Strengthening Sustainability Planning: The City Capability Framework

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Existing city planning and implementation processes are 'tried and tested' and have proven to be a successful means of planning and implementing large-scale infrastructure projects in cities. However an increasing interest in developing more sustainable cities has led questions about whether existing planning processes, on their own, will be able to achieve the change required to address climate change and sustainable development. At the same time a range of city sustainability indicator frameworks such as ISO 37120:2014 are being developed. These measure the performance of cities in terms of environmental aspects such as carbon emissions, waste production, pollution and water consumption as well as social and economic aspects such as economic activity and health and education. These indicators aim to report on how effectively cities address sustainability. However, these indicator systems are often divorced from actual city planning processes, such as the development of Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) and Spatial Development Frameworks (SDFs) that plan infrastructure, such as energy, water, sanitation, road and public transport systems, which actually determine sustainability performance of a city. This paper therefore proposes a City Capability Framework that strengthens the relationship between city sustainability strategy, targets and indicators and city planning and implementation process and shows how this may work through practical examples. The paper outlines how the framework can be applied, and integrated with existing planning processes within a city, through the examples from the City of Johannesburg in South Africa. Critical analysis is undertaken to identify strengths and weaknesses of the framework and make proposals for its improvement. Finally, the paper draws a number of conclusions on the applicability and effectiveness of the framework as a means of improving sustainability performance of cities and makes recommendations for further research.




Gibberd, J. (2017). Strengthening Sustainability Planning: The City Capability Framework. In Procedia Engineering (Vol. 198, pp. 200–211). Elsevier Ltd.

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