Climate change is influencing people and communities around the world, particularly in Asia. From many decades climate change is continuing to have significant impact on people particularly those living in cities. Almost 80% of greenhouse gas emissions are being produced by cities around the world and a third of this is being produced by cities in Asia. As many of Asian cities are developing cities with high population, and lack of adequate facilities incentivised by the government bodies due to low resources, climate change will have a tremendous impact on the developing world. As parts of Indian cities, for instance, struggle with basic amenities such as housing infrastructure, sanitation and pollution through traffic and vehicle emissions, problems such as flooding, and air and water access continue to grow. However, there are a few developed cities that are leading the way in climate change in Asia. There have also been many protocols and international treaties that have been signed to combat climate change throughout the world, in which Asia has played an active part. Climate change is looked at by academics and policymakers alike, to preserve the best way forward for Asian cities.
How Culture Can Play a Role in Climate Change
Urban Planning theory has focussed a lot on creating liveable environments for people such as placemaking and public spaces. From Kevin Lynch who suggested that we need to be careful about the ways in which we traverse our cities, to Jane Jacobs and Jan Gehl who focussed on human scale environments, planning theory has recently focussed a lot on sustainable environments and regeneration. Building cities through human scale implies that cities will rely more on walking and biking or public transportation than motor vehicles which cause a lot of carbon emissions. Human scale looks at healthy cities along with providing good infrastructure in which people can make the best use of their surroundings. Although not much theory has been implemented by Asian theorists particularly, these theories by European planners can be and should be implemented in Asia.
Many cultural organisations have indicated the enormous role that culture can play in building unique and climate friendly cities. World Cities Culture Forum is one such organisation that has spearheaded the impact of culture in cities worldwide, including Asian cities. The creativity and the arts not only generate financial and social capital, but they are also important for the overall economy and health, social inclusion, placemaking and cultural regeneration. Some ways in which the WCCF suggest that culture can play a role in combating climate change are:
- “Greening the cultural sector: providing tools, resources, and practical support (including financial mechanisms and infrastructure investments) to reduce the carbon emissions, and other environmental impacts, of the creative sector. This kind of approach can rapidly shift priorities within the sector, with transformative results across organisations including creative programming and civic engagement and providing clearly measurable economic and environmental outcomes.
- Citizen engagement and public awareness: supporting the role of culture and creativity in participatory policy-making and governance, making sure that city climate policy is fit-for-purpose and working with culture to increase understanding and awareness of the issues involved.
- Cultural involvement in environmentally-led regeneration and urban infrastructure development in response to environmental challenges. This includes projects that emphasize the role of the arts and culture as laboratories to test and develop new infrastructure approaches, and policies that recognise the unique skill set that creative professionals have in devising new solutions.”
The above suggestions are being implemented in Asia. Singapore is being called the Garden City, because, like Japan, it is investing in a lot of green spaces and parks throughout the city. Singapore has also initiated a Singapore Green Plan 2012 to create an environmentally friendly city and to build a sustainable environment for its residents.The plan focuses on Air and Climate Change, Water and Clean Land, Nature and Public Health. The private sector and public sector along with Public Private Partnerships are contributing to making Singapore a clean and green city. It is one of the most cultural oriented cities in Asia and it’s built environment which focuses on sustainability and is also implementing strict policies such as fines to keep the city sustainable is a leading example.
Despite the rising sea level and changing patterns of the weather, Singapore is still one of the leading countries in Asia to use innovative ways to combat climate change through citizen engagement, greening, placemaking strategies to bring the community together. Singapore invests in arts and culture to create vibrant neighbourhoods as it envisions to be one of the global cultural hubs to prevent climate change. Having wide boulevards and esplanades where people can gather and walk on a regular basis prevents people from relying on private vehicles and helps improve health and wellbeing of citizens, while also preventing carbon emissions.
What can India learn?
Private firms and consultancies are also investing in prevention of climate change and bring down the carbon emissions and investment in energy and electricity in India. For instance, one aspect that India has made major leaps is in solar energy with the country’s solar installed capacity reaching 25.21 GW in 2018. Due to warm weather, this is an industry that India has been successful in implementing to combat climate change and to provide more solar powered energy for Indian citizens. Gujarat is India’s most solar developed states and is making progress through energy efficiency methods. According to a report, “The 2009 Solar Power of Gujarat policy framework, financing mechanism and incentives have contributed to a green investment climate in the state and targets for grid-connected solar power.” Gujarat has contributed to the International Solar Alliance in COP 21, where a group of more than 120 countries have come together to produce solar energy to combat climate change. However, Gujrat faces many climatic problems such as floods, lack of access to clean water, drought and rising heatwaves.
India can learn from Singapore and Japan in the ways that it can invest in cultural resources to combat climate change. India is rich in culture and is home to many world heritage sites and monuments such as the Taj Mahal. However, when it comes to creatively thinking about infrastructure such as that of Singapore or Kyoto in Japan, India lags because it does not have the same resources to invest in green infrastructure. Green spaces are being implemented around Indian cities such as Bangalore city where almost each neighbourhood has a green park, but these are not maintained sufficiently and are not strictly taken care of. The Lal Bagh Botanical Garden is one of the most sought-after green spaces in Bangalore city that is well maintained and taken care of by the government. Implementing more of such parks at the same quality as the botanical garden would be a feasible thing to do to invest in more green spaces around Bangalore city. The government sector is not investing in climate change through culture and creative unique ideas such as other developed Asian countries. Therefore, India can learn a lot from other case studies mentioned above.
In conclusion, climate change is an important concept that is affecting countries around the world. Asian cities are contributing nearly a fourth of the climate problems that we are facing in the world. Developing nations such as India face the highest threat towards climate change with the rising sea levels, floods, water shortage and pollution that is affecting us on a daily basis. There are a few countries in Asia such as Japan and Singapore that are leading the way in preventing climate change and setting an example to other Asian countries. Many populated cities will be affected, and the built environment plays a very important role in preventing climate disasters. The cultural side of preventing climate change is not looked at by Asia and is still in its nascent stage. Greening, public space and art projects can be implemented to improve walkability and health benefits of the local population. This has been discussed in this article and it is with hope that the article will contribute to better understanding and knowledge in climate change resilience