A powerful triumvirate, the United Nations, Bureau International Des Expositions and the mayor of Shanghai, reImageleased this week The Shanghai Manual: A Guide for Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century. This timely (and free!) manual is aimed at helping leaders of the world's cities use integrated urban planning, management, financing and technology to green their economies and build climate and economic resilience.

"The Shanghai Manual details the experience and practices of cities across the world in addressing common challenges and achieving harmonious development...and is therefore of great theoretical and practical value," Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said at Monday's launch, according to the Shanghai Daily.

Aimed at a target readership of mayors and executive leaders of developing nation cities, the bilingual (English and Chinese) Shanghai Manual is the basis for capacity building and training being rolled out in Asia next week by the United Nations. City leaders representing 12 Asian nations will attend the United Nations Center for Regional Development in Nagoya, Japan, where UN officials and I will lead urban sustainability training for leaders ranging from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Karachi, Pakistan, to Makati (Manila), Philippines. In addition smaller cities including Chiang Mai, Thailand are participating.

Shanghai, China's largest city (17 million+ in the city proper), earned the street cred of being the manual's namesake by hosting the 2010 World Expo (photo above), so its mayor was honored with the manual's unveiling. Also attending the launch was Sha Zukang, United Nations Undersecretary-General as well as Secretary-General of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development known as Rio+20. The Shanghai Manual is credited by the UN as an important contribution to the Rio+20 agenda.

The Shanghai Manual, which I co-authored with colleagues at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, emerged from the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the largest world's fair in history. Devoted to the theme of "Better City, Better Life," the expo was the first global event of its kind to recognize climate change, and was dedicated to sustainability education. The expo featured demonstrations on resource efficiency and new approaches in transportation, water and material use, biological restoration, industrial ecology and low-impact, low-carbon development.

Vicente Loscertales, secretary general of the World Expo Bureau called the Shanghai Manual, "The most precious legacy of the Expo Shanghai."

China now recognizes that its future is bound up in seriously grappling with sustainability issues: the country accounted for half the entire world's construction activities in 2010. Over the next 30 years, China's massive planned urbanization is adding hundreds of millions more people, so it must continually innovate low-carbon and resource-efficient urban planning and development.

The integrated sustainability approaches highlighted in the Shanghai Manual include the use of activities such as participatory budgeting and in-situ slum revitalization, while other planning investigates non-motorized transport, transit-oriented development, dedicated cycling tracks, as well as congestion and demand management of transportation.

Management strategies include coordination of the formal and informal sectors (i.e., the  rag-pickers of Pune, India), city-scale rainwater harvesting and zero-waste applications.

Social-cultural issues covered include the use of social networks, micro-finance and mobile communications, and bridging the digital divide with e-governance and e-learning. Technological investigations focus on distributed renewable energy, smart city applications including remote sensing and smart grids, along with analytical tools such as carbon-footprinting, eco-mapping and city sustainability dashboards.

Based on 47 case studies from a range of cities, the Shanghai Manual highlights successful integrated long-term urban planning, economic development, program and project implementation and multi-stakeholder participation.

Thematically divided into ten chapters it covers (case studies are listed for each):

  • Toward a Harmonious City: Sustainable Sydney 2030; Nairobi Metro 2030
  • Delivering Effective Urban Management: New York City's Integrated Sustainability Planning and Management; Slum Upgrading in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Mexico City's Plan Verde; Porto Allegre, Brazil's Participatory Budgeting
  • Economic Transformation: Baoding, China's Clean Energy Economy; Bilbao, Spain's Ria 2000; South Korea's Smart Grid 2030 Roadmap; San Jose, United States' Green Vision; Germany's Feed-in Tariff for Renewable Energy
  • Transport: Guangzhou, China's Bus Rapid Transit System; Bogotá, Colombia and Copenhagen, Denmark's Planning for Cycling; Goteborg, Sweden's Planning for Multi-Mobility; Singapore's Traffic Congestion Management; Berlin's Low-Emission Zone
  • Waste Management: Pune, India's Rag-picker Cooperative; Bogotá, Colombia's Contracting of Formal and Informal Sectors; Extended Producer Responsibility in Mauritius; Dhaka, Bangladesh's Community-based Composting to Convert Organic Waste to Resource and Generate Carbon Credits
  • Green Buildings: Madrid's Bamboo Ecobuilding; Hamburg, Germany's Haften City;  US Green Building Council's LEED Program; Masdar City, United Arab Emirates' Hot Climate Appropriate Design; Washington, DC's George Washington University's Landscape and Building Water Management
  • Science & Technology: Sophia Antipolis, France's Science & Technology Park Development;  San Diego, United States' Biotech Cluster Development; Mexico City's Biometropolis Medical Park; Singapore's Media 21 Global Media City; China's Torch Program Development; Gautang, South Africa's Innovation Hub 
  • Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for Smart Cities: Singapore's Digital Master Plan 2015; Mumbai, India's e-Governance; Leeds, United Kingdom's e-Learning Vision; Bridging the Digital Divide in Zambia, Africa; Dhaka, Bangladesh's Monitoring of Land Use and Land Cover Change Using Remote Sensing; Eco-Maps in Amsterdam and San Francisco
  • Culture and Sustainable Cities: Quito, Ecuador's Historic Preservation; Frankfurt, Germany's Office of Multicultural Affairs; Development of a Bengali-British Identity in Spitalfields, United Kingdom; London and Toronto's Creative Spaces Project; Johannesburg, South Africa's Creative Industries
  • Mega Events: 2010 Shanghai Expo's Global Platform for Future Urban Development; Ningbo, China's Leveraging Shanghai Expo 2010 to Boost Urban Transformation; Aichi, Japan's World's First Eco-Expo; Beijing, China's 2008 Olympics; Torino, Italy's Managing Multilevel Partnerships; Lille, France's 2004 Olympics; Rio De Janeiro's Preparation for UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

(Photo: Shanghai Expo 2010, copyright Warren Karlenzig)