Urban form policies and sustainable initiatives have limitations, especially as European nations have their own requirements for urban densities and land settlement patterns. No one general policy from the European Union, or even a national government, would serve to solve all of the problems faced by one city.
So can urban form policy limitations halt sustainable urban development?
The simple yet complex answer is yes, but only if national governments or the European Union are the only governing bodies making the policy decisions. In order for European cities to create sustainable development projects, they must be able to make those decisions with the needs of their cities in mind.
One way to demonstrate this is with the 2004 preparatory document on the Urban Thematic Strategy. This paper showcases all of the different ways that widespread legislation may actually have a negative effect on sustainable innovation. Reversing urban sprawl or reducing traffic, for instance, are factors that must take into account the city’s workforce, urban density, public transportation options, and more. And land settlement is a highly politicized issue that won’t be quelled with talk of sustainability.
By creating city-specific urban development strategies, however, a city can grow its contribution to sustainability in terms that make sense for it, including investing in renewable energy, making public transportation more accessible, and more.
The Impact of Sustainable Innovation
Sustainable urban development is making an impact in Europe, regardless of the criticism of urban form policies. In fact, more European cities than ever before are moving toward sustainable innovation now that it’s been proven that both populations and profits benefit with sustainable urban policies.
According to the 2016 Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index, 16 out of the top 20 cities listed are from all across Europe, including London, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, and Geneva. The index, which factors in everything from air pollution and energy consumption to GDP and employment rates, showcases the strides that European cities are making in order to make their citizens healthier and happier while also taking the time to pay attention to the needs of the environment.
Sustainable urban development has a long road ahead of itself in Europe, but it’s already making positive changes. From reducing air pollution to building sustainable public transportation, Europe is leading the way to a Western sustainable model that will no doubt inform urban development and policy in the decades to come.