Why We Need Sustainable Cities
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities is a very important goal in its own right, but it also affects the other goals within the 2030 Agenda.
Goal 11 targets include ensuring adequate housing, ensuring accessible transportation, enhancing inclusive urbanisation, protecting natural and cultural heritage, decreasing the human impact from disasters, reducing the adverse environmental impact of cities and providing safe open spaces.
In 2018, it was estimated that 55% of people lived in urban areas with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs expecting this to increase to 68% by 2050. This is approximately 2.5 extra billion people in urban areas by 2050 with almost 90% of this 2.5 billion expected to be in Africa and Asia. India China and Nigeria will account for approximately 875 million people in urban population growth, a third of the projections over the coming 30 years.
Despite only accounting for 55% of the world's population, cities consume 78% of the world's energy according to UN Habitat. This year, over 90% of COVID-19 cases have been recorded in urban areas. Cities have a major impact on both social and environmental aspects of the other 16 goals.
Our cities play such an important role in our economy. The United Nations Development Programme estimates that although only 55% of the world's population live in urban areas, cities account for over 80% of economic output.
What does a sustainable city look like?
Sustainable cities require all the key components outlined above - housing, transport, natural and cultural heritage and open spaces - as stated in the targets of Goal 11. But they also require the other aspects of the goals - decent work and economic growth (Goal 8) to ensure no one lives in poverty (Goal 1) and everyone has equal access to opportunities (Goals 5 and 10). Sustainable cities require places where people can purchase healthy and nutritious food and local producers can sell to increase their income (Goal 2). Sustainable cities need places where people can exercise and interact with others in order to ensure good mental health (Goal 3). They must have quality educational facilities at a pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary level (Goal 4). Cities must also provide safe drinking water in order to be sustainable and adequate hygiene facilities for everyone (Goal 6). Truly sustainable cities run on affordable, clean and reliable energy (Goal 7) and comprise sustainable and innovative buildings (Goal 9). Comprehensive recycling programs are another component of sustainable cities as well as education programs around waste production (Goal 12). There needs to be a focus on the natural environment - trees, waterways, native fauna and other aspects in order to ensure a city is genuinely sustainable (Goals 14 and 15). Sustainable cities are cities free from crime and corruption and with strong governance and leadership (Goal 16).
Most importantly, sustainable cities are willing to partner with other cities, businesses and civil and community organisations in order to ensure their sustainability and the sustainability of the areas around them.
Our urban areas require investment of both time and resources when it comes to sustainable development in order to ensure their sustainability and global sustainability.