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Cities,need to reduce or decouple from fossil-fuel use, and the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals can be a catlyst for change



Macro-economic public policy prescriptions  of the World Bank and the IMF have contributed to the unsustainable growth in human urban populations across the global South and it is with great trepidation and caution that we continue on this business as usual trajectory of unsustainable development in the cities of the global South where urbanization rates are increasing at an exponential rate.

The rapid population growth experienced across the cities and urban areas of Africa and Asia, have not adequately addressed the fact that it was the ill-conceived and irrational policy prescriptions of structural adjustment and neo-liberalism prescribed to the post-colonial independent states of Africa  and Asia that led to massive urban population growth across the continents and thus contributed to the loss of the traditional means and methods of self-sustenance in many villages and rural communities.

The subsequent economic shocks of the 1980’s African Debt crisis, coupled together with the fast pace of globalization and the ensuing integration of ill-prepared African economies to the skewed capital markets of the global North that have thus far led to mass rural-urban migratory patterns, leading to the collapse of the backbone of rural livelihood, which has historically been self-sustaining agriculture. In recent years, this trend has been exacerbated by the effects of drought, war and climate change.

The failure of governments across the continent to stem the flow of rural-urban exodus has further contributed and accelerated the urban-rural migration to the cities and thus a vicious and unsustainable cycle of depopulation of rural areas and over-population of urban areas, thus leading to the seemingly uncontrollable mushrooming of cities such as Bangkok, Cape Town, Lagos and Nairobi currently experienced. Inadequate and poor governance and planning, as well as a lack of foresight by city planners, developers, and metropolitan authorities have contributed to urban slum sprawl


Category of the action

Urban adaptation

What actions do you propose?

The Sustainable Development Goals being negotiated by the United Nations General Assembly as a post-2015 development framework, that are meant to build upon the gains of the Millennium Development Goals offer a means to changing the status quo for the majority of the urban poor. The Sustainable Development Goals as formulated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network are as follows:

SDG 1: End extreme poverty including hunger. The more specific goal is to end extreme poverty in all its forms; in other words, to complete the MDGs including hunger, child stunting, malnutrition and food insecurity, and give special support to highly vulnerable countries. The World Bank leadership voted in 2013 to take on this specific objective, specifically for the Bank to contribute to ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. The overriding idea that ending extreme poverty in all its forms can actually be accomplished by our generation is becoming official policy.

SDG 2: Achieve economic development within planetary boundaries. This goal means all countries have a right to economic development as long as that development respects planetary boundaries, ensures sustainable production and consumption patterns, and helps to stabilize the global population by mid-century. The idea of SDG 2 (as recommended by the SDSN) is to give support to continued economic growth, especially in the developing countries, but only growth that is environmentally sustainable within the planetary boundaries. This will require huge changes in the way that we use and produce energy, grow food, design and build cities, and so forth.

SDG 3: Ensure effective learning for all children and for youth for their lives and their livelihoods. This education goal is stated as “effective learning,” so that children develop the skills that they need to be productive, to be fulfilled in their lives, to be good citizens, and to be able to find decent jobs. As technology changes, the pathways to decent work also require decent skills and good education. Part of effective learning will include greater attention to Early Childhood Development (ECD), ages 0-6, when key brain development occurs.

SDG 4: Achieve gender equality, social inclusion, and human rights for all. Sustainable development rests on the core dimensions of justice, fairness, social inclusion and social mobility. Discrimination is a huge and persistent barrier to full participation in economic life and to life satisfaction. This goal will also direct the world’s attention to excessive inequality of income and wealth, and to the concept of “relative poverty,” meaning a situation in which households are not in extreme poverty, but are still too poor to be part of the dignified life of the society.

SDG 5: Achieve health and wellbeing at all ages. The subtitle of this SDG is to achieve universal health coverage at every stage of life with particular emphasis on primary health services, including reproductive health, to ensure that all people receive quality health services without suffering financial hardship. All countries will also be called upon to promote policies to help individuals make healthy and sustainable decisions regarding diet, physical activity and other individual or social dimensions of health. With proper organization, it is possible to reduce child and maternal mortality dramatically, to raise life expectancy, and to control many diseases at very low cost.

SDG 6: Improve agricultural systems and raise rural productivity. SDG 6 calls on all countries to improve farming practices, rural infrastructure, and access to resources for food production to increase the productivity of agriculture, livestock, and fisheries, raise smallholder incomes, reduce environmental impacts, promote rural prosperity, and ensure resilience to climate change. Smallholder farmers face many challenges. There are the problems of fresh water depletion, the impacts of climate change, and the need to create new technology and information-based systems that help raise the most impoverished of these families out of poverty and ensure that farm systems are more productive and resilient. At the same time, existing farm practices lead to the loss of biodiversity, groundwater depletion, excessive fluxes of nitrogen and phosphorus, chemical pollution, and other harms. SDG 6 recognizes the centrality of sustainable agriculture, and as part of that, the sustainability of the food supply.

SDG 7: Empower inclusive, productive and resilient cities. The goal is to make all cities socially inclusive, economically productive, environmentally sustainable, and secure and resilient to climate change and other risks. Success in SDG 7 will require new forms of participatory, accountable and effective city governance to support rapid and equitable urban transformation.

