More investment needed to support sustainable infrastructure in cities says UN

Investing in sustainable infrastructures and resource efficient technologies in cities will deliver economic growth with lower rates of environmental degradation and cuts in greenhouse gases, according to a new report by the United Nations (UN).

The report says that much greater effort is needed to support new and improved infrastructure for water, energy, transport, waste and other sectors – generally located in and around cities – to wean the world off unsustainable consumption patterns, and avoid serious economic and environmental implications for future generations.

Around three-quarters of the world’s natural resources are currently consumed in cities, and the proportion of the global population living in urban areas is set to rise to 70% by 2050.

In addition to a rising population, cities generally offer lower per capita resource use and emissions than their surrounding areas.

According to the UN report, achieving inclusive sustainable development for all requires ‘decoupling’ city-based economic growth rates from the unsustainable consumption of finite natural resources, which has characterised most urban development to date.

As the price of depleting natural resources continues to rise, promoting sustainable urban infrastructures can benefit the environment and shield cities from potential economic and social instability in an increasingly resource-constrained 21st century.

The report, City-Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions, produced by the International Resource Panel (IRP), which is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), includes more than 30 case studies from cities across the world that are benefitting from sustainable infrastructure .

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner at the launch of the report in Nairobi this week, said: “To date, the trend towards urbanization has been accompanied by increased pressure on the environment and growing numbers of urban poor”.

“But unique opportunities exist for cities to lead the greening of the global economy by increasing resource productivity and innovation, while achieving major financial savings and addressing environmental challenges. Although many cities are seizing such opportunities, a holistic vision for the urban centres of the future is still lacking.”

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie