Today, over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas (UN, 2014). However, urbanization can pose significant challenges to our environmental and social well-being. Cities account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption and a roughly equal share of carbon emissions. Rapid urbanization, combined with increased energy demands, is placing increased pressure on fresh water supplies, sewage systems, and public health, while urban sprawl can lead to social isolation.
Green cities address many of these challenges, creating economic, social and environmental benefits as they do so. Relatively high densities are a central feature of green cities, bringing efficiency gains and technological innovation through the proximity of economic activities, while reducing pollution and resource consumption. Additional environmental benefits come from improving ecosystems within urban areas. Socially, the benefits include employment creation, poverty reduction, improved public health and higher quality of life through road safety, increased accessibility, and social cohesion.
Relevance to the SDGs
Sustainable urban space is embodied in Sustainable Development Goal 11. It calls for a reduction in a city’s ecological footprint, an improvement in transport accessibility, and enhanced resilience against climate change impacts.