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Are compact cities environmentally friendly?

Author

Listed:
  • Carl Gaigné

    (INRA-ESR - Unité d'économie et de sociologie rurales - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique)

  • Stéphane Riou

    () (GATE Lyon Saint-Étienne - Groupe d'analyse et de théorie économique - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UCBL - Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet [Saint-Étienne] - Université de Lyon - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Jacques-François Thisse

    (CORE - Center of Operation Research and Econometrics [Louvain] - UCL - Université Catholique de Louvain)

Abstract

There is a large consensus among international institutions and national governments to favor urban-containment policies - the compact city - as a way to reduce the ecological footprint of cities. This approach overlooks the following basic trade-off: the concentration of activities decreases the ecological footprint stemming from commodity shipping between cities, but it increases emissions of greenhouse gas by inducing longer worktrips. What matters for the ecological footprint of cities is the mix between urban density and the global pattern of activities. As expected, when both the intercity and intraurban distributions of activities are given, a higher urban density makes cities more environmentally friendly and raises global welfare. However, once we account for the fact that cities may be either monocentric or polycentric as well as for the relocation of activities between cities, the relationship between density and the ecological footprints appears to be much more involved. Indeed, because changes in urban density affect land rents and wages, firms are incited to relocate, thus leading to new commuting patterns. We show policies that favor the decentralization of jobs in big cities may reduce global pollution and improve global welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Carl Gaigné & Stéphane Riou & Jacques-François Thisse, 2010. "Are compact cities environmentally friendly?," Post-Print halshs-00456610, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00456610
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00456610v2
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    greenhouse gas; commuting costs; transport costs; cities; urban containment policy;

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)

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