PhD Candidate Discovers Cities Have Greater Negative Impact Globally Than Previously Thought and Develops Assessment Model to Mitigate Damage

June 20, 2022

Research findings published in Urban Science indicate impacts from urban development are more adverse than previously known. Lead author Christopher Correia, a PhD candidate in SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management shares, “cities impact societies, environments, and economies more significantly than most people ever realized”.

Interested in better addressing the negative impacts of urban development, Correia assessed over 10,000 peer reviewed articles in this comprehensive study. He discovered 22 significant impacts that are more complex and diverse than previously known, making them extremely challenging to anticipate and mitigate. The impacts may occur immediately but can also accumulate over time. They are not always visible making them difficult to detect and they can extend across city borders, making them difficult to regulate. At a time when cities are experiencing unprecedented challenges from growth, this analysis is critically important for improved urban planning because cities house more people than anywhere else in the world.

The assessment model, developed by Correia as part of this research, makes it easier to consider the full range of impacts providing guidance on how to perceive, anticipate, and mitigate the complex impacts. This will better inform urban planning and decision making and enhance pathways for achieving sustainability.

To ensure pathways for success are accessible, Correia also examined economic theory to justify acting on the findings of significant impacts from urban development and assessed strengths and weaknesses of policy tools for local governments to use. One of the key findings is that local governments across Canada already possess one of the practical policy tools, Development Charges, needed to make change. The challenge is for provincial governments to amend their legislation to allow local governments to refine the policy tool, to better reflect the negative impacts we now know about.

These findings justify a more comprehensive approach to urban planning and the need for decision makers to consider the full range of impacts borne by their actions. “True sustainable development (from a social, environmental, and economic lens) cannot be reached unless these impacts are addressed” says Correia.