Today, half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities. By 2050, 70 per cent of the world population is predicted to live in urban settlements. The world’s cities occupy just three per cent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60–80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions. 95 per cent of urban expansion in the next decades will take place in developing world. With the most rapid rates of urban expansion, Asia and Africa are projected to experience 80 per cent of the global cropland loss due to unplanned urban expansion.
The population and footprints of cities everywhere are growing fast, and when problems emerge, cities are often on the frontlines. While over 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases are occurring in urban areas, the accompanying socio-economic effects of the pandemic – lockdowns, export bans and quarantines – are spreading far beyond the city limits, restricting food supply chains and purchasing power while labor and input shortages have disrupted food production, processing and distribution. While the pandemic continues to redefine the urban life around the world, local communities are also working hard to keep people safe and maintain economic activities.
As the cities around the world ponder the future, they also look for inspiration to those daring communities that successfully devise and implement sustainable solutions for resilient urban living. Resilient cities have the ability to absorb, recover and prepare for future shocks – economic, environmental and social. They promote sustainable development, well-being and inclusive growth. The Local and Regional Governments Day at UNCCD COP14 highlighted the necessity for rural and urban communities to act as partners, not competitors.
The sustainable management of land and water resources must become a key part of resilient and integrated land-use planning, with a clear focus on limiting the excessive consumption of natural resources – one of leading causes of land degradation. Incorporating the principles of circular economy into the urban management and nurturing the synergies between agricultural production and urban-based enterprises can bolster vibrant local economies and local food production chains. Generating employment and livelihood opportunities in rural and urban areas is also critical, and there is incredible potential for introducing technological innovation to local resource management as a way to secure rural livelihoods and create green jobs, support community resilience and maintain the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services.
The UNCCD together with its parties is supporting the urban and rural commutes ready to work together and take action on land.