The world is urbanizing at a rapid pace. By 2050, more than 2 billion additional people will be living in cities — about two-thirds of the global population. Moreover, the vast majority of this growth will be concentrated in developing countries, with nearly 90 percent of the increase from cities in Asia and Africa. Cities are therefore the best place to start addressing three mega-trends that drive global environmental degradation: urbanization, a rising middle class and population growth.
As engines of economic growth, cities already produce 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). They consume over two-thirds of global energy supply, and generate 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Cities are also uniquely vulnerable to climate change: 14 of the world’s 19 largest cities are located in port areas.
If managed well, compact, resilient, inclusive and resource-efficient cities could become drivers of the green economy, contributing to both local liveability and global public goods. If managed poorly, sprawling urban areas will degrade land, strain ecosystems and essential infrastructure services, increase levels of air and water pollution, and increase the size of vulnerable populations.
What We Do
The GEF’s Sustainable Cities program aims to bring about opportunities for greater efficiency, synergy and increased returns of investment in developing cities. It is providing USD 151.6 million and cofinancing of US$2.4 billion between 2015-2020, initially engaging 28 cities in 11 developing countries (Brazil, China, Côte d’Ivoire, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, South Africa and Viet Nam). Investments may involve placing high-risk bets on promising new technologies or approaches in the hope that some will emerge as “game changers” and have a “beacon effect,” spurring adoption elsewhere.
With the support of the World Bank-led Global Platform on Sustainable Cities (GPSC),the program is expected to create a strong network of cities that will act as global ambassadors for urban sustainability planning. It will promote sustainable urban development through better integrated models of urban design, planning and implementation. In so doing, the program will contribute toward avoiding or reducing more than 100 million tonnes of CO2 in Greenhouse Gas emissions.
Through an integrated approach, the program will help countries and cities address two trends: the rising urban demand of goods and services, and the rising consumption of resources. In this way, it will help reduce global environmental degradation.
Investments will cover all aspects of urban sustainability, including
- access to services like public transport and clean water supply
- green buildings and other interventions designed to mitigate greenhouse gases and air pollution emissions
- resource efficiency
- waste management
- ecosystem and biodiversity protection, and climate resilience.
Many of the countries aim to promote integrated planning that will go far beyond the initial participating cities. In addition to funding activities at the city level, the program will support the creation of a global knowledge platform. This will enable recipients to share experiences with other cities or organizations, as well as to reach out to stakeholders.
Further, the program will also play an important role in advancing the cause of urban sustainability in policy, both nationally and globally. It will encourage the integration of ideas into local policy and institutional arrangements. And it will contribute to global policy discourse, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
The GEF recognizes the valuable work of other organizations around creating sustainable cities. Our program will complement existing initiatives such as the Compact of Mayors, C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group and the International Council for Environmental Initiatives’ Cities for Climate Protection.
The program is expected to create a strong network of cities that will act as global ambassadors for urban sustainability planning. It will promote sustainable urban development through better integrated models of urban design, planning and implementation. In so doing, the program will contribute toward avoiding or reducing more than 100 million tonnes of CO2e in greenhouse gas emissions.
To be invested in sustainable cities in 2015-2020
Cities in 11 developing countries will receive initial investment
Estimated tCO2e emissions to be avoided or reduced