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What kind of homes should people live in? Where can they settle? How close may their neighbours encroach on them? These questions are as old as our civilization, but in the 21st century they are being asked in a new way. Because this century is characterized by a contradiction dynamic that eclipses much of our previous experience of social change: rapidly growing populations in many developing countries versus shrinking populations in some industrialized countries; the enrichment of tiny elites versus the ongoing economic marginalization of the majority; guarded luxury real estate surrounded by squalid, poor neighbourhoods in many megacities; improved access to basic supplies and services for billions of Earth dwellers, while at the same time their long-term life-support systems are being destroyed by resource looting, climate change and environmental pollution. The present report outlines the special challenges and opportunities faced in this century by cities from the perspective of the necessary transformation towards sustainability. One characteristic feature of the debate on the search for solutions is the enormous diversity of instruments and solution pathways. Consequently, there can be no blueprint for sustainable urban development.
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The future of our civilization will be decided in the cities. The internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and the Paris Agreement on climate change can only be achieved if we design sustainable and liveable cities across the globe.
In its report‚ Humanity on the move: Unlocking the transformative power of cities (2016), the WBGU examines the transformation of cities towards sustainability.
The New Urban Agenda (NUA) adopted in 2016 at the Habitat III Conference (the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development) is to serve as a framework for global urban development over the next twenty years. The conference offered the first chance to transfer these sustainability and legally- binding climatemitigation goals to the level of the cities.
From 17-20 October 2016, government representatives from all over the world will gather for the “United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – Habitat III”, in Quito, Ecuador.
With the New Urban Agenda adopted today at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), the world’s governments adopted a number of important political goals: improve cities’ ability to shape their future, strengthen inclusive and people-oriented urban development and improve resource protection. However, the conference did not succeed in making urbanization a top issue of world politics.
Habitat III's success should be measured by whether we succeed in putting urbanization at the top of the agenda of world politics – says the WBGU in its statement on the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – Habitat III, 17–20 Oct. 2016 in Quito, Ecuador.
WBGU report addresses Habitat III
More than 2-3 billion people worldwide will move from the country to the cities within the next few decades, doubling the population of the world's slums. It will be the biggest migration of our time. The power of this urbanization surge will be the key driver of global change in the 21st century. This is revealed in the essence of the report 'Humanity on the move – Unlocking the transformative power of cities', which was presented today by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen, WBGU). Cities are responsible for a disproportionately high percentage of greenhouse-gas emissions – more than two thirds globally. At the same time, they are particularly hard hit by the consequences of global warming. Instead of ever greater densification, therefore, urban development should focus its attention more on the surrounding regions. Developing multiple medium-sized centres instead of a few rampantly expanding megacities increases humankind's resistance to crises and takes the pressure off local resources such as water and land.
Voices to this Report
Humanity on the move: Unlocking the transformative power of cities, is a notable breath of fresh air at a time when shallow platitudes seem the order of the day. It is bold, meticulously crafted through argument (as opposed to assertion) and evidence, and rooted in a highly original conceptual framework that is both global in scope and differentiated. The report asserts the centrality of cultural and institutional change and does not shy away from being specific and programmatic at a moment when it seems that political discourses are increasingly disconnected from our highly fractious, unsustainable, violent and intolerant times. I recommend it as compulsory reading in the strongest possible terms.
Professor Edgar Pieterse -
Director – African Centre for Cities (University of Cape Town) & Chairperson of the Cities Alliance Think Tank.
- Download: Resumen (PDF 0,6 MB)
- Download: Summary (PDF 32,4 MB)
Commissioned Expert's Studies
External expert studies are comissoned by WBGU, the responsibility for the content rests with the author.
- Download: Prof. Dr. Christoph Bieber und Peter Bihr – Digitalisierung und die Smart City. Ressource und Barriere transformativer Urbanisierung (PDF 772 KB)
- Download: Prof. Dr. Martin Coy und Dr. Tobias Töpfer – São Paulo: Aktuelle Entwicklungstrends und Möglichkeiten der Transformation zur Nachhaltigkeit (PDF 1,1 MB)
- Download: PD Dr. Daniel Schiller – Informalität in urbanen Ökonomien (PDF 585 KB)
- Download: Prof. Dr. habil. Guido Spars und Dr. Roland Busch – Auswirkungen der Internationalisierung der Immobilienwirtschaft auf Wohnungsmärkte und Stadtentwicklung weltweit (PDF 2 MB)
- Download: Peter Taylor, FBA, AcSS – The Role of Cities in the Process of Economic Globalization (PDF 730 KB)