The Sustainable Development Goals commit to ending poverty in all its forms by 2030. To realize this aspiration, governments need to provide under-served urban residents with decent housing, safe drinking water, reliable sanitation and clean energy. Ultimately, the number of slum dwellers should be declining by 50-60m people a year even as urban populations rise.
The Paris Agreement commits to eliminate net global emissions by 2050. To decarbonize cities, governments will need to mobilize large-scale investment in renewable energy, public transport, energy-efficient buildings and solid waste management. Much of this investment will be needed in urban areas, which need to reduce emissions by 4-5 percent every year.
The way that urban land is used will be key to achieving all of these global agreements. In more compact, connected cities, people have better access to jobs, services and amenities. They also don’t have to travel as far, which reduces transport emissions that cause climate change and affect air quality. Cities, therefore, need to avoid sprawl and pursue more efficient, inclusive urban forms.