One Planet Cities | WWF


Today more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. And those numbers are growing steadily: Urban populations are expected to double from the current 3.5 billion to 6,7 billion by 2050, and are already responsible for more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. Urban dwellers’ increasing appetites for different foods, goods and energy put more pressure on the world’s land, waters and climate. The good news is that solutions exist that can meet the demands of urban lifestyles without exhausting the planet’s ecological capacity. 

One Planet Cities 

WWF is committed to increasing political leadership, public engagement and entrepreneurship to transform cities. Our aim is to support the creation and development of One Planet Cities around the globe -  cities that enable all people to thrive and prosper while respecting the ecological limits of our one and only planet.


Learning and Sharing

Cities everywhere face a wide range of environmental and climate-related challenges as a result of rapidly growing urban populations. Fortunately, many astute local leaders recognize the benefits of tackling these critical challenges while simultaneously meeting their residents’ needs for water, food, housing, transportation and access to energy. And progressive cities are developing resource-effective, innovative solutions for doing so.

WWF created the One Planet City Challenge and City Solutions to highlight some of the most inspiring cities, and their innovative solutions. These projects aim to facilitate the sharing and replication of sustainable solutions in cities across the globe.


What WWF is doing

  • One Planet City Challenge is an initiative designed by WWF to mobilize action and support from cities in the global transition towards a 100% renewable future. It also aims to stimulate the development and dissemination of best practices for climate mitigation and adaptation.

  • City Solutions is a global inventory of learning cases from sustainable urban development.

  • Financing Sustainable Cities WWF works with city planners around the world to ensure that investments are made in sustainable solutions. 

  • Massive Open Online Course on sustainable cities developed with Lund University and available for free. The course runs continously. 


Summary for Urban Policymakers

Summary for Urban Policymakers (SUP) 
of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels

“Climate science must be accessible to urban policymakers, because without them, there will be no limiting global warming to 1.5°C.”
From SUP for Urban Policymakers

The lead authors of the IPCC’s special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 °C voluntarily took on the assignment of writing a summary for urban policymakers as a testimony to their importance. Here we give you a short summary of that report, as part of our ambition to align cities with the 1.5 °C target and deliver on the Paris Agreement.

Future impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels

  • Unchecked, climate change threatens to undo much of the economic and social progress achieved since the end of World War II.
  • Risks coalesce in urban areas, especially in the global south.
  • Clear impacts of warming above 1.5 °C include: increases in human death and illness from decreases in crop nutrition, exacerbated urban heat islands (UHI), amplification of heat waves, extreme weather volatility, floods, droughts, coastal inundation, and an increase in vector-borne diseases.
  • 2 °C warming doubles the population suffering from water scarcity compared to a warming of 1.5 °C, while the number of insects losing habitat triples, the number of plant species loss doubles and virtually all corals are lost (as loss increases from 90% to 99%).

The need for urgent action

  • The world has already warmed by 1.0 °C above pre-industrial levels due to human activities and we are experiencing the related impacts.
  • To achieve a 66% chance of limiting warming to 1.5 °C, CO2 emissions must be reduced to zero by 2040, in addition to deep reductions of other GHGs.
  • The sooner climate action is pursued, the greater the likelihood that we can meet the target and the less expensive it will be for us.
  • Urban policymakers play a key role in adapting to and driving solutions to climate change, but they must act fast and increase their cooperation with other stakeholders.
  • Each year we delay the start of emission reductions, the window to reach zero emissions is reduced by approximately two years on a pathway to remaining below 1.5°C.
  • Exceeding the 1.5°C global warming limit, even if temporarily, will lead us into a highly uncertain world pushing a number of natural and human systems beyond their limits of adaptation and into possible futures about which we have limited scientific knowledge and no institutional or governance experience.

Taking action

The scale of socio-cultural, economic, and technical change needed to limit warming to 1.5 °C is unprecedented, but routes forward are emerging.

The pathways to a sustainable future will be determined in no small part by the actions of engaged officials, in cooperation with city stakeholders.

Over the next decades, nearly 70 million people will move to urban areas every year. This urban expansion can catalyze new technologies in cost-effective ways. Through early action we can avoid being locked in to carbon emissions through long-lived infrastructure that is then expensive to change.

  • In 2050, we should have cut emissions in global building stock by 80-90% compared to 2010. This translates to a 5% annual rate of energy retrofits of existing buildings in developed countries, as well as new buildings being fossil-free and near-zero energy by 2020.
  • We need to reach 70-85% of renewable electricity supplies by 2050, along with an increase in electrification to replace fossil fuels.
  • Urban and transport planning, such as compact, pedestrianized/bikable cities and towns and the inclusion of nature-based solutions (NBS) in cities, plays an important role in limiting future emissions, accompanied by policies that encourage modal shifts, electrification, and fuel efficiency. Co-benefits include clean air, less congestion and road fatalities, improving microclimates, and health through more active travel and cleaner air.
  • We should increase rates of materials recycling and more renewable materials to advance industrial transitions in urban areas, while sustainably sourced wood in construction can support carbon sequestration.
  • Improvement of green urban infrastructure through use of NBS could reduce flood and drought, enable water conservation, reduce UHI effects and increase resilience to extreme events.
  • Existing and new technologies – smart grids, ICT solutions for efficient transport – can be deployed quickly and at scale, but we require policies, incentives and cooperation between markets and enterprises to achieve that.

City role models for system transitions are needed as examples. No transition to curb warming to 1.5 °C can happen in isolation. Read more about City solutions 

How can the urban transition be enabled?

Urban leaders need to evaluate and combine factors to enhance the feasibility of 1.5 °C pathways i.e. combining solar photovoltaics with battery storage, electric vehicles, local shared-mobility measures, providing urban cycling infrastructure, green infrastructure and ecosystem services.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C will require effective governance frameworks with multi-level governance and engagement of all stakeholders, across all sectors. These can be supported by climate education and increased public awareness as well as behavior change aligned with residents’ values.

Local governments need support from national governments. Strong political leadership and participation in climate networks can overcome barriers, particularly when supported by citizens and civil society. Independent institutions that monitor, report and review progress can further enable the transition.

The SUP was created by IPCC lead authors, in collaboration with city stakeholders, and was released during the climate change conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland in December 2018. The longer Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5)1 is one of the most scrutinized public scientific reports of the 21st century.


Jennifer Lenhart Project leader One Planet City Challenge

Global lead and expert, One Planet Cities


Barbara Evaeus
Lead Global Communications, One Planet Cities


Communications, One Planet Cities


Program manager and expert One Planet Cities


Senior advisor One Planet Cities and Ecological footprint

Senior advisor One Planet Cities and Ecological footprint


Tabaré Curras
Global Advisor on Urban Energy Transitions


Program manager One Planet Cities 


Anthony Pearce
Program manager One Planet Cities

Bella Roscher
Program manager and expert One Planet Cities

Sofia Widforss
Program manager One Planet Cities