The world is facing an extraordinary emergency – to reduce humanity’s ecological footprint to a sustainable level, and to stop the rapid global loss of biodiversity. These challenges are at the centre of WWF’s mission.
Cities are now the main growth centres of population, consumption, and resource use, as well as waste. This makes them the new hot spots of global environmental change.
For the first time in history, more than half the world’s population lives in cities. It is a jarring and rapid change. In 1800, only 3% of humanity lived in cities. At present almost all population growth takes place in cities. According to UN projections, 70% of humanity will be living in cities by 2050. Cities require focused attention, right now.
Cities are changing
The findings of our global inventory suggest that the transformation has already begun. Cities are slowly becoming drivers of change. All across the field of sustainable development, we find cities taking the lead.
Networks of cities are setting more ambitious goals for greenhouse gas emissions than their governments. Cities are taking independent action, often with innovative solutions, pushing governments to follow.
In our survey of 100+ learning cases, there are cities transforming transport, creating walkable and livable environments with better air quality. There are cities protecting nature, taking advantage of ecosystem services vital for water supplies, food security, adaptation to climate change and resilience. We find cities that use waste as a resource, sponsor sustainable consumption through green purchasing, and develop urban farming. There are cities investing in smart grids, and in energy-efficient housing. And there are cities promoting renewable energy with regulations, subsidies, and tax relief.
Today only 600 urban centres generate about 60% of global GDP