Cities worth living in | concepts for the future

Guest article by Ingolf Dietrich, Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

We spend most of our lives in our cities and communities. Here we live, here we earn, here our children and grandchildren grow up. Therefore, quality of life is central to sustainable cities of the present and future. But what is the reason why a city is worth living in? And how does German development policy contribute to this effort?

What is the importance of living in a city?
Quality of life is perceived to be subjective, but it is determined by factors such as health, safety, access to services, water, food, education and the ability to contribute to shaping the city. Cities need to provide living conditions. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is focused on livable cities in its partner countries. It is about participatory and integrated urban planning, building a healthy, safe, just and environmentally friendly urban environment and resilience to crises of all kinds.

Create a fair environment
Justice is central to quality of life. People need housing, water supply and sewage disposal, and they need energy – that is not always and everywhere is a matter of course. And: A residential city must respect and defend the human rights of all its citizens, regardless of gender, ethnic group or nationality.

Fight climate change in cities
Cities cover only three percent of the world’s surface, but consume more than 70 percent of the world’s resources. Nearly three-quarters of cities are already suffering from the effects of climate change, such as floods or heat waves. However, cities continue to grow – by 2060 the total available building area will double, particularly in the global South and specifically in Africa and Asia. 40 percent of all energy -related CO2 emissions are associated with the construction and operation of buildings. So there is an urgent need to rethink the way we build and what materials.

Mobility as a major challenge
Another important aspect of quality of life is mobility. The need for mobility increases as the urban population grows. So what is needed is sustainable, emission-free mobility concepts that are affordable, safe and accessible to all. That is why Germany is promoting the “compact city” or “city of short distances” approach. To this end, BMZ supports initiatives such as the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI), the leading global implementation initiative for sustainable mobility.

The circular economy creates sustainability
Trans-sector transformation towards a circular economy and consistent waste prevention can save up to 20 percent of CO2 emissions. The circular economy and green jobs open up new opportunities for more sustainable consumption and production systems and are closely linked to other major challenges such as water scarcity and management. This is why the implementation of circular economy in cities at all stages of development is very important.

Objectives of German development policy
The above aspects are at the heart of BMZ’s work in transforming cities for the future that are worth living for all. Germany supports governments and interest groups in designing their sustainable cities. German development policy also wants to recognize cities as equal partners in international agenda setting and in national policy making.

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