Think global, act local to transform cities and our planet

With urbanization here to stay, our future lies in our cities. All around the world, countries are experiencing the largest wave of urban growth in history. Indonesia has one of the region’s fastest urbanization rates, with over 70 percent of the population expected to live in cities by 2045, according to the World Bank 2019 report while Southeast Asia’s urbanization rate is at an all-time high.

Because of this, cities now lie at the forefront of the most pressing global challenges, including climate change, accounting for over 70 percent of global carbon emissions. While ensuring a sustainable urban future has always been on the global agenda, with cities being hotspots of the global carbon cycle, what are the steps necessary to achieve this?

Despite their carbon footprint, cities have great potential as catalysts for change. Contributing over 80 percent of global gross domestic product, cities are hubs for innovation and creativity, offering solutions that can pave the way toward a sustainable future.

As we reflect on World Cities Day, which falls on Oct. 31, not only must we continue to recognize the role cities play in realizing global sustainable development, this year’s theme of “Act Local to Go Global” highlights that any transformative global agenda must first be localized within our current urban fabric.

As we place cities at the heart of sustainable development, the blueprint for linking local to global urban sustainability lies in three ways: through knowledge, solutions, and partnerships.

Firstly, we need to apply a local lens to environmental issues, and what it means for climate action at a global level. Climate change is affecting countries all around the world. Particularly, the interdependency of water and energy is set to intensify in the coming years, impacting both energy and water security. However, how these issues manifest from city to city varies – from water supply issues to urban flooding – and so requires a crucial understanding of local conditions and concerns.

Notably, Indonesia is ranked in the top-third of countries in terms of climate risk, according to the World Bank. Its cities, in particular, face unique challenges due to the impacts of rapid urbanization, including increased urban heat island effects due to high-density built environments and flooding worsened by urban development.

Author: Poul Due Jensen