Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - ECO-URB (Analysing Urban Metabolism and Ecological Footprint - A Multi-Scale Approach to Urban Sustainability Accounting and its Policy Implications)

The modern world is an urbanizing world. In the EU and Israel, the vast majority of the population are already urbanites. From a bio-physical approach, cities are integrated with surrounding local and global ecosystems. Given accelerating global changes (e.g., population growth, resource depletion) and documented and emerging processes of environmental change (e.g., climate change, deforestation, soil degradation), it is crucial to find ways to minimise the urban throughput and ecological load, making urban life sustainable in a rapidly changing world.

Several urban sustainability studies have suggested directions and specific policies for sustainability. However, as the available means (both financial and po¬litical) to change urban activities, design and lifestyle are limited, it is important to identify spe-cific activities and policies that will make the maximal contribution to sustainability. The completed research project titled: 'Analysing Urban Metabolism and Ecological Footprint - A Multi-Scale Approach to Urban Sustainability Accounting and its Policy Implications' embraced a ‘whole systems’ view of the city and its sustainability. The main objective of the competed research was analyzing the bio-physical throughput of specific urban sectors, neighborhoods and activities, and to relate the results of the analysis to policy proposals and implementation strategies that would enable existing cities to minimize their pressure on the supporting ecological systems and thereby to increase their sustainability.

The two major research tools used in this research are urban metabolism analysis (UMA) and ecological footprint analysis (EFA). The former approach documents the volumes of materials and energy that flow through an examined city. It generates both an overall picture and snapshots of specific urban sectors (e.g., buildings, food, transportation). It also provides important information about the overall urban natural system interactions, including the types of emissions and the specific urban activities that generate those emissions; the extent to which the input and output flows are local or global; and the quantities of renewable versus non-renewable resources. EFA measures the equivalent terrestrial and aquatic areas on which the urban activity (and sustainability) depends. As such, it attempts to pinpoint the gap between current rates of metabolism and biophysical limits. By applying EFA measures, the research highlighted those activities that generate the highest ecological loads and analyzes the potential contribution of alternative practices and policies for footprint reduction.

Altogether, the research focused on four cities – Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Beer-Sheva and Ra'anana. While the metabolism and footprint of each of those cities was researched and quantified, each studied city presented a unique case and contributes somewhat different to the whole project. It is important to highlight the significant number of research students that were involved with the above research- including 2 PhD students, 4 M.A students and several research assistants. The research project was divided into several smaller sub-projects, each focused on different scale. Together they cover a wide range of urban bio-physical aspects, allowing the research to achieve its goals and contribute to better understanding of the way cities / neighborhoods / households are functioning.

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