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In Asia, economic development has been accompanied by unprecedented urbanisation and rapid environmental deterioration. The creation of Environmentally Sustainable Cities (ESC) is both urgent and important.
Our story began in 2008, when the East Asia Summit Environment Ministers Meeting (EAS EMM) was first convened. There, Ministers agreed that ‘Environmentally Sustainable Cities’ (ESC) would the immediate priority for regional collaboration.
In response, the Government of Japan advocated organising the 1st High Level Seminar on Environmentally Sustainable Cities in March 2010 (1st HLS ESC) under the EAS EMM framework. The 1st HLS ESC gathered officials from central governments, local governments, international agencies, aid agencies, research institutions, and NGOs to discuss how to further regional cooperation on ESC through practical actions.
As a final output, participants identified a total of five recommended practical activities.
1. An East Asian ‘Model Cities’ initiative
2. A clearinghouse for ESC-related data and information
3. A Public and Private Sector Forum on ESC
4. ESC Capacity Building Programme
5. EAS ESC Award based on Performance Indicators
The ASEAN Secretariat picked up one of the recommended activities (an “East Asia Model Cities Initiative”) and worked with IGES to design the “ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme” (Model Cities). Model Cities was eventually launched in 2011 with core funding from the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). Since then, the HLS ESC has been organised annually in parallel with Model Cities as ASEAN”s main regional networking and reporting platform for ESC.
The programme commenced in April 2011 with 14 cities across 8 ASEAN countries participating. Delegates of the 3rd HLS ESC held in March 2012 in Siem Reap, Cambodia noted the successful implementation of Year 1 and warmly supported the Year 2 proposal. The second year of the programme, with 21 cities and 8 ASEAN countries participating, was announced at the 5th HLS ESC in Surabaya, Indonesia in March 2014.
What is an ASEAN Model City?
When the Model Cities programme first began in 2010, there was still no agreed criteria and framework to define a ‘Model City’.
Instead of prescribing a fixed set of expectations at the outset, we adopted an organic and ‘bottom-up’ approach of encouraging the involved countries and selected ‘Model Cities’ to implement initiatives based on their unique local sustainability visions, priorities and goals.
The Regional Secretariat (ASEAN Secretariat and IGES) then observed these initiatives and identified the common features that emerged among all countries and cities.
After two years of implementation, in 2014 we finally arrived at a framework which outlines the common qualities, actions and desired results.
This framework (Figure below) clarifies the distinctive factors of ‘Model City’ (compared to a non-‘Model City’) and establishes four focus areas for actions:
- Environmental Education;
- Innovating/Experimentation of Model Spaces;
- Communications (tbc)
for mutual learning, innovation and tracking progress.
Figure: The Common Framework of Shared Qualities, Joint Actions and Desired Results of ASEAN ESC Model Cities Adopted in July 2015.
To enhance Model Cities’ credibility and reputation, and by linking to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in Year 3 we aim to:
- Evaluate cities’ environmental performances with common indicators;
- Compile and publish knowledge products and learning materials for other cities’ reference; and
- Motivate selected cities to be mentor cities by identifying experts, setting up training courses and accepting study visits at learning centres and model communities / schools / buildings to facilitate mutual learning.