PERI-CENE project


(Peri-Urbanization & Climate-Environment Change)

We are pleased to say this project is now funded and starting in June 2019.  We aim to provide a global state of the art knowledge on this huge challenge.

The proposal was made to the program ‘Towards a Sustainable Earth’ – details on

The research parters include:

  • University of Manchester (Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy)
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras (Indo-German Centre for Sustainability)
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

The PERI-CENE project and partnership runs from June 2019 to May 2021. For the news release see –

For info here is the Peri-cene – project summary

This is the main Case for Support document – PERI-CENE -case for support




Research organizations and city / region governments are invited to join the PERI-CENE international Policy Lab.  This is a space for (a) diagnosis of problems, and (b) co-creation of pathways and solutions.  It includes both off-line exchange and an online platform:

  • International workshop in late 2020 (likely to be Stockholm)
  • Interviews with partners and a series of dialogues by webinar
  • Online Peri-urban Analysis Tool for spatial development / climate risk & resilience:
  • Online Pathways Tool for innovations and solutions.
  • Partners / associates are invited to publish a chapter in the ‘International Handbook of Peri-urbanization’ with Springer

The range of partners is shown below.


From space, the human impact on the planet is seen by the spread of cities. But cities themselves are spreading and morphing – into much larger sprawling areas around and between them. The planet has entered the ‘Peri-cene’ – a new global human-environment system shaped by peri-urbanization.

Around the world the peri-urban shows global hubs and local enclaves, sprawl and disorder, disruption of communities and livelihoods, and in particular, growing climate risks and ecological disruption. It is also crucial to the Nexus of urban food, energy and water, and also three Sustainable Development Goals: (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities, (13) Climate Action, and (15) Life on Land.

The PERI-CENE project will provide the first ever comprehensive assessment of global peri-urbanisation, with its climate impacts, risks and vulnerabilities. It will provide a global typology and global assessment with an interactive Peri-urban Analysis Tool. It creates new synergies and pathways in a Policy Lab with 24 city-regions from around the world, and grounded case studies in India and UK.  It will co-create synergistic pathways for a liveable, climate-friendly peri-urban, to suit the huge range of conditions around the world.


At the moment most peri-urban development is heading towards Type A – a sprawling polluted mess, disrupting climate systems and dividing rich and poor.  The goal of Type B is there in theory and policy documents.  This project aims to map clear and practical pathways from A to B.

city-region A or B sketch



The Peri-cene agenda is at the intersection or Nexus of many topical fields of research and policy –

  • peri-urban studies is a wide and diverse field, combining urban geography and spatial analysis, with new insights on ecosystems services and network economies. There are challenges of multiple levels, from the megalopolis to the ‘deep locality’ of urban fringe areas. The state of the art was set up by the EU-funded PLUREL project ( ):  here is the Synthesis Report Peri_Urbanisation_In_Europe – Piorr-Ravetz-Tosics 2011
  • This is also an international and global agenda for developing countries such as India.  Here, the Peri-urban Initiative coordinated by IIT Madras is one of the most advanced anywhere – see – 
  • Climate impacts, risk / vulnerability, and ‘adaptive pathways’ is a wide field of debate and evidence. There are policy-research applications all the way to the global (IPCC etc), together with very practical local problems, such as flooding, droughts, wildfires, storm surge and other extreme events.  The state of the art has been set up by the RESIN  ‘Climate resilient cities and infrastructure’ project  –
  • Over-arching these are deeper and more structural challenges, which start with combined ‘socio-technical-ecological-political systems’. Clearly the peri-urban is not only about land-use and infrastructure, but involves deeper layers of culture and psychology, and raises fundamental dilemmas on inequality, growth and decline, exclusion or bypass effects.  Such questions are addressed by the current work on Synergistics – and – – or see – Synergistics – overview
  • Similar deeper issues arise with climate and environmental change: problematic questions on ethics of shared risk and responsibility, institutions for the commons, inter-generational transfers and so on.
  • This points to the practical outcome, the questions of governance in the peri-urban. Here there are typical gaps, mismatches, disruption and exclusion. Again there are many practical questions of local regulation and management to address in the literature. There are also much wider and deeper issues of governance in a vacuum, in rapid change and flux, in a multi-level multi-sector spaghetti, or in systemic corruption.
  • There’s a very topcial futures and foresight dimension: recent work on the Foresight Future of Cities pointed towards ways of anticipatory governance – – and see the Urban Environment report at future-urban-ecosystems – Ravetz 2015
  • In the background the Cities of Tomorrow program of EU -DG-Regio set the agenda for governance – or at least the questions – see Cities of Tomorrow – DG REgio
  • Such challenges point towards an over-arching concepts of system change, as in the transition literature, and now framed as ‘cognitive complexity’ and/or collective intelligence.  Here the emerging smart city literature extends to smart or ‘smart-wise’ socio-technical systems, which includes systems of economy,  governance, spatial planning etc – see





Sust-earth proposal - diagrams - v0.2 - 02-08-18

This project aims to scope the challenge, to analyse at different scales, and then to explore possible responses in the form of pathways.  Such pathways will each be suited to different parts of the world, but there are common threads.  The challenge is that peri-urbanization is many things.  It starts with physical land-use and environmental impacts,  but is also a human agenda with social, technological, economic, political and cultural layers.  Peri-urbanization is also implicated in the urban Nexus, the interactions between systems of food, energy, water, and other resources which connect cities to their hinterlands. Effective research has to take on board multiple scale levels and time horizons, with complexity and uncertainty, challenges of whole-system thinking, and over-arching sustainability transitions.

