IDOM help three Colombian cities with sustainable urban planning

24 May 2018

The NAMA Facility – established by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of the United Kingdom – is a project that supports developing and emerging economies which show leadership on tackling climate change. 

Colombia’s pledge for the Paris Agreement that it would reduce greenhouse gasses by 20% by 2030 has drawn the NAMA Facility’s attention to a number of transport orientated issues in Colombian cities. Focused on urban planning and sustainable transportation, NAMA has begun working to design transit-oriented neighbourhoods using smart city and innovative technology.

To facilitate the integration of low-carbon and low-pollution policies into Colombian urban development, the NAMA Facility has brought in global consulting firm IDOM. IDOM are an independent professional services firm which provides consulting, engineering and architectural services. With 40 locations worldwide operating in 125 countries, the Spanish-based consulting company has offices in most large economies in Latin America.

IDOM were awarded a contract to conduct a pre-feasibility study in Pasto, Colombia in March this year. IDOM are working with a NAMA established center called ‘CIUDAT’, which is the consulting firm’s local expert support. Together, the consortium approached city officials, real estate developers and local communities to develop an understanding of the issues in implementing transit-orientated development (TOD) in the city.

IDOM helps Colombian cities Pasto, Manizales and Cali

Consultants from the firm has just finished their first trip to Pasto where they met with the acting mayor, and the directors of the planning, transportation, public transport, environment and finance departments. IDOM consultants will now prepare for their next trips to Cali and Manizales over the next months where the team will have a similar schedule. 

IDOM will engage the local community through public workshops and meetings with community leaders to ensure that the project will be successful. The consultants will work to promote the development projects and communicate the social benefits of selected projects, and, in doing so, bring the highest level of public support to the projects.

The project is showcasing how climate finance, coupled with policy changes and support from the local authorities, can fundamentally redirect development patterns towards more sustainable, lower pollution and more liveable outcomes. The ideal outcome of the project is to create a more liveable and sustainable city by reducing driving in the cities through the restriction of motorized traffic, prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists, and adding green spaces to cities.

Superblocks and the city

The concept of a Superblock began in Barcelona to disrupt the city’s overuse of cars and has since been awarded sustainable Best Practice by the Un-Habitat. The basic premise of Superblock intervention is choking off a square of nine blocks within an urban area from outside traffic, reducing the speed limit to 10km/h, swapping on-street parking for underground parking and turning the roads within the area into pedestrian zones equipped with bike paths.

Superblocks will be used in Pasto, Colombia to increase urban mobility and liveability

Superblock areas will then be placed in multiple zones throughout the city, beginning in the northern and central parts of the city and will be connected via public transport. The area is a mixed-use area with housing, businesses, shops and education all having a presence in the proposed Superblock design. The areas also have through-traffic, limited bike lanes and overcrowded sideways.

Giving pedestrians the right of way in designated Superblock areas reduces the risk of speeding vehicles which threaten pedestrian safety. It will also allow councils to improve the quality of life within these zones by adding green spaces to areas initially dominated by traffic. The project will be implemented by the local CIUDAT team with the help of IDOM’s consultants in the country.

IDOM is no foreigner to the urban transport landscape in Colombia, with offices in both Bogotá and Medellín and having also worked with the City of Bogotá on its quest to construct the city’s first metro line. The consulting firm conducted a feasibility study in conjunction with Cano Jiménez, a local analysis company, to detail the location of the metro stops and whether the line would run under or above ground. The mayor of Bogota has implemented the findings of the study into the metro’s planning, which is due to open in 2024. 

Socio-economic inequality driving deforestation in Latin America

22 February 2019

Scientists at the University of Bern have found a connection between rising levels of socio-economic inequality and the rates of deforestation in Latin America.  

In combination with a rising level or urbanization across Central and South America, human development is a growing threat to the lungs of the Americas. Agriculture in particular and a growing demand for meat around the globe has seen hectares of forrest replaced with farmland each year.  

A rising demand for soy, palm oil, cocoa and coffee is translating into expanding plantations for these crops worldwide and contributing to deforestation at an unprecedented scale. However, other factors too need to be considered, according to a new analysis, with researchers from Switzerland finding that there is a correlation between inequality and deforestation. ”More equal distribution of income, wealth, and land ownership is not only fairer, but also an effective means of improving environmental protection,”said one of the project’s researchers, Graziano Ceddia.

"We know that different forms of inequality can significantly impact how environmental laws are formulated,”researcher Ceddia added. “The novelty of this study is its explicit investigation of the interaction between agricultural productivity, farmland expansion at the expense of forests, and various forms of inequality.”

Socio-economic inequality driving deforestation in Latin America

Just under half (40%) of Latin America is covered by the tropical rainforest known as the Amazon spanning from Brazil and Venezuela to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. This territory represents 22% of the global forest area and it is located in the Amazon basin, which is the largest continuous mass of the world's tropical forests. 

The stark truth is that there is not one custodian of the Amazon where inequality is not a major electoral issue. "If we want to ensure that increased agricultural productivity serves to protect tropical forests, then the message to policymakers is clear,” Ceddia said. 

In an increasingly hostile political environment, advancing environmental or climate policies alone may be difficult. As Brazil’s new president demonstrates, he has already moved to relax protectionist policy for the Amazon, pushing sustainability up the agenda is easy at times of economic bloom, but significantly harder in the current economic climate. This leads Ceddia  to believe that, if played correctly, addressing inequality may be a leaver which could make a more important difference, and more importantly, is one that could be implemented in the current circumstances.

Deforestation and climate change

With the link being drawn between deforestation and inequality, it is imperative to note that there is also an inextricable link with carbon emissions. As forests are natural carbon capture and storage machines, deforestation and forest degradation also impact climate change.  

Around 15% of human-made emissions are directly linked to deforestation, second only to fossil fuel combustion,explained PwC partner Celine Herweijer in an article written for the World Economic Forum (WEF). “More than half of deforestation is the result of the production of commodities such as soy, palm oil, pulp and paper, and cattle products.”  

“Brazil, for example, has committed to reducing its emissions by 37% by 2025: almost half of that will be contributed by tackling emissions from its land use and forestry sectors… The business case is clear. The opportunity for the financial sector to play a part in driving and integrating sustainable practices into forestry management is enormous.” 

However, according to the researchers at Bern, to truly tackle the issue at its core and confront deforestation in the Amazon whilst meeting Latin countries’ pledges to the Paris Agreement, inequality cannot be ignored from environmental or climate policies.