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Integrating strategic environmental assessment and material flow accounting: a novel approach for moving towards sustainable urban futures
- Ioppolo, Giuseppe, Cucurachi, Stefano, Salomone, Roberta, Shi, Lei, Yigitcanlar, Tan
- The international journal of life cycle assessment 2019 v.24 no.7 pp. 1269-1284
- business enterprises, compliance, development planning, ecological balance, environmental assessment, environmental impact, issues and policy, material flow analysis, stakeholders, sustainable communities, urban areas, urban planning, urbanization
- PURPOSE: The population living in urban areas of the world continues to grow rapidly. It is, thus, a great priority for the planning practice to embed sustainability concept in their urban development endeavors. Currently, development and expansion of urban systems stress the need to control consumption of resources, especially non-renewable ones. There is also a need to reduce related environmental impacts, while stimulating a sustainable pathway for the population and urban growth. METHODS: Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is useful for policy design to build an integrated method for supporting the development of a sustainable society. It undertakes territorial assessments and describes urban flows and impacts related to them by using a variety of tools, including material flow accounting (MFA). This study employs MFA, as it fits well within the scope of SEA and supports the growing environmental attention in the urban metabolism approach. Although helpful, MFA has not been systematically applied in the urban development context; for this reason, this paper proposes the integration of SEA and MFA. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Integration of SEA and MFA generates a new framework for sustainable development planning. The framework is structured in phases oriented to the continual improvement based on the Deming cycle (i.e., plan, do, check, act), a key management approach mainly used in businesses for improving the effectiveness of an organization. It can also be implemented at the urban system level. In order to maintain normative compliance, each process (urban planning, strategic environmental assessment with urban metabolism approach, participatory processes) is standardized in line with a common and mandatory approach. While the processes are integrated among them, highlighting the reciprocal contact points, the results are combined in a holistic perspective. The framework, hence, transforms the voluntary MFA tool into a mandatory process. CONCLUSIONS: The proposed SEA-MFA framework has the potential to unify and standardize the processes of categorizing and quantifying data in order to improve the understanding of urban metabolic principles and scale effects. It also supports management and policy development and meets the requirements of different stakeholders. The framework, thus, generated a novel approach for sustainable urban development planning by providing solutions for specific policy problems and ensuring urban ecological balance and sustainable urban futures.