4 fundamental urban arenas (urban design, bio-geo-physical conditions, ecological imperatives and socio-cultural conditions). The 15 conditions with corresponding verifiable indicators (under development in partnership with NGO Ecocity Builders) address the full range of a healthy human civilization operating within the earth?s biocapacity.


1. ACCESS BY PROXIMITY: The city provides the majority of its residents with walkable access from housing to basic urban services. It also provides walking and transit access to close-by employment options.


2. CLEAN AIR: The city maintains a level of air quality that is conducive to good health within buildings, the city?s air shed, and the atmosphere.

3. HEALTHY SOIL: Soils within the city and soils associated with the city's economy, function and operations meet their ranges of healthy ecosystem functions as appropriate to their types and environments; fertility is maintained or improved.

4. CLEAN AND SAFE WATER: All residents are ensured access to clean, safe, affordable water; the city?s water sources, waterways and water bodies are healthy and function without negative impact to ecosystems. Water consumed is primarily sourced from within the bioregion.

5. RESPONSIBLE RESOURCES/MATERIALS: The city's non-food and non-energy renewable and non-renewable resources are sourced, allocated, managed and recycled responsibly and equitably, and without adversely affecting human health or the resilience of ecosystems. Resources/Materials are primarily sourced from within the bioregion.

6. CLEAN AND RENEWABLE ENERGY: The city's energy needs are provided for, and extracted, generated and consumed, without significant negative impact to ecosystems or to short- or long-term human health and do not exacerbate climate change. Energy consumed is primarily generated within the local bioregion.

7: HEALTHY AND ACCESSIBLE FOOD: Nutritious food is accessible and affordable to all residents and is grown, manufactured and distributed by processes which maintain the healthy function of ecosystems and do not exacerbate climate change. Food consumed is primarily grown within the local bioregion.


8. HEALTHY BIODIVERSITY: The city sustains the biodiversity of local, bioregional and global ecosystems including species diversity, ecosystem diversity and genetic diversity; it restores natural habitat and biodiversity by its policy and physical actions.

9. EARTH?S CARRYING CAPACITY: The city keeps its demand on ecosystems within the limits of the Earth?s bio-capacity, converting resources restoratively and supporting regional ecological integrity.

10. ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY: The city maintains essential linkages within and between ecosystems and provides contiguous habitat areas and ecological corridors throughout the city.


11. HEALTHY CULTURE: The city facilitates cultural activities that strengthen eco-literacy, patterns of human knowledge and creative expression, and develop symbolic thought and social learning.

12. COMMUNITY CAPACITY BUILDING: The city supports full and equitable community participation in decision making processes and provides the legal, physical and organizational support for neighborhoods, community organizations, institutions and agencies to enhance their capacities.

13. HEALTHY AND EQUITABLE ECONOMY: The city's economy consistently favors economic activities that reduce harm and positively benefit the environment and human health and support a high level of local and equitable employment options that are integrated into the ecocity's proximity based layout and policy framework ? the foundation for ?green jobs? and ?ecological development.?

14. LIFELONG EDUCATION: All residents have access to lifelong education including access to information about the city?s history of place, culture, ecology, and tradition provided through formal and informal education, vocational training and other social institutions.

15. WELL BEING ? QUALITY OF LIFE: Citizens report strong satisfaction with quality of life indicators including employment; the built, natural and landscaped environment; physical and mental health; education; safety; recreation and leisure time; and social belonging.


1. 2012 -- IEFS platform adopted at Rio+20

2. 2012 - 2015 a. IEFS evaluations completed by cities with the support of regional and national government and the UN, with corresponding IEFS Action Plans created with the assistance of Ecocity Builders and the NGO sector as appropriate, ensuring the outreach and dialogue ongoing with citizens and citizens groups. b. Bioregional mapping and resource and ecosystem evaluation completed by clusters of cities occupying specific bioregions in order to coordinate and develop plans and policies that support building up local economies and meeting more of their needs from the natural capital of their own bioregions.