SDG 8: Curb human-induced climate change and ensure sustainable energy. The aim is to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the energy industry, agriculture, the built environment and land use change, to ensure a peak of global CO2 emissions in the coming years in order to head off the rapidly growing dangers of climate change to promote sustainable energy for all. The world will need to cut greenhouse gas emissions approximately by half by 2050, even as the world economy grows perhaps threefold between now and then. Success requires that the world decarbonize the energy system while also ensuring that electricity and modern energy services are available for all. Meeting this challenge will of course require a much faster transition to low-carbon energy than we have achieved to date.

SDG 9: Secure ecosystem services and biodiversity and ensure good management of water and other natural resources. Biodiversity, marine and terrestrial ecosystems of local, regional and global significance should be measured, managed and monitored to ensure the continuation of resilient and adaptive life support systems that support sustainable development. Water and other natural resources should be managed sustainably and transparently to support inclusive economic and human development.

SDG 10: Transform governance for sustainable development. The public sector, business and other stakeholders should commit to good governance. Good governance for sustainable development includes transparency, accountability, access to information, participation, an end to tax havens, and efforts to stamp out corruption. The international rules governing international finance, trade, corporate reporting, technology and intellectual property should be made consistent with achieving the SDGs. The financing of poverty reduction and global public goods including efforts to head off climate change should be strengthened and based on a graduated set of global rights and responsibilities.

In addition to SDG 7 which aims to create sustainable and resilient cities, the following policies prescriptions across the dimensions of 

  • Economic sustainability – the ability of the local economy to sustain itself without causing…damage to the natural resource base on which it depends..
  • social sustainability – a set of actions and policies aimed at improving quality of life, but also committed to the fair access and distribution of rights to use …the natural and built environment
  • Ecological sustainability – the impact of urban production and consumption on the integrity and health of the city region…
  •  Physical sustainability – the capacity and aptitude of the urban built environment and techno-structures to support human life and productive activities.

Political sustainability – refers to the quality of governance systems guiding the relationship and actions of the above dimensions. It involves the democratisation and participation of civil society in all areas of decision making

Furthermore, local government authorities should be made aware of the following:

  • The role of land and landscape – adoption of a systems approach to land use, where land is respected as a non-renewable resource.
  • Mobility and land use as an inter-related potential to sustain the city over time –goal is to reinforce an integrated land use and public transport approach; approving developments linked to public transport systems.
  • Public structure and sustainable infrastructure design – creation of a positive urban environment; including a network of public transport focused routes connecting a hierarchy of nodes and public spaces.
  • Built form – to work towards a total  living environment in neighbourhood planning and design


as well as take into consideration the development of sustainable transport corridors within cites along the following guidelines:

  • The introduction of an appropriate structured and phased programme of travel demand and road space management measures.
  • The establishment of a systematically planned public transport network that operates efficiently and effectively across…integrated road and rail-based modes…
  • Significant investment in the extension and upgrading of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.
  • Discontinuation of investment in infrastructure or facilities that primarily or exclusively serve the least sustainable modes of transport.


Urban agricultural policies must also be a part of the policy prescriptions because  as a community participatory project, urban agriculture has the following benefits;

  • The community is the main actor in urban agriculture.
  • •Urban agriculture generates profits at the local level.
  • Urban agriculture promotes exchanges, self-sufficiency and local development.
  • Urban agriculture saves the government money and resources.
  • Urban agriculture is instrumental in helping the community to discover and use other possibilities.
  • Urban agriculture helps to develop and improve interpersonal relations.
  • The management of the space benefits the citizens directly.
  • Urban agriculture promotes community participation


City governments should in effect promote "green space" and clean air quality, implement energy-efficient and widely available public transportation, create walkable city designs and develop well-organized mixed-use neighborhoods that combine living, working and shopping. These qualities add up to what can be termed as sustainable urbanism.

Policy goals and objectives  that municipal governments can state as an overarching strategies are for example, stating that they will be a carbon-neutral city within a given time-frame of 10 to 20 years. Another strategy that city authorities can undertake is that of twinning their cities with cities such as Copenhagen, Vancouver, and San Francisco, and learning from them how to implement sustainable urban growth strategies, that tap renewable energy resources for their  commercial and residential energy  needs, the institutionalization of mass transit, bike and car sharing programmes, promoting the use of Electric Vehicles with the use of financial incentives to EV owners and the suppliers of EV stations, as well as the enactment of strict by-laws regulating the building and construction industry by establishing green building codes and ratings systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) which actively promote sustainability in the construction industry. Indeed it is paramount that Green Building codes are enacted and enforced by municipal authortiies, in order to make the buildings of the future safer, greener and more energy efficient.

Other initiatives that should be undertaken are policies directed at increasing rates of solid waste recycled, improving the efficiencies of  waste management systems, reserving municipal land for public green spaces as well as implementing the use of smart street lighting systems, and smart energy grids within their municipal boundaries, harnessing current trends in mass transportation such as incorporating the use of bio-methane from waste to power mass transit and heating systems and the deployment of smart technologies.

