Cities are the hub of the global green recovery

Lima wants to use the opportunities arising from the COVID 19 pandemic for a Green Recovery. Photo iStock / atosan

Lima Mayor Jorge Muñoz Wells on a sustainable new start in cities in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed sobering impacts on the world’s cities. 

Today we live in times of a pandemic with a silent and aggressive virus, which can even be lethal and has transformed our lives, where the best recipe is to rethink our cities, rethink our codes and adapt to this new coexistence that, for some time more, will continue to impose COVID-19 on us.

We face serious problems, but also great challenges, all of them unprecedented. The current figures and conditions for people, business, government management itself at all levels and for society in general has a constant change towards scenarios unthinkable five months ago.

The World Bank estimates that the global economy will contract by 5.2 percent in 2020 despite historic levels of spending by national governments. Cities account for 80 percent of global GDP, meaning they will bear the brunt of this loss. 

Meanwhile, another no less important factor in this new coexistence—as we also call this stage of the pandemic in Peru—is the quality of the air we breathe and its relationship with the virus. According to the World Health Organization, more than 80 percent of people living in urban areas are exposed to harmful air pollution, a factor that has been linked to higher risks of complications and death from COVID-19.

Cities of the future

COVID-19 has taught us to see the desolation and needs that come from massive infections and deaths, besides the challenges we face, not only in how to deal with public health problems, but as well as our own economic situation.

In the long period of confinement that we had, we were able to breathe fresh air and see the return of marine species and birds on the Lima coast, something not very unusual for us. This destructive pandemic has offered us, against all odds, an unprecedented moment to collectively rebuild and reimagine what cities will look like in the future.

Moving forward, the impacts of the pandemic give us a blueprint for both insulating against future public health emergencies, and protecting our city-dwellers from the worst effects of climate change. From that perspective, through the sobering impacts that COVID-19 is leaving us, we can gain insight into the common challenges that mayors face around the world and how our priorities diverge in the global north and global south.



Leading economists agree that a low-carbon, sustainable recovery will not only help combat climate change, but will also increase resiliency and produce the best possible economic outcomes moving forward. Therefore, we must seize this opportunity to address the staggering economic fallout of the pandemic, and take steps to mitigate the ripple effects on the health of families and communities for untold years to come.

Green recovery in cities

By addressing the climate crisis in an inclusive way, cities of all sizes can be essential economic engines for jumpstarting national economic recovery.  National governments have to generate new investment horizons and aim for green recovery in cities.

For instance, in Europe, cities have instituted measures to expand public spaces for more outdoor activities, leading to less traffic and air pollution. Cities are setting aside dedicated cycle lanes to allow for both exercise and safe transportation.

In Peru, the impact of COVID-19 has exposed the deficiencies and inequalities that are not recent, and that have been with us for years or decades. It has also revealed major structural problems that, after the great shaking of this pandemic, will have to be addressed in order to give them a definitive solution within the established deadlines.

Jorge Muñoz Wells is the mayor of Lima, Peru.

This blog is part of a special series on cities and climate change and was first published from the World Bank. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or position of IKI.

More parts of the series:

Activating more private capital to make cities more sustainable


About the City Climate Finance Gap Fund

The City Climate Finance Gap Fund paves the way for ambitious infrastructure development for low-carbon, resilient and liveable cities in the Global South. Detailed information on the City Climate Finance Gap Fund is available in the launch report from 2020.

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