EU research on sustainable urban management and land use helps translate sustainable development principles into common practice. Thanks to European projects, many tools are now available to develop and implement cost-effective strategies for sustainable development on the ground. Furthermore, EU research has contributed to the emergence of an integrated assessment framework for sustainable decision-making. Future research will further develop this framework and widen its application to land use-related issues.
Indeed, strategic EU policy directions in the field of urban sustainability – especially those articulated by the Lisbon Council, the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development, the Environmental Technologies and the Environment and Health Action Plans – will continue to need research support. Meanwhile, greater international co-operation, such as the collaboration initiated with UN-HABITAT, is also critical to achieving Europe’s and the rest of the world’s sustainable development ambitions.
However, a shift in emphasis towards more applied research to stimulate take-up by practitioners and policy-makers of the many new tools, standards and systems developed by EU research projects may be required. More effort is also needed to develop further the environmental technologies to help put sustainable policies into practice across the Union.
The Future … what next?
Stronger integration between urban and land use research is a vital future goal for Europe, especially to extend the study from urban to regional settings. Emerging issues, such as sustainable growth, tourism and culture, environment and health, vulnerable urban and coastal areas, natural and man-made hazards, demographic changes, as well as the impacts of globalisation, will also dominate future research. More attention could also be paid to the economic (i.e. external costs) and technological (i.e. ETAP) approach to sustainable development.
Only by acting on the best available research and information can the right policy decisions be made to ensure sustainable urban development takes place now and in the future.