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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Sustainable, Resource Efficient Cities - Making It Happen

Publication Year: 2012 Publisher: UNEP


Currently, over half of the world’s population resides in cities. This urbanization trend is expected to continue and more than 80 per cent of humanity is expected to live cities by 2050. The conditions for city dwellers depend not only on how urbanization is planned and managed but also how cities source,process, and use resources. The choices cities make have far reaching implications on the level of sustainability that is possible in the future.

Cities drive economic growth, the consumption of materials and energy, the production of waste, and the emission of greenhouse gases. If we are serious about conserving our natural resources, reducing climate change, and bringing about the kind of Green Economy we will need in the 21st century to create jobs and alleviate poverty, then clearly change needs to be made at the city level.

This report contributes to the discourse of global environmental well-being by focusing on sustainability and resource
efficiency. It is especially useful since it highlights genuine opportunities for city leaders and supports its arguments through a set of inspirational case studies of cities that have successfully improved their transition to sustainability.

In particular, when it advocates the need for city-level participatory management, the report emphasizes the importance of considering pro-poor, pro-people strategies when implementing a city plan. Participatory planning requires time and information but by obtaining the views of citizens, city managers are able to maximize the benefits of new investment.