WIT Press

Eco-city Indicators: Governance Challenges


Free (open access)





Page Range

109 - 120




390 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


S. Joss, D. Tomozeiu & R. Cowley


According to the most recent (2011) global census of eco-city initiatives, there are currently 178 eco-city initiatives under development, representing a significant mainstreaming of urban sustainability in the last decade. As the number of eco-city initiatives grows, so the question of how to define eco-city indicators and establish standards becomes more pressing. While there are many sustainability standards and certification schemes available for use at building level (e.g. LEED, BREEAM), similar sustainability assessment and endorsement frameworks for the urban level have only recently begun to emerge. This article surveys the current situation by: (i) proposing a conceptual model of urban sustainability indicators from a governance perspective; (ii) presenting the findings of a comparative analysis of the use of urban sustainability indicators in nine eco-city initiatives; and (iii) outlining key challenges for the future development of international urban sustainability standards. It argues that the current situation is marked by a considerable diversity of practice and governance functions, and an ongoing tension between place-specificity and universal applicability as goals of urban sustainability. Keywords: eco-city, urban sustainability, indicators, standards, certification. 1 Introduction The recent global mainstreaming of urban sustainability – through numerous ‘eco-city’, ‘zero/low-carbon city’, ‘solar city’, ‘smart city’ and ‘sustainable city’ initiatives – has increased demands for international indicators, standards and related certification schemes (Joss [1]). The effective specification, quantification and monitoring of urban sustainability policies and goals entails the definition of indicators and the establishment of standards. But through what mechanisms should indicators and standards be agreed? Who should be involved in establishing, certifying and monitoring them? And what types of international


eco-city, urban sustainability, indicators, standards, certification.