This important research is presented at the pre-print stage: Vigier, M., Ouellet-Plamondon, C. M., Spiliotopoulou, M., Moore, J., & Rees, W. E. To What Extent is Sustainability Addressed at Urban Scale and How Aligned is it with Earth’s Carrying Capacity?. Available at SSRN 4075713.
Humanity’s demand for resources exceeds Earth’s carrying capacity (ECC), defined as the total regenerative and assimilative capacities of our planet. Cities are key hubs for mitigation since they host almost 60 % of the global population and are responsible for most of global demand for energy and material resources. Considering experts’ calls for faster and wider consumption reductions, this paper asks what role is given to living within ECC by cities in the quest for urban sustainability and how comprehensively are high-income reduction-leading cities assessing their impact. Eleven sustainability frameworks were identified as fully aligned with the goal of living within ECC. Most cities work with indicators related to climate change, for which urban sustainability assessments lack completeness. This narrow focus fails to encompass cities’ global ecological impacts leading to their underestimation. The 24 identified champions are no exception, and during the timeframe assessed (1990 – 2020) none of them achieved reductions of sufficient magnitude to meet even their climate stability. To achieve a just transition towards living within ECC, cities must confront their overconsumption by using tools and frameworks that are ECC compliant, and develop specific reduction targets that consider global limits, local responsibilities, and capacities to mitigate.
Keywords: Cities, Frameworks, Earth’s carrying capacity, One Planet Living, Strong sustainability, Urban sustainability