Half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities today and by 2030, it is estimated that six out of 10 people will be city dwellers. The world’s cities occupy just 3% of the planet’s land but account for 60-80% of all energy consumption and 75% of the planet’s carbon emissions. Close to 95% of urban expansion in the coming decades will take place in the developing world. Rapid urbanisation is exerting pressure on fresh water supplies, sewage, the living environment and public health. Our rapidly growing urban world is experiencing congestion, a lack of basic services, a shortage of adequate housing, and declining infrastructure. Thirty percent of the world’s urban population lives in slums, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, over half of all city dwellers are slum dwellers.
Why is this important?
Cities are engines for sustainable development. It is where ideas, commerce, culture, science, and productivity thrives. Urban spaces offer opportunities for people to prosper economically and socially, but this is only possible in prosperous cities that can accommodate people in decent jobs and where land resources are not overwhelmed by growth. Unplanned urban sprawl, as cities spill beyond their formal boundaries, can be detrimental to national developmental planning and to the global goals for sustainable development. Our urban areas are also emitters of greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change. Half of the global urban population breathes air that is 2.5 times more polluted than standards deemed acceptable by the World Health Organization.
What can we do to address this?
These challenges to urban spaces can be overcome by improving resource use and focusing on reducing pollution and poverty. The future we want includes cities that offer opportunities for all, and which provide access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more. Cities can either dissipate energy or optimise efficiency by reducing energy consumption and adopting green energy systems. For instance, Rizhao, China has become a solar-powered city; in its central districts, 99% of households already use solar water heaters.
India and Goal 11
India is urbanising rapidly. Between 2001 and 2011, the country’s urban population had increased by 91 million. By 2030, India is expected to be home to six mega-cities with populations above 10 million. According to 2013 14 figures, 68% of the country’s total population live in rural areas, while 17% of the country’s urban population live in slums. The Government of India’s Smart Cities Mission, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) are working to address the challenge of improving urban spaces. The prime minister’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana aims to achieve housing for all by 2022.
- By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.
- By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention given to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.
- By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanisation and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries.
- Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
- By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations.
- By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.
- By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.
- Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning.
- By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels.
- Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilising local materials.