Currently (2018), more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. The Asia-Pacific region alone is home to 54 per cent of the world’s urban population and projections suggest an increase of its urban population by 1.4 billion by 2050 (UNESCAP, 2019)1. By 2050, 68 per cent of people in the region will live in urban areas.
Cities have emerged as centers of growing resource demand, and meeting this demand will become increasingly difficult given that the world will face a 40 per cent shortfall of water (WWAP 2015)2, a 50per cent increase in food demand (UN 2014)3, and a 40 per cent increase in electricity consumption (IEA 2017) by 20404. The growing demand on resources for cities is driven by rapid population growth, resource-intensive lifestyles associated with increasing income level, uncontrolled conversion of land from rural to urban, and social and cultural factors. The increased demand of cities on resources has led to their continuous overexploitation and environmental harm.
In many countries, resource use and development by urban areas is still managed by sectoral departments (water, energy, agriculture, food) in an uncoordinated manner. Interactions between urban sectors are not properly recognized and managed, resulting in inefficiencies, failure to optimize cost savings and lost opportunities to capture and utilise potential synergies across sectors. Minimizing trade-offs and maximizing synergies across these sectors would contribute significantly to addressing priorities for communities, as well as local, regional and global resource challenges.
Cities will play a vital role in most of the underlying policies and investments for resource-efficient growth and sustainable development. Therefore, proper engagement and actions by cities are crucial for achieving sustainable development in both urban and rural areas. It has been estimated that per cent of SDG targets will be at risk without proper engagement of and coordination with local (including city) and regional governments.