The world has been growing and developing at a rate unprecedentedly throughout history. Over the next 20 years, the population living in urban areas in developing countries will reach 4 billion. The land area under urbanization will triple. Growth in urbanization creates new opportunities. But along with it comes grave economic, social, and environmental challenges. There comes the need for Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Today, 1 billion people worldwide are living in slums. 1.5 billion people across the globe live in countries affected by periodic violence. In the past decade alone, the number of people affected by natural disasters reached 2 billion. The poor disproportionately bear the burden of crime, conflict, violence, and disasters.
A growing population and urbanization are also heightening environmental concerns. Urban areas have some of the worst air quality indexes. Cities worldwide are responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
However, many cities such as New York and London have begun to notice their environmental impact. They have passed legislation for congestion pricing aimed at reducing air pollution. Congestion pricing dissuades people from using private transport by charging drivers a high toll for traveling during rush hour or in high-traffic areas. Sometimes, they allow drivers in electric cars to travel for free to encourage environmentally conscious travel.
Both rural and urban communities worldwide are feeling the urge to tackle economic, social, and environmental issues and become resilient to poverty, social exclusion, inequality, climate change, and disaster risks. Building resilient and sustainable communities- be it villages or cities- is critical to eliminating poverty and boosting prosperity.
The World Bank’s concept of sustainable cities and communities includes four key dimensions:
1. Sustainable cities and communities are environmentally sustainable.
2. Sustainable cities and communities are resilient to social, economic, and environmental shocks. They are well prepared for natural disasters like floods and storms that are frequently increasing due to climate change.
3. Sustainable cities and communities are inclusive. Their markets and services cater to various dimensions of society and groups of people, including the vulnerable and marginalized.
4. Finally, sustainable cities and communities are competitive. They’re always staying productive and generating jobs for their community members.
The quality of life and living standards in cities are strongly linked to how much pressure cities put on the natural resources available to them. Until today, increased environmental pressure accompanies urbanization, industrialization, and modernization. Cities accelerate the demand for essential services, infrastructure, land, jobs, and affordable housing, especially for the population of 1 billion urban poor living in informal dwellings.
Sustainable Development Goal 11
The high concentration of people, housing, economic activities, and infrastructure make cities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters. Developing and improving urban resilience is vital in avoiding losses of social, economic, and human. Incorporating sustainability into urbanization is crucial to protect the environment and mitigate climate change and disaster risks.
Cities with resource efficiency have greater innovation and productivity, lower costs, and reduced environmental impacts. It provides its residents with diverse consumer choices and sustainable lifestyles. The 11th out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations deals with just that.
SDG 11 deals with sustainable cities and communities. Let’s look at each target under SDG 11.
11.1 – Safe and Affordable Housing
By 2030, everyone should have access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing. It also includes upgrading slums and the right to basic services.
11.2 – Affordable and Sustainable Transport Systems
By 2030, everyone all across the globe must have access to affordable, safe, and sustainable transport systems. We must improve road safety and expand public transport while paying attention to the needs of vulnerable populations such as women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
11.3 – Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanization
By 2030, we need an enhancement of inclusive and sustainable urbanization. Our city planning processes and methods must include sustainable and participatory management.
11.4 – Protect the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage
We must strengthen our efforts in protecting and safeguarding our world’s cultural and natural heritage.
11.5 – Reduce the Adverse Effects of Natural Disasters
By 2030, we must significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected by natural disasters. We must also decrease the economic losses associated with disasters and focus on protecting the poor and vulnerable.
11.6 – Reduce the Environmental Impact of Cities
By 2030, cities must reduce their per capita environmental impact by focusing on improving air quality and waste management.
11.7 – Provide Access to Safe and Inclusive Green and Public Spaces
By 2030, everyone must have universal access to inclusive, accessible, and safe public and green spaces. These spaces should be easily accessible, especially to women, the elderly, children, and persons with disabilities.
11.8 – Strong National and Regional Development Planning
We must strengthen national and regional development planning. Doing so can support the social, economic, and environmental links between rural, urban, and peri-urban areas.
11.9 – Implement Policies for Inclusion, Resource Efficiency, and Disaster Risk Reduction
We must promote adopting inclusive and resource-efficient policies and plans in cities and human settlements. We must also have policies for the mitigation and adaptation to climate change and resilience to disasters.
11.10 – Support Least Developed Countries in Sustainable and Resilient Building
Technically and financially support least developed countries in constructing resilient and sustainable buildings using local materials.
The Bottom Line
The world’s population is increasing every day. We need to build modern and sustainable cities to be able to accommodate everyone without stressing the environment and its resources. And also need new, intelligent urban planning to make cities resilient, affordable, safe, and green so that all of us can survive and prosper.
We must focus on the one sustainability target we often overlook; sustainability and civic engagement. These include actions ordinary individuals like you and me can take to increase sustainability in our cities. It includes voting for politicians that support sustainability measures. We can also attend public forums to give our governments feedback about their sustainability initiatives.
Building sustainable cities and communities is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. We can eliminate extreme poverty, ensure environmental protection, and boost shared prosperity at the local, regional, and national levels.