UN and partners launch billion dollar initiative to transform cities for people and planet

New York, September 21, 2021 – Today during NYC 2021 Climate Week, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and their partners launched UrbanShift – a new global initiative to improve life and transform cities into green and livable spaces that fight climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Cities are home to 4.2 billion people, more than half of the world’s population. But they face growing challenges – from floods, storms and heat waves triggered by the climate crisis to dangerous air quality, lack of affordable housing and deep social divides.

Cities are already responsible for about 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, they must become carbon neutral to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 ° C, while reaching nearly 70% of the world’s population.

UrbanShift will help 23 cities in Argentina, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Rwanda and Sierra Leone to adopt integrated approaches to urban development, thus helping to shape efficient, resilient cities. and inclusive. It builds on the lessons and experiences of the Integrated Approaching Sustainable Cities pilot program that was launched by the GEF during its sixth replenishment cycle.

UrbanShift works with cities to promote integrated development approaches such as nature-based solutions, low-carbon public transport systems, low-emission zones and integrated waste management.

Its objectives include avoiding more than 130 million tCO2e of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to one year of emissions from 32 coal-fired power stations. UrbanShift will also improve the management and restoration of approximately one million hectares of land. With $ 146 million in GEF funding and $ 1.7 billion in co-funding, UrbanShift will improve integrated planning in target cities, which will impact the lives of more than 58 million people.

“Cities are at the forefront of the triple global crisis of climate change, loss of nature and biodiversity, and pollution and waste,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen. “However, our cities also have the power to address these challenges while increasing the resilience of their citizens and infrastructure. “

“As we focus on the pressing issues of climate change this week, first and foremost we need to transform the ingenuity and work we have shown in building our cities to rethink how they work. UrbanShift will be a key tool in helping city leaders do just that. “

The program will mobilize mayors, the private sector, city networks, United Nations agencies, multilateral development banks and many other partners to support national and municipal governments. It also builds a knowledge and learning platform to connect cities with global expertise and cutting-edge research, while providing a space to share experiences and forge partnerships.

“In an increasingly invasive urban world, investing in our cities is one of the best ways to achieve global environmental benefits in all sectors – from biodiversity conservation to reducing carbon emissions and improving environmental sustainability. ‘increasing resilience to shocks such as climate events and pandemics, “said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and President of the GEF.

UrbanShift aligns with the vision of Agenda 2030 to consider the integrated and indivisible social, environmental and economic dimensions. UrbanShift will particularly contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 11 aimed at making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, but also several other SDGs such as SDG13, SDG3 and SDG15.


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