Themes-new | WWF

THEMES

13 themes for sustainable urban development

©: SHUTTERSTOCK

Urban Solution Themes 

How can cities adapt water, air, mobility, or building systems to reduce ecological footprints and protect biodiversity? Some answers on how to begin can be found within these our learning cases, organized around 13 vital themes: air, water, food, ecosystem services and biodiversity, housing and buildings, mobility and accessibility, consumption, waste and sinks, energy, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, governance and citizenship, and resilience.

AIR

Air quality is a major concern for cities, and for good reason. Air pollution seriously affects human health – with potentially deadly and disabling effects. Air quality is crucial for ecosystems that cities depend on, forests and agriculture, for example. So air pollution presents a major economic threat. 

WATER

Water holds the biosphere together - it links many environmental issues - pollution, biodiversity, food, energy, climate regulation, and many more. How well we use, manage, waste, or pollute water can determine the sustainability of our environment. Water also connects many issues in urban systems. 

FOOD

The basic need for food is interconnected with other needs and ecosystem services – air, water, waste management, energy, and more. Problems in one system tend to multiply into other areas. But solutions can also be multiplied. For reasons of food safety and health, cities are increasingly engaging in food policies and urban farming.

ECOSYSTEM SERVICES & BIODIVERSITY

Many of cities’ basic needs depend on nature’s ecosystem services. These in turn are dependent on biodiversity. A wide range of ecosystem services come from the natural spaces in and around cities. They clean the air and water, temper floods, provide water and food, and conserve biodiversity.

HOUSING & BUILDINGS

Buildings account for almost 40% of carbon dioxide emissions globally, and in bigger cities up to 80%. Many cities have turned to retrofitting buildings as one of the most costeffective ways to make good on promises of greenhouse gas reductions. Most energy-efficiency upgrades pay for themselves through energy savings.

MOBILITY & ACCESSIBILITY

Cities need space – and people need to access the city. Mobility and accessibility are tied to a range of other choices that affect ecological footprints and nature conservation. How much land will be used, and how much will be left for nature and agriculture? What energy sources will be used and what kinds of emissions into air, water, and soils?

CONSUMPTION

Cities import huge amounts of resources from other places. As cities’ footprints spread and join in complex supply chains, urban dwellers may unknowingly cause major environmental damage through their consumption patterns. We are currently consuming nearly 50% more than our planet can sustainably provide. 

WASTE & SINKS

Given that we have one interconnected planet, we cannot throw stuff away and forget it. It is still there, and can come back in our air, our water, and our food. Expanding the concept of reduce, reuse, recycle should include another ’r’ – repair, while sinks must be properly maintained as the part of our environment that can uptake some waste and pollutants.

ENERGY

Preventing climate change and building resilience in cities require real energy revolutions, shifting towards greater efficiency, and renewable energy use. Cities are leading actors in the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, as well as "negative-cost" strategies like building retrofits and smart metering.

CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION

Climate change is one of the largest threats facing people and nature. Climate is basic to our life systems – yet through our actions, humanity is causing the climate to change dangerously. Cities have risen to the challenge and are setting some of the world’s most ambitious goals for reducing their impact on the climate.

CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION

Global climate change carries huge risks – for food security and water security and other life-supporting services. Some impacts will be felt distinctly at the city scale: extreme weather events like heat waves, floods, storms, landslides, and droughts. Urban populations are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events.

GOVERNANCE & CITIZENSHIP

In cities, everything is closely connected, thus problems tend to multiply, though so too can smart solutions. Cities can exploit positive synergies, or struggle with negative ones. Those that are well-governed and well-designed are usually more sustainable along every dimension. Responsible decisions for people and environment often pay for themselves.

RESILIENCE

The new field of resilience has grown with the approach of catastrophic climate change. Resilience can be defined as the ability of a system to withstand and recover from hazards. The question is how resilient cities will be in the face of climate change and other environmental problems like air pollution or natural disasters.

 

Human right to a healthy environment is at risk from growing pollution. Petrochemical plant on Teeside, UK.

ETS reform: polluters could get €165 bn, undermining Paris Agreement

The upcoming ETS reform deal will show the world where Europe’s priorities lie. Two years after the Paris Agreement, we are on the brink of letting ...

11 Oct 2017 Read more »
Viliame's house that he built with his seven brothers

MEPs unite behind more energy efficient buildings law

Pumping costly energy into inefficient buildings is like pouring water into a sieve. Happily, the European Parliament’s ITRE committee wants to patch ...

11 Oct 2017 Read more »
Sail boats in the Baltic Sea

State of the Union: ‘Wind in our sails’ must steer Europe towards greater sustainability and climate action

President Juncker made a welcome push for a more democratic Europe, but missed the opportunity to reset our Union on a path to a genuine sustainable ...

13 Sep 2017 Read more »
The securest, cleanest energy is the energy we don't use

Environment MEPs set bar high on energy efficiency

"The Environment Committee has lived up to its name - its proposals would further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, moving us towards our Paris ...

07 Sep 2017 Read more »
Protests against air pollution from coal plants

New rules hasten end for Europe’s dirtiest power plants

Europe’s most polluting power plants, including many large coal-fired power stations, will be forced to clean up or close down thanks to new EU rules ...

31 Jul 2017 Read more »
G20 2017 Presidency logo

G20 summit shows ambition on climate and sustainability as need for action grows

As the G20 Leaders’ Summit concludes, WWF urges the world’s leading industrialized and emerging economies to deliver on their commitment toward ...

08 Jul 2017 Read more »
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions
Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions