Cities are the source for 70% of green house gases, that comes from transportation and buildings primarily; some countries like U.S. have buildings contributing more than the transportation sector in terms of energy consumption, which is primarily from fossil fuels, so the debate has fast shifted to urban planning and green cities, which is all about future cities, as the current ones have hardly any flexibility to transform.

But so we thought; transforming our current cities is in our hands, only if we understand that the stakeholders are very different here and what works for the future does not work for the existing stock of cities. We are ourselves the biggest stakeholders and change if any should start with us.

Think of a city like Mumbai, which had a modest number of Mills in Lower Parel or Prabhadevi, with some empty spaces; this is fast getting replaced with sky scrapers that would consume several times the amount of electricity and the entire population attached to these buildings would need to be transported generating several times more green house gases. This is the story in every city, the current concentrated stock is replacing a far more dispersed stock of housing as house prices soar and this actually leads to the concentration of green house gas emissions in a far more packed space.

The packing ratio of housing to empty spaces should not be measured in only two dimensions, the height dimension better be ignored to its own peril. The packing ratio is squeezing hard the road ratio as well as more cars are choking traffic in every direction.

The stakeholders here are clearly drawing from the future they are less careful about, in their shortsightedness they have missed the larger picture of how uninhabitable an environ they are helping to create.

The future stakeholders will put a price on this and would actually discount quite heavily what you are expecting to appreciate and none of this would be related to land prices but to the sheer inaccessibility and transportation hazard we are perpetuating.

The exponential nature of this loss function is never in doubt as very old cities have shown, which have all died in history for the same reason. We tend to attach far more in real appreciation in the short term than that could stem from the loss function that we just discussed.

The current stakeholders versus the future are only bound by finance, which is even more short tenured in vision; as long as debt and liability can be rolled over, there is nothing to worry.

But when we look at the mammoth scale of investments at stake and the stock of future investments in the pipeline, the lesson is that we must endure the impact of green house gases we are planning for the future of our children.

We must start with the transportation problem, before we work on housing and not the other way round. We cannot build cities unless we first solve the transportation problem with existing housing for the next twenty year horizon.

What would that mean, not a single new construction should be sanctioned in the existing space, which would be quite ridiculous. That is where the stakeholders must act in concert and they have to move to the mode of problem solving rather than passing the problem to the future.

Current stakeholders must learn to become puzzle solvers, they cannot be myopic and little can be left to regulations, which will achieve precious little.

It should start with the simplest question, how would I get out of my 70 floor apartment (which houses 280 units of families) into a public lane out of the building without disrupting the traffic on this single lane outside my building?

Or for example how would I get into my building on my way back without disrupting the traffic?

As responsible stakeholders, these questions would be the starting point of change and transformation. The future questions would shift to looking at approach roads, proximity to a two lane from a single lane, time taken to reach the preferred destinations, instead of the house price appreciation possibility.

Future buyers will put a premium to these questions, you also should follow suit.

The future of Green Cities: The questions we miss to ask

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