Blasting Off to Sustainability

Goal Number 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

“Night-lights” is one of NASA‘s most well-known images from space. With more than half the world’s population living in cities, and this percentage projected to increase to nearly 70 percent in 2050, cities are now being recognized globally as essential partners in the achievement of a sustainable world. The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the block calls for cities and human settlements to be inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

How did the new urban SDG come about? Early in 2013, leaders of city groups met at the Bellagio Center run by the Rockefeller Foundation. There, Rafael Tuts of UN-Habitat told us that, for the urban goal to be a “winner” through the long and complicated process of getting a new SDG into the list (there were more than 100 originally proposed!), “All horses (i.e., cities and cities groups) need to pull together.” And pull together they did. To date, more than 200 cities and regions have joined the Urban SDG campaign, as well as more than 50 city-related networks and organizations.

Why an urban SDG? Cities are not only where people live — they are economic powerhouses. A recent New Climate Economy study demonstrated that, based on current trends, about 500 cities belonging to three groups (Emerging Cities, Global Megacities, and Mature Cities) will account for more than 60 percent of global income growth.

Cities are also where people shelter their families. According to UN-Habitat, 96,150 housing units are required a day until 2030 as it is expected that 3 billion people (40 percent of the world’s population) will need adequate housing and basic infrastructure by then. This is a major challenge, as some cities have up to 80 percent of their —> Read More