Cities occupy only 2 per cent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface but consume over 75 per cent of natural resources. Presently over half of the world’s population resides in cities with up to 80 percent projected for 2050. Significantly, the majority of this growth will take place in secondary cities of the developing world. The conditions for urban inhabitants, in terms of employment, environment, health, education and overall quality of life are dependent in both the short and longer term how cities draw on and manage the natural resources available to them.
Many of the decisions and actions needed to move our society towards sustainable development rest largely with cities. There are genuine opportunities for national and city leaders to improve resource efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance ecosystems and minimize environmental risks. Resource efficiency is key for cities to move towards a green economy and contribute to global sustainability. They bring efficiency gains and technological innovation through the proximity of economic activities, while reducing resource and energy consumption as well as providing increased opportunities for consumer choices and sustainable lifestyles.
Since 2008, the UNEP-led Green Economy Initiative (GEI) assists governments in shaping and focusing policies, investments and spending towards a range of green sectors, such as clean technologies, industry, renewable energies, water services, transport, waste management, green buildings, and sustainable agriculture and forests. GEI’s three-pronged approach comprises policy analysis, advisory services and partnership, as GEI aims to foster a collective vision jointly with other UN agencies, public organizations and the business community.UNEP also works to boost resource-efficient growth and innovation to break the links between economic growth and environmental degradation. Cities can play a major role in decoupling economic growth from resource use and find a better balance between social, environmental and economic objectives. UNEP jointly with its key partners is currently developing the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities, which aims at enhancing the quality of life in urban areas, particularly in rapidly growing cities in developing countries, while minimizing resource extraction, energy consumption and waste generation and safeguarding ecosystem services. This Initiative seeks to connect the many different entities around the world working on this issue; using UNEP’s convening power to mobilize partners and different constituencies from governments at both the national and the local level, civil society, business and industry and other major groups.