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The Atlanta BeltLine > An Example for Green Urbanism Initiatives

“Acknowledging the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."
(United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)

In this era of presidential elections in France, and in the US, not enough programs really focus on what is to be the imminent challenge of global carbon emissions reductions. Companies, population and cities must yet work together, for the first steps have to be significantly early to complete the mission on time. As we have recently focused on corporate actions towards compliance, let’s focus today on the role cities must play in reducing carbon emissions, with a special focus on Atlanta’s BeltLine Project.


UN Report “{{LNK|Hot Cities: battle-ground for climate change|}}” from the United Nations Human Settlement Program, or {{LNK|UN-HABITAT|}}, has shown in 2011 that the world’s cities, covering about 2 percent of the global surface available, {{LNK|were responsible for no less than 70% of global GHG emissions|}}. As Executive Director of UN-HABITAT Joan Clos notices, cities “are also places where the greatest efficiencies can be made. This makes it imperative that we understand the form and content of urbanization so that we can reduce our footprint.”

The importance of local action

Local action by cities are indeed vital if we are to meet crucial targets - such as cutting GHG emissions by 15% within 10 years ({{LNK|cf. Dr. James E. Hansen, TED conference|}}) - by the deadline. In the Uk for instance, where the goal has been set to reach an 80% reduction by 2050, research funded by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Education Trust has shown most of the top 60 cities – ranked by population size - have already set up carbon reduction plans, “either through climate change plans, explicit low carbon plans or some other kind of plan” ({{LNK|see full article|}}).

Green urbanism

Sustainable Urban Planning, or Green Urbanism, is therefore THE new approach urban designers must adopt: “by definition interdisciplinary, it requires the collaboration of landscape architects, engineers, urban planners, ecologists, transport planners, physicists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and other specialists, in addition to architects and urban designers” (Cf. Steffen Lehmann, {{LNK|The 15 Principles of Green Urbanism|}}). Over the past few years, organizations like {{LNK|Vivre En Ville and their Saga City Project|}}, as well as companies such as {{LNK|Maison France Confort and their Positive Energy Housing concept|}}, have emerged to help cities become “the most environmentally-friendly model for inhabiting our earth”. But these initiatives, that ultimately have to see the light at a local level, remain very specific and now need coordination, to become standards.

Indicators that matter

If no official criteria have been established yet, {{LNK|Mother Nature Network's Top 10 Green US Cities|}} mentions key indicators every city looking to make a change should always care about. These include “air and water quality, efficient recycling and management of waste, percentage of LEED-certified buildings, acres of land devoted to greenspace, use of renewable energy sources, and easy access to products and services that make green lifestyle choices (organic products, buying local, clean transportation methods) easy.” Partly based on these measures, SF was ranked number two, for its leadership in solar energy, its innovative recycling program, and its ban on plastic grocery bags – behind Portland, ranked number one with its 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes.

Case study: Atlanta Belt Line

Consistent with these views, let's introduce one of the "largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment projects currently underway in the United States” : the {{LNK|Atlanta BeltLine|}}. A "comprehensive redevelopment and mobility project,” the BeltLine aims at providing “a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor circling downtown and connecting 45 neighborhoods directly to each other”. At the heart of the project is “an integrated approach to land use, transportation, greenspace and sustainable development that will create a framework for future growth in the City of Atlanta.” Here is a quick summary of the measures it includes:

>Transit : “A 22-mile loop of pedestrian-friendly rail transit along mostly abandoned former rail lines”
>Trails: “A 33-mile network of multi-use trails” using the former rail lines, to link together surrounding parks and trails, and reinforce public transportation
>Parks: Within 25 years, the BeltLine will “increase Atlanta’s greenspace by nearly 40%,” adding about 1,300 acres of new parks and greenspace to the city with sustainable infrastructure
>Economic Development : Throughout the whole project, the Atlanta BeltLine is expected to generate over $20 billion of new economic development and about 30,000 new jobs
>Affordable Workforce Housing: More than “5,000 new units of affordable workforce housing” are to be built
>Workforce Development and Community Benefits: Thanks to its “first-source jobs policy,” local residents receive training for jobs “where BeltLine developments and infrastructure occurs”.
>Environmental Clean-Up and Reuse: About 1,100 acres of brownfields are to be wiped clean and redeveloped
>Public Art & Historic Preservation: The industrial character of the Beltline corridor will provide potential sites for public art, and historic sites along the beltline will also be emphasized for preservation
>Community Engagement: Avenues have been institutionalized “for the community to participate in the planning and development of the BeltLine”.

All details can be found on the website : {{LNK|>

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