THE BLOG

The Battle for Sustainable Development Will Be Won or Lost in Cities

07/04/2014 15:25 BST | Updated 06/06/2014 10:59 BST

Cities can be seen as an environmental time bomb. They currently consume up to 80% of global material and energy supplies and produce around 75% of carbon emissions. With current energy intensive modes of urban development, the addition of 3 billion more city-dwellers by 2050 will mean we have no chance of limiting climate change.

The challenges of rapid urbanization mean that cities need to do more to ensure a sustainable future. This requires far more than the changes that all of us should make in our everyday lives at urban citizens. Making cities sustainable requires fundamental changes to the infrastructure that keeps them running. I'm talking about things like energy systems, transport networks and telecommunications. This is no easy task and while mayors around the world are championing action for sustainable development, these city leaders know they cannot achieve these transformations alone.

We're running a major global programme to facilitate dialogue between city leaders and businesses to help. It's called the Urban Infrastructure Initiative, and it is a model that brings together multi-sector groups of companies, creates a forum for them to sit down with city leaders and find solutions to bring the sustainability vision for that particular city into reality. So far we have worked with 10 cities around the world - spanning Europe, Asia, the United States and Latin America, engaging the technical know-how and expertise of 14 leading global companies.

This week WBCSD launched a report summarising the findings of the initiative in cities that want to make real progress towards their sustainability objectives. Some are already taking the UII ideas on board. Yixing in China has fast-tracked a detailed feasibility study for establishing a green transport network for the city, Tilburg in the Netherlands has adopted our dialogue model as part of its planning process for sustainability and Philadelphia is acting on the UII recommendations to enhance the environmental efficiency of the city's 6000 vehicles in efforts to become the "greenest city in America".

On the back of this report WBCSD is calling on cities around the world to enter into dialogue with business solutions providers early in the planning process as a key strategy to meet sustainability challenges. Business holds many of the technologies and solutions that can create the transformation the world needs. Businesses by nature innovate - and this ability can be harnessed by city leaders to future proof our cities.

While there are already excellent examples of cities and business working together at a strategic level, this is the exception rather than the rule. This represents a major missed opportunity, and something that needs to change if we have any chance of making our cities sustainable by 2050.

This is only the beginning and we need city leaders around the world to get on board. The challenge and the opportunity are clear: sustainable cities are the key to achieving a sustainable world.

Check out this video from our work in Philadelphia.