Task Manager; Senior Policy Researcher, Kitakyushu Urban Centre / Regional Centre, IGES
Shom's research focuses on policies to enable sustainable and low-carbon development in cities. She leads the ASEAN ESC Model Cities programme, which provides technical assistance, seed funding and other forms of support. Prior to IGES in May 2010, she has conducted research on solid waste management policies and legislation in Japan and Southeast Asia. She previously worked as a journalist and as a Communications Officer for Energy and Environment issues in UNDP Malaysia.
Vol.7 March 2015
Towards Environmentally Sustainable Cities
- Actions of the ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme -
In Asia, where economic development has been accompanied by increasing urbanisation, the creation of Environmentally Sustainable Cities (ESC) is now attracting attention. Under the ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme currently under way, about 20 ASEAN cities are taking action to achieve their environmental targets. Progress on the Model Cities programme was reported to the 6th High Level Seminar on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (6HLS ESC) held on 9 – 10 February 2015 in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. IGES is closely involved in these two initiatives – first, as the implementing agency for the Model Cities Programme, and second, as the seminar Secretariat for the HLS ESC.
In this interview, we talk to Shom Wei Chin Teoh, a Task Manager of Sustainable Cities at IGES, and ask her about specific initiatives in individual cities and collaborative activities.
---Can you tell us about the ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme and the High Level Seminars?Teoh:
The ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme (hereafter referred to as "Model Cities Programme") and annual HLS seminars are closely intertwined. Basically, the HLS ESC not only inspired the establishment of the Model Cities Programme, it is also the programme’s main face-to-face reporting and networking platform.
The story began in 2010, when the Government of Japan advocated organising the first High Level Seminar on ESC (1HLS ESC) under the framework of the 18-country East Asia Summit Environment Ministers Meeting (EAS EMM) which endorsed ESC as a key priority for regional collaboration. The seminar gathered officials from central governments, local governments, international agencies, aid agencies, research institutions, and NGOs to discuss how to further regional cooperation on ESC.
As a final output, participants identified a total of five recommended practical activities. IGES took one of the recommended activities (an "East Asia Model Cities Initiative") and worked with the ASEAN Secretariat to design the "ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme", which was eventually successfully launched in 2011 with funding from the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). Since then, the HLS ESC has been organised annually, while the Model Cities programme runs in parallel.
---What specific types of activities take place under the Model Cities Programme?Teoh:
The overall objective of the Model Cities programme is to support ASEAN countries in the creation of "Model Cities" to serve as examples across the region of how local governments can take the lead in pursuing sustainable development at the local level.
National steering committees are established in each country to formulate national ESC frameworks (e.g. sustainable city awards programmes, indicators, guidelines etc.) and the country-based criteria for "Model Cities" and evaluate proposals submitted by candidate cities. Cities which best fulfil the criteria are selected as "Model Cities". These cities receive seed funding, technical assistance and other forms of support to implement projects and capacity building in collaboration with the national government and other partners to realise their ESC vision and proposal. In addition, all ASEAN Model Cities are linked up to a broad regional network of cities and supporting stakeholders to exchange knowledge and build partnerships on good ESC practices/policies.
---Are there cities that have implemented unique or progressive initiatives and managed to achieve success as environmental model cities?Teoh:
Most of the cities in this programme are chosen by their national governments as "Models" due to their higher-than-average capacity and motivation. We have seen innovative practices being piloted to address key urban environmental challenges (waste, water and air pollution) especially with community-based, decentralised and low-cost approaches. Examples include "waste banks" that are linked to health insurance programmes in Indonesia; bicycle sharing schemes, urban gardening, low-carbon city and ESC community learning centres in Thailand; and natural wastewater treatment systems in Indonesia and the Philippines. These innovative practices help to inspire modified approaches in cities of the "younger" ASEAN countries such as Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam.
---The city of Kitakyushu, where IGES Kitakyushu Urban Centre is located, is an environmental model city that works very hard to reduce carbon emissions in the Asian region, and maintain and expand networks among cities. What role does IGES play in Kitakyushu’s activities?Teoh:
The City of Kitakyushu has an explicit goal to realise green and low-carbon development in Asian and ASEAN cities through city-to-city and "Sister City" cooperation (i.e. Kitakyushu is a "Green Sister City" of Surabaya in Indonesia, as well as a "Sister City" of Haiphong in Viet Nam), including transfer of green technology and expertise. Asian cities which are involved with Kitakyushu have been consolidated into the "Kitakyushu Asian Cities Network on Environmental Cooperation". IGES Kitakyushu Urban Centre is expected to preserve and expand the network. IGES supports the City of Kitakyushu as a policy research institute, as well as networking and capacity building activities with ASEAN cities. For the latest case study, we supported technical cooperation on Solid Waste Management between Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar and Kitakyushu.
---Finally, what do you think are the challenges facing city networking that makes use of initiatives such as the ESC Model Cities Programme and the High Level Seminars, and how will this networking develop in the future?Teoh:
I think that meaningful coordination and matchmaking of stakeholders towards scaling up demonstrated successful pilot practices and policies is a fundamental challenge. We already have "islands of excellence", but how can we build on that towards a "sea of change"?
With "sustainable cities" becoming a hot topic in international development, ASEAN local governments are increasingly interested in helping to mitigate the problems of urbanisation through global cooperation and city-to-city exchange, but they often lack the opportunities, inspiration, connections, experience and practical skills (such as English language, proposal writing etc.). Moreover, city development requires an integrated, cross-cutting approaches, yet national and international initiatives and frameworks are often fragmented according to sectoral or ministerial lines.
In the future, the HLS SEC and the Model Cities Programme hopes to contribute in a pragmatic manner by supporting the enhancement of national ESC frameworks and initiatives in ASEAN countries. Robust country-based city mechanisms are essential for coordinating support to promising and motivated cities. IGES adds value by tracking overall trends and maintaining solid, trust-based relationships with both ASEAN national and local governments, deeply understanding their needs and priorities. Based on this, IGES can be a "bridge" to facilitate multi-level action – from the cities, to national governments, and further to international stakeholders, such as City of Kitakyushu, donors, developing agencies and experts.
---Thank you very much.