Sponsored by the International Gas Union (IGU), the competition was inspired by the need to encourage cities to consider the transition from an economy based on fossil fuels to one based on alternative energy sources.
The Canadian Team was led by the Sheltair Group in partnership with Sustainable Cities, the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver), and the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. The Canadian entry, named citiesPLUS, an acronym for Cities Planning for Long-term Urban Sustainability, focused on Greater Vancouver and won the Grand Prize.
Challenging people to look beyond 50 years
All of the design teams – whether from developed or developing countries– used different methods and yet came to similar conclusions. Business as usual could continue for 30 to 50 years but after that all of the systems – energy, food, water, transportation etc. began breaking down. Even anticipating massive technological changes and conversion to other fuels, a "business as usual" scenario was unsustainable much beyond 30 years. The key to bringing home the message of climate change, ecological carrying capacity and social equity, was to challenge people to look beyond 50 years and to integrate economic, social and environmental well–being.
One of the reasons the Canadian entry won because it had used a multi–stakeholder participatory process – involving community residents, elected officials, academics and professionals that resulted in hands–on changes in current policies and practices rather than an academic plan. 80 community organizations in 13 cities from across Canada participated in breakfast meetings and think tank sessions and 18 multi-stakeholder teams were set up to work on specific issues (e.g. water, governance, energy, etc.). Over 500 experts and many more citizens were involved in the preparation of the plan.
As a legacy of the project, SCI, in partnership with UBC, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and the Greater Vancouver Regional District formed the Sustainable Cities Network, a peer learning network of cities and regions engaging in long-term planning for urban sustainability.