Who will take these actions?

The key actors and implementing partners of Sustainable Development Goal 7 will be from the United Nations General Assembly, the various United Nations agencies, in particular the Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF), UNICEF, UNISDR UN-Habitat, UN-DESA and the UNDP. In addition, implementing partners will come from civil society
organizations, (ICLEI), the private sector, and multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank.

For example, in order to end extreme urban poverty, expand employment and productivity, and raise living standards in urban areas, (with special emphasis on informal settlements and slums in developing countries), the potential lead agency or agencies working in conjuction with local municipal governments and local grassroots level civil society organizations, (Slum Dweller's International) could be the World Bank and UN-Habitat.

The provision of universal access to secure and affordable urban environment & basic urban services including housing; water, sanitation & waste management; low-carbon energy and transport; and mobile and broadband communication, the International Communications Union  (ITU) , ICT companies, water utility companies and renewable energy companies could work together with communities to deliver low-cost local produced solutions & services to affected urban communities.

To ensure safe air and water quality for all, and integrate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, efficient land and resource use, & climate & disaster resilience into investments & standards, UNEP and local municipalities could draft policies regarding the use of industrial pollutants in order to minimize their impacts upon society, the natural environment & the economy.

The promotion of social cohesion is not only the function of public authorities, it requires a concerted effort on the part of civil society to strengthen & maintain social cohesion and utilize the potential of participatory grassroots initiatives in what is a massive global undertaking.

Where will these actions be taken?

The actions of the Sustainable Development Goal 7 will take place at the municipal,national and regional level in both developing and developed countries. All signatories of Local Agenda 21 should be active participants. Furthermore, as the Sustainable Development Goals aim to be inclusive of all citizens, a grassroots, bottoms-up approach to building consensus with communities, civil society organizations, as well as building building collective, participatory partnerships within the private and public sector and the communities in which they operate. This would be a more pragmatic response to the various crises of underemployment and social exclusion experienced by the majority of urban residents in cities of the developing South, with special reference to women and minority groups.

What are other key benefits?

The other intended outcomes for the environment and society of the proposed implementation of Sustainable Goal 7 is that, urban residents, in particular those residents of informal settlements and slums of developing countries become active participants in the organization of their cities. In order for SDG to be successful, a grassroots, bottoms-up approach that is participatory and that is socially inclusive will benefit all relevant stakeholders. Harnessing the collective capabilities of millions of people will can lead to increased social cohesion and reduced inequalities as municipal resources are evenly distributed amongst the populations. Other outcomes as social policy directives include:

  • Strategic spatial planning
  • Use of spatial planning to integrate public-sector functions
  • New land regularization and management approaches
  • Participatory processes and partnerships at the neighbourhood level
  • New forms of master planning
  • Planning aimed at producing new spatial forms
  • Local initiatives


What are the proposal’s costs?

In order for sustainable development goal 7 to be adequately financed, SDG 10,Transform Governance and Technologies for Sustainable Development needs to be adopted and implemented as it deals with the mobilization of Overseas Development Asssistance (ODA), the use of tax havens, domestic resource mobilization, climate finance and the international rules and SDGs. It thus estimated that  it will cost 0.7 percent of GNI in ODA to developing, and an additional $100 billion per year in official climate financing by 2020. in order to end extreme poverty, provide global public goods, capacity building, and transferring technologies. I thus estimate for Sustainable Goal 7 to be financed adequately, and more than half of the world's population reside in urban areas, that 15% of $100 billion per year by 2020 be allocated to the design and implementation of sustainable goal 7.

Time line

The implementation program for phasing in sustainable goal 7 should follow the format as set out below:

Within the short-term, 5-15 years, develop participatory, accountable, and effective city governance structures to support rapid and equitable urban transformation.

Within the medium term, 15-50 years, make all cities socially inclusive, economically productive, environmentally sustainable, secure, and resilient to climate change and other risks and;

Within the long-term, 50-100 years, ensure that all three sub-targets as described below are achieved.

Target 7a. Ending extreme urban poverty, expanding employment opportunities and raising productivity levels, and raising living standards, especially in informal settlements and slums;

Target 7b. Ensuring universal and inclusive access to secure and affordable built environment and basic urban services including housing; water, sanitation and waste management; low-carbon energy and transport; and mobile and broadband communication.

as well as;

Target 7c. Ensuring safe air and water quality for all, and integrating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, efficient land and resource use, and climate and disaster resilience into investments and standards.

Furthermore, as the successful implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 7 depends on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 10; thus SDG 10 should be implemented at the local government level within the short-term, within a five to ten year time-frame so as to strengthen the capacity for local government actors  to enact, on a  national, regional and global scale Sustainable Development Goal 7.

Related proposals

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The use of bacteria a carbon sequestration sinks in urban areas. The use of urban areas as carbon sinks


The widespread adoption of biogas technology in densely populated areas of the world as a method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thereby creating urban carbon sinks. 


Harnessing the collective power of individuals to effect change in society would be crucial in enabling sustainable goal 7.


Using the power and commonalities of the storyteller to effect behaviour change is an effective way of communicating a message.





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