Cities and Sustainable Development

Tacloban in the Philippines has joined the growing list of cities – including New Orleans, Bangkok, Moscow, New York, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Port-au-Prince, to name just a few – pummeled in recent years by climate catastrophes. So the global development agenda should empower cities to help lead the way to sustainability.

NEW YORK – Tacloban in the Philippines has now joined the growing list of cities – including New Orleans, Bangkok, Moscow, New York, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Port-au-Prince, to name just a few – pummeled in recent years by climate catastrophes. Many of the world’s largest cities, built on seacoasts and rivers, face the threat of rising sea levels and intensifying storms. So the new global development agenda now taking shape should empower cities to help lead the way to sustainable development in the twenty-first century.

The importance of cities in today’s world economy is unprecedented. Until the Industrial Revolution, human history was overwhelmingly rural. Only around 10% of people lived in cities. Today, the share of urbanites is around 53% and is likely to rise to around 67% by 2050.

Because per capita incomes are higher in cities than in rural areas, the world’s cities today are estimated to account for more than 80% of global income, with the largest 600 accounting for around half. Most of the new jobs over the next few decades will be created in cities, offering livelihoods to hundreds of millions of young people and, as China and Brazil have demonstrated, helping to slash extreme poverty.

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