Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

17 Apr 2013

Cities and sustainability

Posted by Michael Keating

We know that more half the world lives in towns and cities, a historic shift marked in 2008.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), about three-quarters of the natural resource consumption takes place in cities, and given current trends, 70 per cent of humanity will live in urban areas by 2050.

The cost of building and renewing urban infrastructure in the world’s cities between 2000 and 2030 is estimated at US$40 trillion.

These are staggering numbers and threaten to drastically increase environmental impacts on an already over-stressed planet.

In a press release, http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=2713&ArticleID=9474&l=en&t=long, UNEP draws from its International Resource Panel http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/ to look at reducing the environmental impact of cities. It says that greening the ways cities operate can provide economic growth and use fewer resources.

UNEP calls for decoupling urban economic growth from the unsustainable consumption of finite natural resources, which has characterized most urban development to date.

It gives a series of examples from industrial and developing countries to show how current innovations can improve services such as transportation, waste and water while reducing greenhouse gase emissions, and reducing some costs.

The report says a transition to greener cities will be essential “…in an increasingly resource-constrained 21st century.”

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