NEW YORK (September 24, 2021)—At Climate Week NYC 2021, World Resources Institute (WRI), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), C40 Cities, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched UrbanShift, a new global initiative to improve lives and transform cities into green and livable spaces, concurrently addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
UrbanShift will support 23 cities in Argentina, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Rwanda and Sierra Leone to adopt integrated approaches to urban development, helping shape cities that are efficient, resilient and inclusive. The program builds on the lessons and experiences of the Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot program, which was launched by the GEF during its sixth replenishment cycle.
“Cities have to work for people, for the planet and for the economy if we are to be successful as we go forward,” said Ani Dasgupta, President and CEO, WRI. “UrbanShift was formed to help city leaders solve complex urban problems and use their limited resources to invest in the outcomes we need. We can't just be solving one problem; we need to make cross-sectoral solutions the norm.”
Cities are home to 4.2 billion people, more than half of the world’s population. But they face growing challenges – from floods, storms and heatwaves triggered by the climate crisis to dangerous air quality, lack of affordable housing and deep social divides. Cities also account for about 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions. It’s imperative for the world’s cities to become carbon neutral by 2050 in order to hold global temperature rise to under 1.5 °C, all while expanding to provide for nearly 70% of the world’s population.
“Cities are at the frontline of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP.
“However, our cities also have the power to address these challenges while increasing the resilience of their citizens and their infrastructure. As we focus on the pressing issues of climate change this week, we must turn the ingenuity and industriousness we showed in building our cities in the first place to rethinking how they work. UrbanShift will be a key tool to help urban leaders do just that.”
The program will engage mayors, the private sector, city networks, UN agencies, multilateral development banks and many other partners to support national and city governments. It will also serve as a knowledge and learning platform to connect cities with global expertise and cutting-edge research, as well as offering a space to share experiences and forge partnerships.
“We are aiming for ambitious city-level transformation, which we plan to achieve in two ways,” said Rogier van den Berg, Acting Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. “One, by working directly with cities to promote integrated urban development approaches such as nature-based solutions, low-carbon public transport systems, low-emission zones and integrated waste management. Two, by offering a suite of capacity-strengthening activities to urban practitioners and leaders across the globe, from participatory workshops to online trainings, national-level dialogues, advanced climate action, urban labs, and much more.”
Objectives include mitigating more than 130 million tCO2e of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of one year’s emissions from 32 coal-fired power stations. UrbanShift will also improve the management and restoration of approximately 1 million hectares of land. With $146 million in GEF funding and $1.7 billion in co-financing, the program is expected to impact the lives of more than 58 million people.
“In an increasingly encroaching urban world, investing in our cities is one of the best ways we can achieve global environmental benefits across sectors – from conserving biodiversity, to reducing carbon emissions and increasing resilience to shocks like climate events and pandemics,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and Chairperson, GEF.
UrbanShift is aligned to the UN’S Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 vision to consider the social, environmental and economic dimensions integrated and indivisible. UrbanShift will particularly contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, but also several other SDGs such as SDG13, SDG3 and SDG15.
Watch the recording of the launch event below
Global Launch of UrbanShift
This event marked the official launch of UrbanShift and took place virtually during Climate Week NYC 2021.
Advancing Urban Sustainability for a Green Recovery
Drawing from the experiences of cities under the GEF's Sustainable Cities program (including UrbanShift cities), this report looks at key urban sustainability elements and solutions and discusses strategies that advance green recovery.
Supporting Integrated Urban Growth in Freetown
The UrbanShift Lab in Freetown brought together representatives from the capital and neighboring cities to assess and find sustainable solutions for managing urban growth and climate risks in Sierra Leone.
Financing Urban Transformation: Don’t Leave It Up to Cities Alone
International development institutions have a crucial role to play in the multilevel effort to finance green, low-carbon urban infrastructure projects, as does the private sector.