Center for Sustainable Cities

Center for Sustainable Cities Moves to SPPD

By Cristy Lytal

Center for Sustainable Cities From left: Christopher Weare, Gen Giuliano, Joshua Newell, Hilda Blanco

The Center for Sustainable Cities and its affiliated Sustainable Cities Graduate Certificate Program have been transferred from USC College to the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, where it will continue to engage in multidisciplinary research and education on one of the most pressing issues of our time: the environmental, social and economic sustainability challenges facing metropolitan regions.

“The location of CSC in SPPD is a really excellent idea, because it’s very much consistent with the school’s emphasis on sustainability,” said Hilda Blanco, SPPD research professor and interim director of the Center for Sustainable Cities.

Blanco is working with an executive committee of professors from SPPD, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC School of Architecture.

“This is an organized research unit for the entire university. Seeking ways to improve sustainability of our cities involves many disciplines and will require truly multidisciplinary research,” said Genevieve Giuliano, SPPD’s senior associate dean for research and technology and chair of the center’s executive committee.

The Center for Sustainable Cities launched a series of seminars and panel discussions this month called the Sustainable Cities Forum that analyzed emerging methods and policies on sustainability. The first event focused on how to measure the carbon footprint of a product with an eye toward international protocols/standards for product labeling.

In April, the center will sponsor a point-counterpoint discussion, open to the general public, on the topic of “Cap and Trade.” A national “Cap and Trade” bill, which would require businesses to purchase “emissions permits,” passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, but the legislation has stalled. The economic and political pros and cons of this legislation will be discussed.

Giuliano said that SPPD’s connections in state and local government, and its faculty and degree programs in urban planning, public policy and public administration provide the center with unlimited potential to influence real-world policy. At the same time, the center will create a focus and outlet for the extensive sustainable urban development research already taking place at SPPD.

Research on the impact of climate change on cities and other topics is already under way at the center, which is located on the third floor of the Von KleinSmid Center. Blanco is spearheading these efforts in collaboration with research faculty Hilary Bradbury Huang, Joshua Newell, and Christopher Weare.

Huang, an expert in organizational behavior, specializes in how to motivate corporations to become greener. Newell, a geographer by training, focuses his efforts on the carbon impact of commodity supply chains, globalization and sustainable urban form. Weare, who has a doctorate in Public Policy, researches citizen participation in the policy making process and has also worked on energy conservation and regulation.

The center also offers international summer programs, training and policy outreach activities. Much of this is funded by HSBC Bank, the center’s primary financial supporter.

Through all of its work, Blanco hopes that the Center for Sustainable Cities can inspire, educate and ultimately make a difference.

“The fact is that we now know that climate change is upon us,” she said. “There will be sea level rise, changes in weather patterns and more extreme weather events, all of which will impact communities around the world. There’s an urgency now that was not there before. That obviously raises the challenge but, at the same time, also provides a greater hope for action.”

Photo by Dan Avila