The project is organized as a multi-level partnership.  It begins with the interactions of the peri-urban and environmental, as two strands of a framework / typology. This responds to the global question of peri-urbanization trends and impacts on climate and environment, and it also builds on IPCC-related scenarios, for sensitivity and future-proofing.

The typology is then the foundation for a working Platform, a collaborative community of fifteen city-regions around the world.  Research teams in each will build up an online profile for mutual learning and dialogue.  Each will then participate in the international workshop, which aims at shaping new kinds of adaptive pathways based on collective intelligence.  Two in-depth case studies with contrasting types, from India and the UK, provide deeper insights: in each the co-learning and co-creation shared between research and policy is the key.   A final work package provides structures for the co-creation of adaptive pathways, to produce tangible policies / programs at local, regional and international scales.

Overall this is a pilot, agenda setting project which paves the way for more detailed follow up. It builds on two major EU projects, the PLUREL (Peri-Urban Landuse) and RESIN (Resilient cities), with further developments in methods and typologies.  It mobilizes the existing clusters of expertise in the University of Manchester, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, along with the platform of 15 city-regions around the world.

The final result aims to add value to a wide range of policy and research, at national and global levels. It will provide analytic insights, data resources, and the results and feedback from a hands-on stakeholder-research dialogue.




We have formed an international Policy Lab of around 20 city-regions, building on existing collaborations. This represents the major geographic economic and urban development types, in a global range with the priority on the ‘majority world’.  This also involves international IGOs and NGOs: UN Habitat, UN Global Compact on Cities, and International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

The Policy Lab is a space for (a) diagnosis of problems, and (b) co-creation of pathways and solutions.  It includes both off-line exchange and an online platform:

  • International workshop in late 2020 (likely to be Stockholm)
  • Interviews with partners and a series of dialogues by webinar
  • Online Peri-urban Analysis Tool for spatial development / climate risk & resilience:
  • Online Pathways Tool for innovations and solutions.
  • Partners / associates are invited to publish a chapter in the ‘International Handbook of Peri-urbanization’ with Springer

The general approach builds on the experience of the synergistic methods and the Collaboratorium ( ). The online platform will be structured around  the framework / typologies above, and invite debate on both analysis & synthesis.

The aim here is to build capacity and mutual learning, for the global community of peri-urban research and practice. While the PERI-CENE budget is modest, this is an opportunity to draw in other interested partners, and related research programs, for mutual exchange and learning as a global community.



these are the committed partners as of mid 2019:



net works Climatic type Economic type Peri-urban

type (estimated)

Melbourne, AU 100RC Coastal, temperate OECD Urban expansion, formal Urban Vitality
Changsha, China Inland, sub-tropical, Upper middle: Urban expansion, mainly formal Hunan University
Surabaya/ Malang, Indonesia 100RC Coastal, sub-tropical Lower middle: Urban expansion, mainly formal Universitas Brawijaya
Bangkok, Thailand 100RC Coastal, sub-tropical Upper middle Poly-centric, part formal  Chulalongkorn University
Chennai, India 100RC Coastal tropical grassland Lower middle Urban expansion, mainly informal  Resilient Chennai
Cairo, Egypt Coastal, arid Lower middle: Urban expansion, part formal  Ain Shams University
Johannesburg, SA SACities Inland, semi-arid Upper middle: Poly-centric, legacy South African Cities Network
Kumasi, Ghana 100RC Coastal, tropical Lower middle: Urban expansion, mainly informal  Old Tafo Municipal Assembly
Naples, Italy Coastal, Mediterr OECD Poly-centric, part formal  Università degli Studi di Napoli Federic
Helsinki, Finland Coastal, northern OECD Urban expansion, formal  Finnish Environment Institute /  Ministry of Planning
Greater Man-chester region 100RC Maritime, temperate OECD Poly-centric, formal  Greater Manchester Combined Authority
Belo Horizonte, Brasil 100RC Inland, tropical Upper middle Urban expansion, part formal  Federal University of Minas Gerais
Toronto, Canada 100RC Inland, continental OECD Urban expansion, part formal  Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation
San Diego, USA Bio-regional Coastal, semi-arid OECD Poly-centric, formal  University of California, San Diego
Mexicali, Mexico Inland, arid, Upper middle: Urban expansion, part formal  Autonomous University of Baja California




net works Geographic type Economic type Urban


Victoria, AU   Coastal, semi-arid OECD Poly-centric, formal State Govt of Victoria, Dept of Environment, Land, & Planning
Tokyo, Japan Coastal temperate OECD Poly-centric, formal University of Tokyo
Guangzhou, China  Citi-states  Coastal sub-tropical  Upper middle Poly-centric, formal Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation
Dhaka, Bangladesh   Coastal, sub-tropical LDC Urban expansion, mainly informal  
Doha, Qatar,  GBC Coastal, arid High income Urban expansion, formal  Qatar Green Building Council
Ghana   Coastal, tropical Lower middle: Poly-centric, mainly informal Spatial planning authority, Ghana
Santiago, Chile   Maritime, temperate Upper middle Poly-centric, part formal Universidade de Chile


Moscow, RU   Inland. continental Upper middle Urban expansion, part formal Higher School of Economics / DOM.RU


NGO & IGO PARTNERS          Organization
UN Habitat  Urban Design and

Planning Services Unit

UN Global Compact Cities c/o RMIT, Melbourne


 Local Govts for Sustainability






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