Apartments at waterside

Sustainable Urban Development

Today, more than half of the global population lives in cities, with rising tendency. According to United Nations studies the share of people living in urban areas will increase to 70% by 2050, in Africa and Asia even to 75%. The majority of urban growth is taking place in emerging economies and developing countries. Cities are responsible for around 70% of global energy-related GHG emissions as sectors with high emissions such as industry, transport, housing and waste concentrate in metropolitan areas.

Since 2015 the topic of ‘Sustainable Urban Development’ builds a cross-cutting theme in the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. The German government is committed to continue its support for integrated climate compatible and resilient urban development in the coming years. Up until today more than 68 ongoing and planned projects have a direct or indirect reference to the topic of sustainable urban development.

IKI fact sheets on sustainable Cities

  • City scene
  • Houses from above
  • Traffic jam
  • House at street
  • Houses from above
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    Sustainable Urban Development

    Today more than half of the global population lives in cities. According to UN Habitat the share of people living in urban areas will increase to 70% by 2050 with the majority of urban growth taking place in emerging economies and developing countries. Cities are responsible for around 70% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions as sectors with high emissions such as industry, transport, housing and waste concentrate in metropolitan areas.

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    25,000 Solar Roofs for Mexico

    Mexico ranks thirteenth internationally in the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). One of the key challenges in reducing these emissions is to encourage greater use of renewable energy technologies in the residential sector. Around 80% of households in Mexico use some form of fossil fuel for cooking and heating water, which constitutes a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most technically viable and economically attractive options to reduce fossil fuel consumption in home systems is solar water heating (SWH). Although Mexico has one of the highest averages for solar irradiation in the world, its potential remains largely untapped. Currently, few households have a solar collector, despite sharp rises in gas prices and the quick amortization of investments in solar water heaters (3-5 years).

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    Opportunities of Sustainable Mobility

    Mobility is essential for the social and economic development of a country. Reliable transport systems have positive impacts on a country's economy and improve access to jobs, education and health care. However, current trends in the transport sector are mostly unsustainable. The tremendous growth of motorised transport is one of the key challenges for sustainable development worldwide. With 27%, the transport sector already contributes the second highest share of energy-related CO2 emissions globally and is the fastest growing sector in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These trends will continue if sustainable transport solutions are not systematically introduced.

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    Energy Efficiency as Important Pillar of the Energy Transition

    In the short and medium term, energy efficiency is the biggest, fastest, and most cost-effective option for saving energy and mitigating climate change - it is often referred to as the "first fuel". Energy efficiency connects the reduction of emissions and consumers' energy bills with the improvement of energy security and trade balances. Thus, energy efficiency is key to decoupling economic growth from GHG emissions. Hence, it can be regarded as one of two major pillars of the energy transition. Globally, energy efficiency needs to be improved in different areas, especially in transport, industry and buildings.

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    1.000 Solar Roofs for Brazil

    In Brazil, it is common to heat up water using electricity or natural gas. Especially the widespread use of electricity for showers leads to demand peaks in the power sector. The energy required to meet this demand is usually generated from fossil fuels. Brazil has excellent solar irradiation conditions and is facing rising gas and electricity prices. Nevertheless, solar thermal is not yet widely used. In 2009, based on the vast potential for solar water heating (SWH) in Brazil, the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) commissioned Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to develop the “1,000 Roofs Programme".

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IKI films on Sustainable Cities

  • Two city planners looking at city from a hill
  • Canal of a hydropower plant
  • Rural house in India
  • farmer on a field
  • Solar panels on a roof
  • Person at refrigerated shelf
  • insulation
  • Person in bike shop
  • People on a bus
  • City planning in Brazil

    For a long time, nature was not high on the list of important features for city planners in Brazil. But increased landslides and pollutions have forced them to rethink their strategy.

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  • Hydropower in Turkey

    Turkey faces an electricity shortage but one thing it has in abundance is water. The country plans to tap this potential and expand hydropower to ease its energy problems.

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  • Green growth in India

    Soaring demand for and erratic supply of energy make energy efficiency a top priority.

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  • Mexico moves to fight smog

    For over two decades, Mexico City has battled to combat air pollution and smog with a slew of measures. And they're paying off as old exhaust-belching vehicles are phased out and the megacity becomes greener.

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  • Renewable Energy in Lebanon

    In many parts of Lebanon, towns and cities get only five to six hours of electricity a day. Wind and solar energy could be a solution, but they have so far only provided power on a small scale.

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  • Eco supermarkets in South Africa

    Supermarkets need refrigerators and freezers, and these rely on chemical coolants that damage the ozone layer and environment. But a South African supermarket chain is switching to less damaging natural options, such as carbon dioxide, saving energy and costs.

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  • Energy efficient construction in Ukraine

    Ukraine is one of Europe's most wasteful nations when it comes to energy. Private homes are responsible for some 30 percent of the country's energy consumption, with windows that don't shut properly and radiators that can't be regulated.

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  • Eco-friendly transport in China

    China has become one of the world's biggest economic superpowers. The country is booming, and personal wealth and prosperity are on the rise. But that has its drawbacks, too. More goods, services and people are on the move, and China's roads are becoming increasingly congested.

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  • Colombia's green transport strategy

    In the Colombian capital Bogotá, a bus rapid transit system called "TransMilenio" has become a model form of transportation for developing cities around the world. A combination of designated bus lanes and bike paths, free shuttle buses and underground bicycle stations have proven to be just as effective as the subway.

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IKI Projects

Green dot = number of projects in the region.


Further key areas

  • Conference area at COP22
  • Solar panels in desert
  • Text on poster
  • Climate and Biodiversity Policy Support

    Germany assists partner countries in increasing their capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change and to switch to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. IKI partners receive support in the form of knowledge transfer, technology cooperation, policy advice and investment measures, enabling them to develop and implement appropriate methods and instruments that can be used to advance adaptation and transformation processes.

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  • Energiewende

    The production and consumption of energy are responsible for two-thirds of the global greenhouse gas emissions. This makes the development of a sustainable energy sector crucial in order to effectively mitigate climate change.

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  • Climate Finance

    Mitigation measures, the preservation of natural carbon sinks, adaptation to the impacts of climate change and measures to conserve biodiversity all require financial resources. Germany is reliably fulfilling these commitments by financing numerous international climate activities.

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