Higher density of cities not only reduces transport-related carbon emissions but also reduces the extent of needed infrastructure networks.

Urban infrastructure opens the door to sustainability

While cities contribute greatly to resource consumption and pollution, they are at the same time in a strong position to catalyze urban sustainability, particularly with respect to climate action. Due to infrastructure’s impact on climate, biodiversity, and resource efficiency, but also social inclusion, incorporating sustainability into urban infrastructure development is essential and large investments in urban infrastructure are necessary for mitigating adverse impacts and open the door for cities to become positive changemakers.

Integrated development for sustainability

Transit-Oriented-Development (TOD) and the “15 minute city”

Other urban nature-based solutions

  • Urban nature-based solutions help cities achieve sustainability and contribute to a city’s resilience against extreme heat events, floods, and extreme rain. Parks and other green spaces also have direct physical and mental health benefits for citizens and contribute to the aesthetic value of the city and urban biodiversity.

  • There are many creative solutions for integrating urban green spaces into the preexisting-built environment. Many cities have converted decommissioned rail lines into walkable linear parks. Paris increased its amount of green space by converting its former interior ring-railway into a partially walkable green space, called la coulée verte.

  • The concept of the sponge-city uses urban NbS to counteract the effects of soil sealing that has characterized urban development in the past. Due to large-scale soil sealing most urban surfaces became impermeable reducing the ability of city surfaces to absorb rainwater and perform critical ecosystem services. The sponge-city makes use of water-permeable pavement, but also trees planted with the “Stockholm Method” and green spaces to which water is diverted which allows its absorption directly or close into the ground it falls on, rather than being directed into the canalization. Like this, the concept increases cities’ resilience against climate change-induced floods and droughts.


Interested in learning more?

Sustainable Consumption and Production Hotspot Analysis Tool (SCP-HAT)

By: UNEP Life Cycle Initiative

The Sustainable Consumption and Production Hotspot Analysis Tool (SCP-HAT) is an online application that analyses the environmental and socio-economic performance of 171 countries over the past 25 years to provide scientific evidence of areas where improvement can be made.

Why Infrastructure is Central to Achieving a More Resource-efficient Future

By: Till-Niklas Braun, UNEP

Past economic growth has built upon a “take, make, dispose” pathway. “Siloed” and “project-by-project” approaches often result in inefficient service delivery. Integrated, systems-level approaches can help to increase the resource efficiency of infrastructure.

Relevant sustainability tools