Transforming cities, transforming lives

Cities account for 75 per cent of today’s carbon emissions, and meeting global emission goals will require collaboration and city leadership. At the same time, cities are deeply affected by the current climate crisis. Extreme heat events, water stress, deterioration of natural assets and air pollution are having severe negative impacts on health and quality of life in cities and they are also putting severe stress on cities’ infrastructure. There are no quick fixes for solving these challenges. The invention of alternative construction techniques or the implementation of public transport systems are steps in the right direction, but if they are designed as siloed technocratic processes which are implemented in a top-down manner, they will fail to create lasting change and they will not reach major parts of the city’s population.

“Urban transformation processes need to go beyond individual technological approaches and they must focus on building support by improving quality of life and equity. A new understanding of sustainable change is needed, which links improving quality of life to reducing carbon emissions,” said Dr. Simone Sandholz, Senior Scientist at United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). “Such transformations require holistic approaches and buy-in from diverse stakeholders and citizens.”

This is the goal of the new Transformative Urban Coalitions project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety under its International Climate Initiative (IKI). The project seeks to change structures and values by working with local stakeholders to shift mindsets of urban citizens and decision makers, and by building new urban coalitions to implement strategies that lead to socially inclusive zero-carbon cities.


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