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Rio+20: Smart urban development and green growth

May 30, 2012


Poorly managed urbanization has contributed to the growth of slums

Scott Wallace / World Bank

  • Urban infrastructure must be prepared for a growing population
  • Basic health and education services as well as efficient infrastructure for water and electricity are essential for inclusive green growth
  • Open data and common metrics are needed to set targets and assess progress

As the global community considers the way forward, the 70 million people who move into urban areas in developing countries each year warrant particular attention. Urbanization has enabled economic growth, innovation, and poverty reduction, as the world's urban areas currently account for three-quarters of global economic production.

At the same time, urbanization has contributed to environmental and socioeconomic challenges, including climate change, pollution, traffic congestion, and the growth of slums with their associated health and security impacts.

We have an historic opportunity to imagine, design, build and operate smart cities with decisions based on good data. These are cities that provide for the needs of residents today without reducing options for future generations.

Green growth starts with smart urban planning that prepares for a growing population with public connectivity that reduces congestion and smog, provides basic health and education services, and invests in efficient infrastructure for water, electricity, and dealing with municipal waste. It also requires data and common metrics to set targets and assess progress, such as urban risk assessments and green building standards. Urban infrastructure decisions made today will impact communities for years to come.

At Rio, we would like to see commitments to and support for sustainable and resilient cities in the context of inclusive green growth that emphasizes the importance of urban planning and land markets; financing for infrastructure, housing, and public services; and common metrics and open data.