Building Sustainability in an Urbanizing World

Yang Aijun / World Bank

In 2011, the World Bank initiated the Partnership for Sustainable Cities, a group of leading urban actors with a mission to collaborate on city development around the world and foster city-led sustainable development. This synthesis paper, Building Sustainability in an Urbanizing World, is a product of the partnership’s early discussions.

In this paper, members of the partnership have collaborated to identify and analyze the issues that guide their work together. The report summarizes the sustainability issues faced by cities and points toward the road ahead. It reviews successes in policy as well as investment and discusses what is needed to reach out to the rapidly growing cities of the developing world and make them effective users of existing knowledge. Examples of programs established by the partners are described in both the text and the Annexes.

This report aims to be useful to the partners who contributed with knowledge and experiences, to cities who may benefit from an honest discussion of what works and what needs improvement, and to businesses and development practitioners entering the wide world of sustainable cities.

The Large Urban Areas Compendium (Annex 10) is a first step toward identifying what data should be collected on a regular basis, in order to focus policy making on underperforming sectors. Currently, most statistical information is collected at the national level, whereas many relevant policy decisions are made and implemented at the local level.

Table of Contents

About the Partnership

Part I. Why Urban Sustainability Matters

1. Sustainable Development in the Urban Century

Local Impacts, Global Change
Locking In Green Growth
Defining Sustainable Cities
The Urban Ecosystem
How Can Cities Be Made More Sustainable?

2. Economics of Green Cities

Urban Density, Efficiency, and Productivity
Co-benefits of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Incentives, Business Opportunities, and Challenges
Recession Investing and Sustainable Finance
The Need for Knowledge

Part II. The Path to Sustainability

3. Building Clean and Efficient Cities

Land Management and Policy
Embodied Energy and Historic Buildings
Solid Waste Management

4. Building Adaptive and Resilient Cities

Climate Change Vulnerability in Urban Areas
Adaptation Planning at the City Level
Assessing Risks and Developing Resilience

5. Measuring Urban Sustainability

Urban Metabolism
Measuring Inputs and Outputs
Tracking Progress with City Indicators
The Large Urban Areas Compendium
Typology of the Largest Cities


Data Compendium for the World's 100 Largest Urban Areas 

Building Sustainability in an Urbanizing World is a collaborative report from members of the Partnership for Sustainable Cities.