Committing to a sustainable urban future in the Tropics

Growing populations in tropical cities will face many challenges in the coming decades. Rethinking the way we build, manage and live in cities could be the way to cultivate sustainable development. JCU’s Dr Silvia Tavares is exploring what roles expanding cities and regional towns will play in the future.

Since 2007, more than 50 per cent of the world’s population live in urban areas. This new reality and the expectation that the urban population will increase even more have added great pressures to cities. Moreover, according to the United Nations “by 2050, the world’s urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanisation one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends”.

The New Urban Agenda signed in 2016 at the Habitat-III Conference, is an action-oriented document. It sets global standards of achievement in sustainable urban development, rethinking the way we build, manage, and live in cities. The document acknowledges that “cities can be the source of solutions to, rather than the cause of, the challenges that our world is facing today. If well-planned and well-managed, urbanisation can be a powerful tool for sustainable development for both developing and developed countries”. This belief fuels us at JCU to investigate the cities and towns of our region to promote a sustainable urban future. We focus not only on expanding cities, such as Cairns and Townsville, but also on promoting brighter futures for regional towns, where sustainable and inclusive urban economies need to benefit from well-planned urbanisation ensuring job creation, equal access for all to economic and productive resources and opportunities, preventing land speculation, and managing urban shrinking where appropriate.

An aerial view over the beach and skyscrapers of the Gold Coast.

Changing our perceptions and beliefs about cities could lead to developing more sustainable ways to live. Image: Jordan Gellie on Unsplash (Gold Coast)

The UN-Habitat programme also has a partnership with universities worldwide called Habitat UNI, of which JCU has recently become a partner. UN-Habitat works towards a better urban future and promotes cooperation between the participating higher education institutions. The collaborations aspire to create the next generation of urban leaders, managers, researchers and practitioners as UNI acts as a catalyst, facilitating partnerships between universities and other agenda partners.

The focus of JCU’s participation is the Bachelor of Environmental Practice and the Bachelor of Planning, which are committed to quality higher education regarding aspects related to urban areas. Moreover, staff involved in these degrees research urban design and planning, development practices, tropical environments, and global warming, all of which are related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

JCU staff passionate about sustainable urban futures are part of JCU’s Tropical Urbanism and Design Lab (TUDLab), which will be launched in October 2017 and is dedicated to developing leading research in areas aligned with UN-Habitat commitment to the principles of Sustainable Urban Development.

If you want to shape the future of urban centres, check out JCU’s Bachelor of Environmental Practice, particularly the Major in Urban Environments and Landscape Design. This Major is committed to fostering good practices related to cities and surrounding environments, as well as producing capable and well-prepared professionals to deal with the pressing issues related to cities.

Main image: Silvia Tavares

Featured JCU researcher

Dr Silvia Tavares
Dr Silvia Tavares
Silvia has a background in Architecture, Urbanism and Building Science, and is particularly interested in urban comfort (the combination of human thermal comfort, sociocultural identity and lifestyle, and adaptive

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