Cities and Environmental Planning

Cities and Environmental Planning image
  • Share:

Environmental planning can help cities become more sustainable and help manage environmental impacts. 

An estimated 68% of the global population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050. There are some concerns that the current rise in the cities' population is unsustainable. Many cities do not have enough resources or sufficient infrastructure to sustain and service the projected population growth. Cities experience sustainability issues such as pollution, public health problems, overcrowding and social instability. These issues can lead to resource depletion and potentially low worker productivity, which can cause greater inefficiencies within cities that impact productivity of local businesses.

When cities are resilient, their gains, including thriving business sectors, are protected.

Environmental planning is an effective tool for cities to become more sustainable and manage environmental impacts. Environmental planning refers to “a decision-making process that considers the environmental, social, political, economic, and governance factors that can affect development.” By proactively addressing the issues related to these factors, environmental planning assists cities becoming more resilient against shocks like population growth and natural disasters. When cities are resilient, their gains, including thriving business sectors, are protected. In addition, with the growing need for upgraded infrastructure around the world, demonstrating resiliency and environmental planning will improve access for funding through mechanisms such as municipal bonds. 

How Environmental Planning Can Lead to Resilient Cities

Better Housing

Some people from rural areas may migrate to cities in search of better economic opportunities. Local governments, however, may not have enough resources to accommodate the influx of rural-urban migrants. Unable to find adequate housing, rural-urban migrants may be forced into low-income neighborhoods, which are sometimes poorly planned, constructed, and/or maintained. With a lack of resources, residents may be vulnerable to disease outbreaks and natural disasters, which can render people unable to work, and result in poverty, damaged properties, and destroyed livelihoods. Environmental planning can help prevent these outcomes through higher quality housing opportunities.

With proper environmental planning, affordable housing can be constructed in improved locations, eliminating the need for affordable communities to be built in areas with numerous constraints and environmental risks. Successful environmental planning can also ensure that affordable housing communities are properly built to building code requirements that meet adequate sanitation requirements as well.

Reduced Traffic Congestion

While there has been a dramatic reduction in traffic demand observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic congestion is still considered another significant problem affecting cities across the globe. It can lead to reduced productivity, wasted resources, and increased pollution burden for local and regional residents. When people have to spend long hours travelling to and from work or school, they spend less time at work or study, possibly resulting in lower productivity and morale. Traffic congestion also causes delays in the delivery of goods and services, as well as higher fuel costs, which could mean lower profits and higher expenditures for businesses.

These solutions can increase business and worker productivity.

Successful environmental planning can reduce traffic congestion in cities through a number of ways. One way is by developing an efficient mass transport system. One of the main reasons behind traffic congestion is the number of cars on the road. An efficient mass transport system can reduce the need for people to drive single-occupant vehicles, resulting in lower traffic congestion and faster travel times for people. Other ways include developing a rail network and bus services; building complete streets and cycling infrastructure; and incorporating pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and spaces in an urban environment. These solutions can increase business and worker productivity.

Resilient Cities Are Good for Business

Urbanization is an inevitable part of modern life. Urbanization does not have to come at the expense of the environment or people’s well-being. With the right environmental planning, cities can avoid massive losses brought about by unsustainable urbanization. When cities avoid these losses, they have more resources that they can devote to improving their various sectors, including businesses. Thriving businesses will then allow people to adequately meet their needs and become more productive in a livable, workable, and sustainable environment.

Additional Contributors

Frank Coyle, REA, is highly experienced in urban and regional planning in both the private and public sectors. He has reviewed and processed various specific plans, environmental impact reports, managed a wide variety of site specific projects through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, evaluated general plan amendments, zone changes and subdivision requests, prepared and presented reports, and made recommendations to various planning bodies.


FirstCarbon Solution (FCS) offers a full complement of efficient, practical, and cost-effective services to assess and manage the environmental impact of new and modified projects. Want to learn more?

Contact us for a free consultation to find out how we can help. 

About the author

George Lu

George Lu thumbnail

Associate Director, ESG Technical Services. With over 16+ years’ experience in air quality, greenhouse gases, and sustainability planning, George is ADEC’s Senior Scientist, Air Quality & Climate Change, supporting the Air Quality/GHG Environmental Services group and ESG group. George has been responsible for the Air Quality and GHG sections for EIR/EISs and emissions inventories for climate action planning projects in California, throughout the US, and internationally. George graduated from the University of California, Davis with a BS in Environmental and Resource Science.

How we can help

In an ever-changing regulatory and sustainability environment, FCS understands the challenges you face. Our highly qualified environmental specialists, energy management consultants, and technical experts deliver integrated, industry-specific solutions that move your project forward—so that you can focus on what matters.