Working Toward More Sustainable Cities and Communities

Making cities safer and more livable is one of the sustainable development goals that the United Nations is focused on as part of its initiative to improve living conditions worldwide by 2030. According the UN, one billion people worldwide currently live in urban slums.

“Urgent action is needed to reverse the current situation, which sees the vast majority of urban residents breathing poor-quality air and having limited access to transport and open public spaces,” notes a recent UN report. “With the areas occupied by cities growing faster than their populations, there are profound repercussions for sustainability.”

While more action is needed to improve urban living conditions, the total number of people living in urban slums decreased between 1990 and 2016, from 46 percent to 23 percent. The good news is that urban areas are growing in size, which reduces population density. But this also puts more stress on the environment and increases the need to introduce sustainable management practices to control growth in cities worldwide.

Among the most pressing needs in urban areas are improved solid waste management and better air quality. “Urban planning, transport systems, water, sanitation, waste management, disaster risk reduction, access to information, education and capacity-building are all relevant issues to sustainable urban development,” notes another UN report.

Among the benchmarks for 2030 are an increase in affordable housing, improved transportation systems, and the implementation of sustainable development best practices.

“Cities are also the locus of complex and interconnected challenges: they produce more than 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, use 80 percent of the world’s energy and generate 1.3 billion tons of waste every year,” says UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. “Going forward, we need to step up the pace and scale of our integration as a development system to match the ambition of the 2030 Agenda — and to create cities that drive progress towards the SDGs.”

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