International Agreements and Planning
The UN is coordinating global efforts to address global challenges such as rapid urbanisation and climate change, negotiating international agreements like the 'Paris Agreement' and global policy like the New Urban Agenda.
Find all those relevant for the RTPI here. Planning is crucial to deliver many of their objectives.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) and the complementary Paris Agreement have several implications for and linkages with the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs.
In order to address global challenges and take the transformative steps urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable path, the United Nations have resolved to align efforts through a set of global goals.
These are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted unanimously by 193 UN member states at the 70th UN General Assembly in 2015, with the Resolution ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ – or Agenda 2030.
All countries have committed to implement the SDGs at home – including in the UK.
A key principle of the SDGs is universality. Shared endeavour will be key to achieving the SDGs including the work of government, businesses, civil society and others. The Goals are key to coordinating actions and measure progress consistently all over the world.
Town planning has a key role to play in the successful implementation of the SDGs because of the profession’s aim to work in the wider public interest and the overall purpose of the UK planning systems to achieve sustainable development. The Goals provide an opportunity to strengthen commitment to plan for sustainable development.
The 17 SDGs are bound together and reflect the three interconnected dimensions of sustainable development - social, environmental and economic. SDG11 addresses sustainable cities and communities specifically.
Today, over half of the global population live in cities. Cities pose great risks, but also present immense opportunities for change. Decision-makers can use planning to make land use more efficient, encourage sustainable behaviours and reduce energy consumption – for example servicing new developments with sustainable transport infrastructure. Poorly managed urbanisation instead can have a detrimental impact on the well-being of future generations.
SDG11: Sustainable cities and communities is a commitment to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by 2030. For planners, SDG11 is the natural entry point to understand all of the SDGs.
In the UK, the powers to deliver the SDGs through planning are devolved.
- In England, planners can use the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to integrate the SDGs into their work, as sustainable development is a key objective of the framework.
- In Scotland, the National Performance Framework specifies 11 National Outcomes align with the SDGs. The National Outcome ‘Communities’ corresponds closely with SDG11.
- In Wales, the Well-being of Future Generations Act is regarded as an example of best practice of integration of the SDGs into national policy for its strong legal standing and coherent structure. The current approach to implementing the Well-being of Future Generations Act has a focus on planning, housing and transport.
Achieving the SDGs locally aligns to the UK commitment to the UN Agenda 2030 and UN-Habitat encourages local governments across member states to lead on this with an approach known as “localising the SDGs”. Local planning authorities can do that by:
"We have found that the SDGs are a useful framework in helping the public and our Elected Members better understand what sustainable development means. By aligning the SDGs with actions from plans, we can better demonstrate the contribution each service is making to implement the Goals."
- including the SDGs in planning consultations;
- reviewing strategic policies against the SDGs;
- setting a local sustainability agenda;
- undertaking focused action to implement the SDGs.
Bryan Harris, Sustainability and Climate Change Manager at Dundee City Council
Private actors have a key role to play. Planning consultancies can commit to sustainable development as part of their corporate social responsibility by aligning the objectives of their schemes to the SDG targets. This can help to demonstrate that these are sound long-term real estate investments.
RTPI have produced new online training that introduces the UN Sustainable Development Goals for town planners. It outlines what the goals and targets are, with a specific focus on SDG11: Sustainable cities and communities. It includes case studies of good practice focussed on what planners can do and the tools and techniques they can use.