WIT Press

Eco-cities: A Global Survey 2009


Free (open access)





Page Range

239 - 250




283 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


S. Joss


In the last couple of decades, efforts to render cities environmentally and socially sustainable have culminated in a new phenomenon – the so-called eco-city. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the term ‘eco-city’ remained mainly a concept, a collection of ideas and propositions about sustainable urban planning, transportation, housing, public participation and social justice, with practical examples relatively few and far between. Since the mid 2000s, the phenomenon appears to have become increasingly global and mainstream, against the background of the international recognition of the scale and severity of climate change and rapid urbanisation, particularly in the developing world. To date, there have been few systematic surveys of eco-cities. This paper presents the findings of a global survey carried out in 2009. The study maps, analyses and compares some 79 identified eco-city initiatives, and addresses questions, such as what are key features that distinguish eco-cities from ‘normal’ cities; how to define them; why they have become international and mainstream in a short period of time; and what kind of issues their implementation in different contexts raise. The paper concludes by outlining a prospective research agenda aimed at critically discussing eco-cities’ capacity for innovating for environmental and social sustainability and related governance processes and challenges. Keywords: eco-city, eco-town, global survey, typology, new development, urban expansion, retro-fit, innovation, governance. 1 Introduction In spring 2009, President Sarkozy of France announced that Paris would become the ‘first post-Kyoto eco-city’ as part of his ambitious plan to transform the French capital into an expanded, regenerated greater metropolis (Chrisafis, [1]). Later that year, the British government published its decision to build four new ‘eco-towns’ across England, following a two-year and at times heated public


eco-city, eco-town, global survey, typology, new development, urbanexpansion, retro-fit, innovation, governance