Sustainable city

Dernière mise à jour le 7 juin 2019

“Sustainable city” is a term used to refer to a city or urban entity that respects the principles of sustainable development and urban ecology and which seeks to consider simultaneously urban policy’s social, economic, environmental, and cultural implications for and with its inhabitants, for instance through HQE-type architecture, by facilitating restrained forms of work and transportation and by developing energy efficiency, as well as the efficiency of natural resource that are non or not easily renewable, or renewable only at great cost.

The project of a sustainable city cannot be understood outside of its context, namely the changes altering human habitat. This habitat is becoming urban on a scale and at a rate that are historically unprecedented. Cities are simultaneously expanding and growing more dispersed. They are becoming archipelagos. Meaningful frameworks and collective solidarity are diluted, except in the case of a major aggression. The current affirmation of urban powers seems incapable, in most cases, of defining a political project in the breach opened by this crisis. Economic competition creates a collective blindness, which sees ecological risks and deterioration or growing inequalities as matters of secondary importance.  Even so, in the urban crucible, new approaches, experiments, collective mobilizations, and networks are emerging, forging new answers to twenty-first century problems.

The concept of sustainable city, which is not legally defined, has countless meanings. It probably first emerged in the wake of the successes of the 1990s, between the great Rio (1992) and Johannesburg (2002) summits, most likely at the Istanbul (Habitat II) summit of 1996, which declared the need for the “sustainable development of human settlements.”

The sustainable city, as a new standard in urban policy, is an ambitious idea, but one that is also replete with tensions and contradictions.


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File translated by Michael C. Behrent – Assistant Professor – Department of History – Appalachian State University – Boone, NC  28608