What does a sustainable city look like?

Options for an ideal, yet realistic, sustainable urban development campaign platform 

With the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (known as Habitat III) taking place in Quito, Ecuador this upcoming week, as well as the elections for mayor taking place in the city of Rio de Janeiro all this month, we at the RIe_sdg_icons-11O+ Centre (based in Rio) find ourselves in an opportune moment to reflect on what exactly is meant by urban sustainable development. In addition to having their own stand-alone goal (#11) and targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sustainable cities also provide a microcosm of a sustainable world. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges the important role that cities and local governments play in achieving the SDGs and ensuring that each goal is reached at the national level. But what exactly does a sustainable city actually look like? What would we want to see as a part of a candidate’s platform when running for mayor? What type of changes would we want to see in bringing sustainable development to a city?  To answer these questions, we have come up with some of the issues we would want to see as a part of an election campaign to make cities safe, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable. The topics covered are closely in line with the targets identified for SDG # 11, as well as other SDGs that are inter-linked with these urban issues.


Such a platform for sustainable urban development isn’t just an idea. The Sustainable Cities Program (or Programa Cidades Sustentaveis) has put this in action in cities across Brazil. The program provides a way for candidates to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable development in Brazilian municipal elections, and by signing on to a letter of commitment, these candidates signal to citizens that they are dedicated to implementing measures that further sustainable urban development, and will participate and adhere to the Sustainable Cities Program if elected. As more voters and policymakers alike commit to transitioning their city toward a sustainable society, more of such programs will arise all over the globe. What is your city or community doing to tackle these goals?


On october 17th 2016, ICLEI, Quito government and RIO+ Centre gathered during Habitat III Conference for a planning meeting to strengthen city-to-city cooperation to advance the SDGs and New Urban Agenda

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