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  • Covid is fading into history in our cities around the world, but its implications are still worth reflecting upon. This special collection called “Covid, Cities and Sustainability” in npj Urban Sustainability has been a pleasure to encourage and edit for the reflections it has provided.

    • Peter Newman
    EditorialOpen Access
  • Saudi Arabia plans to construct a new city, home to 9 million people. The most relevant aspect is its form, a line with a surprising length of 170 km. We analyse whether this is the best plan for a new city and some inconveniences of the prolonged urban form.

    • Rafael Prieto-Curiel
    • Dániel Kondor
    CommentOpen Access
  • The building sector can address pressing environmental problems by leveraging two major trends: circular economy and digital technologies. Circular building practices emphasize restorative design principles, which can significantly reduce the amount of virgin material used and the environmental footprint of buildings. When combined with digital technologies, circular practices can achieve even higher environmental benefits. Such technologies enable visualization of the environmental impact along the entire value chain, facilitating smart design, production, and use to increase material- and eco-efficiency. However, realizing the full potential of these trends requires more than just technological advancements. Institutional, behavioral, and socio-economic system changes are essential to effect a transition towards a circular and digital economy. To facilitate such a transition, a new form of governance is needed, in which network governance complements conventional public governance. Network governance fosters the formation of coalitions of willing partners that jointly strive towards the goal of system change, creating a fertile ground for a new economic paradigm, behavioral change, government regulation and innovation. The effectiveness of network governance in supporting public governance depends on the specific socio-cultural and political context of a country. However, a thoughtful application of this governance model can facilitate the building sector’s journey towards greater material- and environmental efficiency.

    • Jacqueline Cramer
    CommentOpen Access
  • Resilience planning and action is limited to communities with significant technical and administrative capabilities. Engaging communities to co-produce research enables a more equitable distribution of needed tools. A national Community Resilience Extension Partnership linking scientists with place-based planners and emergency managers provides the research-to-practice infrastructure for equitable development of community resilience science and technology.

    • Christopher T. Clavin
    • Jennifer Helgeson
    • Shubha Shrivastava
    CommentOpen Access
  • Priorities and programmes in the City of Cape Town’s Integrated Development Plan (2022–2027) demonstrate progress towards operationalising local level planning for climate-resilient development. These developments provide lessons of process and focus on transformative outcomes for cities seeking equitable and just development while implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation.

    • Nicholas P. Simpson
    • Kayleen Jeanne Simpson
    • Lindsay C. Stringer
    CommentOpen Access
  • Record-breaking rainfall events are occurring more frequently in a warming climate. Impacts on lives and livelihoods disproportionately occur in traditionally underserved communities, particularly in urban areas. To influence policy and behavioral change at the community level, climate services must be developed specific to extreme rainfall events and subsequent floods in urban environments.

    • Mona Hemmati
    • Kai Kornhuber
    • Andrew Kruczkiewicz
    CommentOpen Access
  • Climate change and the increasing complexity of society necessitate rethinking of siloed threat scenarios in emergency response planning. Incorporating a compounding threat model into disaster response by leveraging network science techniques and dynamic data can help account for the complexity and disproportionate nature of hurricane impacts.

    • Jeffrey C. Cegan
    • Maureen S. Golan
    • Igor Linkov
    CommentOpen Access
  • COVID-19 has magnified the deficiencies of how we manage our cities while giving us a unique chance to re-envision these, particularly in the global South. We argue that pandemic-resilient cities require rental-housing stocks and highly accessible urban environments, financed by land value capture.

    • Mahendra Sethi
    • Felix Creutzig
    CommentOpen Access
  • Cities around the world are promoting tree-planting initiatives to mitigate climate change. The potential of such efforts to assist tree migration has often been overlooked. Due to the urban heat island effect, cities could provide suitable climates for the establishment of outlier populations, serving as propagule sources for poleward tree migration.

    • Qiyao Han
    • Greg Keeffe
    • Alan Simson
    CommentOpen Access
  • Cities are vital for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), but different local strategies to advance on the same SDG may cause different ‘spillovers’ elsewhere. Research efforts that support governance of such spillovers are urgently needed to empower ambitious cities to ‘account globally’ when acting locally on SDG implementation strategies.

    • Rebecka Ericsdotter Engström
    • David Collste
    • Francesco Fuso-Nerini
    CommentOpen Access
  • Key insights on needs in urban regional governance - Global urbanization (the increasing concentration in urban settlements of the increasing world population), is a driver and accelerator of shifts in diversity, new cross-scale interactions, decoupling from ecological processes, increasing risk and exposure to shocks. Responding to the challenges of urbanization demands fresh commitments to a city–regional perspective in ways that are explictly embedded in the Anthopocene bio- techno- and noospheres, to extend existing understanding of the city–nature nexus and regional scale. Three key dimensions of cities that constrain or enable constructive, cross scale responses to disturbances and extreme events include 1) shifting diversity, 2) shifting connectivity and modularity, and 3) shifting complexity. These three dimensions are characteristic of current urban processes and offer potential intervention points for local to global action.

    • T. Elmqvist
    • E. Andersson
    • S. Van Der Leeuw
    CommentOpen Access
  • Cities globally are greening their urban fabric, but to contribute positively to the biodiversity extinction crisis, local governments must explicitly target actions for biodiversity. We apply the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) framework — nature for nature, society and culture — to elevate local governments’ efforts in the lead up to the 2021 UN Biodiversity Conference. The UN’s Vision of Living in Harmony with Nature can only be realised if cities are recognised and resourced for their roles in biodiversity protection — for nature, for society and for culture.

    • Cathy Oke
    • Sarah A. Bekessy
    • Steve Gawler
    CommentOpen Access