3. 2012 - 2020. By 2020, a majority of cities and citizens will be well on the path toward 'ecocity' level conditions and we will see a significant lowering of GHGs and an improvement in overall biocapacity and a decrease in climate related shocks and instability.

4. 2050. A majority of cities and citizens will have reached 'ecocity' conditions. Climate change will have been stopped and biodiversity largely restored. We will have made the transition to a green economy and a renewed hopeful future for the human species and all other life forms on the planet.

Specific Elements
a) Objective of the Conference: To secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.

Contributions could include possible sectoral priorities (e.g., (e.g., energy, food security and sustainable agriculture, technology transfer, water, oceans, sustainable urbanization, sustainable consumption and production, natural disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, biodiversity, etc.) and sectoral initiatives that contribute to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development could be launched and endorsed at Rio+20.

As stated in previous comments, we are proposing that the International Ecocity Framework and Standards be adopted as a cooperative initiative of Rio+20. The IEFS outlines 15 conditions for healthy cities and civilization in balance with earth systems (outlined below) organized through 4 fundamental urban arenas (urban design, bio-geo-physical conditions, ecological imperatives and socio-cultural conditions). The 15 conditions with corresponding verifiable indicators (under development in partnership with NGO Ecocity Builders) address the full range of a healthy human civilization operating within the earth?s biocapacity.

The system is a means to organizing the various contributions along a shared path and shared vision and goal, and firmly integrates the three pillars of sustainable development.
b) Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication: views regarding how green economy can be a means to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions, and poverty eradication; what is its potential added value; experience to date, including what has worked and how to build upon success, what are the challenges and opportunities and how to address the challenges and seize opportunities, and possible elements of an agreement in outcome document on a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication

Without a shared vision for sustainable development, we are concerned that actions and actors may be working in competition unnecessarily or may be knowingly or unknowingly blocking success of the whole systems approach to sustainability that is needed. Simply put, "No Ecology, No Economy; No Planet, No Profit". Until we have a shared vision and an institutional framework that is based on a shared vision of sustainable development, we will not be able to launch the green economy as investment and commitment will continue to follow outdated and damaging policies and practices until we know what to build and how to prioritize, plan and implement.

The effort to launch the green economy will require focus, funding, commitment, and accountability. As acknowledged by the business community, investment requirements of sustainable development can only be met by effective public-private partnership and a shared vision. Furthermore, consensus on sustainable development calls for international cooperation and leadership to achieve convergence between economic development, social development and environmental protection. In order to achieve the necessary conditions for engaging all sectors towards a common vision while achieving the stated goals of UNCSD for the upcoming Rio+20: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the Institutional framework for sustainable development, we propose the Outcome document adopt a roadmap to a human civilization in balance with living systems modeled on the International Ecocity Framework and Standards (IEFS) ? currently under development by UN accredited NGO Ecocity Builders and an International Advisory Committee. Indicators and Standards for Sustainable Development will ensure that the needs of the poor and are addressed within the context of a shared framework and vision and can be included and addressed from the front end of the discussion instead.
c) Institutional framework for sustainable development: Priorities and proposals for strengthening individual pillars of sustainable development, as well as those for strengthening integration of the three pillars, at multiple levels; local, national, regional and international.

The IEFS proposal would integrate and organize through its the architecture of its four arenas: urban design, bio-geo-physical conditions, ecological imperatives and socio-cultural conditions. Through this system, the roles and responsibilities would emerge clearly and intuitively, with UN agencies assisting within their areas of focus an expertise, with a similar bottom up organization through local, national and international agendas all converging on the vision. The accountability and transparency of the system would go a long way to ensuring expected outcomes.
d) Any proposals for refinement of the two themes. Recall that Resolution 64/236 describes the focus of the Conference: "The focus of the Conference will include the following themes to be discussed and refined during the preparatory process: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development".


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