Despite increased awareness of the urgency to respond to climate change and to promote sustainable development, few powerful initiatives are decisively shifting urban development in a sustainable, resilient, and low-carbon direction.

The relationship between urban areas and the sustainability of the cities in global economic development, as well as social and environmental conditions, has attracted increasing attention on the international, political, and economic agenda for sustainable development over the last few decades.

Sustainable Urban Transformation - Sheet1
Urban area_©National Geographic

The majority of people currently live in cities and urban areas due to the importance and role of metropolitan areas as growth centres of the emerging global service economy. Over 70% of the global population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, as per research done by UN-Habitat. Furthermore, cities play a major role in global consumption, production, and pollution. Due to which certain policies formulated by international bodies and national governments need to be implemented at the community, city, and regional levels. 

Sustainable Urban Transformation - Sheet2
Then & Now – Urban Population Worldwide_©United Nations Population Division

Cities are also known as key for sustainable development and climate change. There are certainly effective and integrated solutions which need to be implemented in cities and urban areas for efficient, sustainable change.

How can we shape urban development toward a sustainable and better future?

Sustainable Urban Transformation - Sheet3
The City as Urban Reef_©United Nations Library

Sustainable cities provide people with a top-quality living environment without using huge amounts of natural resources, which are also the main factor that helps in greening the economy by placing cities in the context of transforming them concerning climate change and sustainability factors. Sustainable urban transformation refers to transforming cities structurally through multi-dimensional and radical change that involves finding ways to design cities that make them good places to live as well as being more efficient which will direct urban development towards better sustainability and climate goals by connecting the key trends of urbanization, decarbonization, and sustainability and examining visions and experiments and innovations in urban areas.

Sustainable Urban Transformation

Sustainable Urban Transformation - Sheet4
Urban Renewal_©CNN Traveler

The 21st century is also known as the Urban Century. In this age, UN-Habitat is responsible for sustainable human settlements where policies by international bodies and national governments need to be implemented at the city level to have an impact. This is not only because more and more people are living in cities, which is over 50% of the global population, but also because of the strategic importance of cities for sustainable development and the green economy. 

Cities play an important role in global consumption, production, and pollution, where they are associated with some big problems like air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and poverty. Meanwhile, they are also the centre of innovation and creativity, where the concentration of population, activities, and resources, and bring potentials for significant efficiency increases, as well as for multi-purpose solutions, combining different sustainability goals. 

The concept of sustainable urban transformation means having a strong impact on structural transformation processes that are broad, multi-dimensional, and have a potential for radical change by understanding cities as a source of possibilities for sustainability, integrating different perspectives and bodies of knowledge and expertise, and promoting active collaboration among diverse stakeholders. These processes can have a direct effect on urban development towards sustainability. 

When it comes to sustainable urban transformation, there are three key areas to discuss: governance and planning, innovation and business, and lifestyles and consumption. When we talk about governance, we mean the act of governing rather than the government itself. Governance involves multiple public and private actors in debates, conflicts, power struggles, and interactions between international, national, regional, and local levels, which also relates to processes and decisions that seek to define action factors, which grant power and verify performance accordingly. 

Sustainable Urban Transformation - Sheet5
Investment in a new smart card payment system in Singapore has integrated the city’s transport systems, making travel more efficient_©The Gaurdian

The government refers to formal structures or systems by which a state or territory is organized and governed with strategic planning. The integration of policy factors is very important. They often tend to interconnect across sectors and be adapted for specific urban and national policy conditions to ensure the empowerment, engagement, and collaboration of relevant stakeholders. But for strategic planning to be effective, three key policy challenges have to be taken into account. 

Policies must be ambitious and economically realistic and should be developed quickly and with flexibility for rapidly changing urban conditions, and contradictory policies should be removed from the system. There also are significant challenges in reconciling economic growth and maintaining or restoring the local and global environment. Innovation and clean technology are a key part of a green economy and foster urban competitiveness during a globalizing economy. 

Sustainable urban economic development must encourage symbiotic relationships among industries, governments, universities, and citizens to ensure sustainable human ecological and economic capital management, where cities hinge not only on prosperity and its benefits but on two main factors that make harmony possible: equity and sustainability. 

Defining an improved quality of life and creating visions of sustainable lifestyles will be possible to outline how to design, support, and govern more sustainable cities where people have a good life. Cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Malmö are now responding to the main environmental, social, and economic challenges of the 21st century. 

A new blueprint from WWF and BCG highlights the actions that drive a truly effective corporate strategy for climate and nature_©Voyata

WWF, or the World Wide Fund for Nature, concludes on developing and managing our urban infrastructures during the subsequent three decades, which might either be a force for environmental destruction or a primary source of ecological regeneration. Cities, therefore, represent both a complex challenge and an amazing opportunity for greening the economies through advancing sustainable development.


An Architect who believes different dimensional ways have a different impact on design, and I make a conscious effort to create spaces that are efficient and functional in every dimension of architecture.

Write A Comment