Theorizing Planning for Climate Change: Critical Reading for New York City’s Recent

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Climate change and its resulting uncertainties challenge the concepts, procedures, and scope of conventional approaches to planning, thus creating a need to rethink and revise current planning methods and theories. The aim of this paper is twofold: to propose a new multifaceted conceptual framework for theorizing planning for climate change; and to apply this framework for critically analyzing the recent master plan for New York City: PlaNYC 2030. The proposed conceptual framework consists of eight concepts that were identified through a conceptual analysis of planning and interdisciplinary literature on sustainability and climate change. These concepts, which together constitute the theoretical framework of planning for climate change, are: Utopian Vision, Equity, Uncertainty, Natural Capital, Eco- Form, Integrative Approach, Ecological Energy, and Ecological Economics. Each concept is composed of several criteria of evaluation. Using the proposed conceptual framework to evaluate PlaNYC 2030 reveals important merits and shortcomings of the Plan. On the bright side, the Plan promotes greater compactness and density, enhanced mixed land use, sustainable transportation, greening, and renewal, and utilization of underused land. It also addresses future uncertainties related to climate change with institutional measures and recommends efficient ways of using the city‘s natural capital assets. Finally, the Plan creates mechanisms to promote its climate change goals and to create a cleaner environment for economic investment, offers an ambitious vision of reducing emissions by 30% and of a ―greener, greater New York,‖ and links this vision to the international agenda on climate change. On the down side, the assessment reveals that PlaNYC did not make a radical shift toward planning for climate change and adaptation and inadequately addresses social planning issues that are crucial to New York City. Like other cities, New York is ―socially differentiated‖ in terms of communities‘ capacity to address the uncertainties of climate change, and the Plan fails to address issues facing vulnerable communities. Moreover, the Plan calls for an integrative approach to meeting the challenges of climate change on the institutional level but fails to effectively integrate civil society, communities, and grassroots organizations into the process. Another critical shortcoming, particularly during the current age of climate change uncertainty, is the lack of a systematic procedure for public participation in the planning process throughout the city‘s neighborhoods and among different social groupings and stakeholders.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, 2010 Space is Luxury, Aalto, July 7-10th
Climate Change, Planning Theory, New York City
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