How can cities promote sustainable development?

Footer area

Good work, sustainable infrastructure and mobility, health and human participation are part of liveable cities. Livable rural areas and villages with good jobs and infrastructures dampen the urge to enter the cities. The federal government and the international community are committed to this.

The influx of people into the cities continues

Globally, more than half, in Germany even three out of four people live in cities. It is predicted that around 66 to 75 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2050. This leads to considerable challenges - across borders.

For example in the area of ​​the environment and energy. Although life in cities can be made more efficient than in the country, cities currently consume up to 75 percent of the energy produced worldwide. At the same time, they generate around 80 percent of the global gross domestic product. This means that they are responsible for up to 75 percent of human energy-related CO2 emissions. The future of cities will be crucial for environmentally friendly development and the fight against climate change.

The mobility of people and their access to affordable housing are also decisive for the quality of life and thus major challenges for urban development policy. The inclusive city must also offer people the best possible access to education and health care.

In the "City of the Future" competition of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, municipalities from all over Germany develop visions for the city of the future together with their citizens, translate them into concrete planning concepts and put them into practice from 2019.

For a new urban development policy

The 2030 Agenda, which the global community agreed on in New York in 2015, contains important answers to these challenges. With the global sustainability goal 11, the states are for the first time committed to sustainable, inclusive urban development worldwide! This global goal was concretized by the New Urban Agenda (2016).

Sustainable and integrated urban development is at the center of government policy: in 2007, the "Leipzig Charter" laid the foundation for a new urban development policy in Europe. The joint initiative of the federal, state and local governments "National Urban Development Policy" serves to implement the goals and principles of the "Leipzig Charter" on a national level.

Integrated urban development policy is also an important pillar of the German government's high-tech strategy. The future project of the "CO2-neutral, climate-adapted and energy-efficient city" was defined with it in 2012 and a "Research and Innovation Agenda for the City of the Future" (FINA) was developed from this in the "National Platform for the City of the Future" together with municipalities, science, business and civil society. With the aim of implementing these and promoting the exchange of good solutions and transferring them to local practice, the German government founded the "Innovation Platform for the City of the Future" in 2016.

Rural development is equally important in order to guarantee equal living conditions in town and country. This includes a good supply, the promotion of local initiatives and civil society engagement as well as overcoming the digital divide between urban and rural regions.

Urban and spatial development is also one of the fields of action of German European and development policy.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

With the 2030 Agenda, a comprehensive goal for the creation of sustainable cities and communities was agreed for the first time in New York in 2015. This is one of the 17 global goals for sustainable development of the international community.

SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Towns

The general goal is to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Specifically, this includes, among other things:

- Sustainable use of the land
- Safe, affordable and sustainable mobility in the city and in the countryside
- Reducing the environmental impact of cities
- Secure basic services and digital connection of rural communities
- Affordable housing for everyone

The way in which national and local governments and the international community deal with the opportunities and challenges of increasing urbanization has a direct influence on the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris climate goals. For this reason, the international community of states in 2016 gave itself a common political guideline for urban development over the next two decades with the "New Urban Agenda". The aim of the "New Urban Agenda" is the model of a sustainable, ie livable, economically strong, environmentally friendly, resilient and socially inclusive city in connection with its surrounding area and rural areas. With the agenda, the UN member states are committed to including cities and settlements more closely in their policies and measures, to improve the framework conditions for sustainable, integrated urban and regional development and thus to increase the ability to act, the financial possibilities and participation at the local level strengthen.

Concrete implementation through sustainability management

The German Sustainability Strategy is the German contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It sets the framework for sustainable action by politics and society. At its heart is a sustainability management system, which specifies goals with a specific time frame for fulfillment and indicators for continuous monitoring.

Which indicators show sustainable and integrated urban development?

  • Land use: Reduction of the use of additional land for settlement and transport purposes to less than 30 hectares per day by the year 2030. In addition, the loss of open space is to be reduced. The settlement density should not be reduced.
  • Mobility: The final energy consumption in freight and passenger transport is to fall by 15 to 20 percent by 2030, and the quick accessibility of centers by public transport is to be improved.
  • Affordable housing for everyone: the proportion of the population that is overburdened by housing costs should decrease to 13 percent.

The indicator report of the Federal Statistical Office, which is to be submitted every two years, shows how the strategy indicators have developed. The annual monitoring report on the program of sustainability measures implemented by the federal administration shows what the federal government is doing in its own area to implement sustainability.

The results are both an obligation and an encouragement. The trend in overburdened housing costs is unsatisfactory. The reduction in energy consumption in transport also did not take place to the desired extent. However, developments in terms of land take and land use in Germany are positive.

What is the federal government doing for cities and municipalities

The national urban development policy is a joint initiative of the federal, state and local governments. The aim is "integrated urban development": The economic, ecological and social challenges in cities and municipalities are to be tackled in an interdisciplinary and spatially integrated manner.

The "Interministerial Working Group on Sustainable Urban Development from a National and International Perspective", or "IMA City" for short, is a forum of the federal government. Since 2015, it has promoted the exchange between representatives of the federal, state and municipal levels and social interests. The IMA Stadt serves to exchange information, bundle and link national, European and international projects for sustainable urban development. It should bring about an understanding within the federal government about problems and options of sustainable urban development and support a coherent appearance.

The challenges are diverse: creating sufficient living space, improving the infrastructure so that schools, transport links and shopping opportunities are easily accessible. Cities have to adapt to climate change and use the possibilities of digital technologies for the participation of civil society and for greener development. In the last four years, the federal government has therefore made 3.4 billion euros available as part of urban development funding for sustainable urban development.

By the way: The federal government is also building sustainably. With binding quality requirements. For the implementation there is den Guide to "Sustainable Building". The sustainability program of measures stipulates that federal buildings should be aligned with the requirements of the Sustainable Building Assessment System (BNB).

Another pressing issue that is also important for the cohesion of society is affordable housing.

In September 2018, the federal government, together with the federal states and municipalities, decided on a housing offensive. The agreed package of measures includes investment impulses, measures to ensure affordable housing, to reduce building costs and to secure skilled workers. The aim is to build 1.5 million new apartments during this legislative period. The federal government is making more than 13 billion euros available in this legislative period for social housing alone, child benefit, housing benefit and urban development funding, which has continued at a record level.

Immediate program "clean air"

Good air quality is decisive for the future viability of cities and people's quality of life. The federal government is working on many levels to improve air quality in Germany. Up to one billion euros are available for the "Immediate Program for Clean Air 2017 to 2020". It is intended to help municipalities implement measures for better air quality. The program builds on existing funding programs. The measures of the immediate program include the digitization of municipal transport systems, the electrification of taxis, rental cars, car-sharing vehicles and bus fleets in public transport as well as the promotion of the charging infrastructure. In addition, cycling should be promoted.

More and more cars are on the road - also because Germany is a transit country. This has an impact on the carbon footprint. One answer to this is more electromobility, as it is the key to climate-friendly mobility worldwide. One million e-cars are expected to roll on German roads in 2020.

The operation of electric vehicles generates significantly less CO2, especially in connection with electricity generated from renewable sources. In addition, electric vehicles with their energy storage devices will be able to compensate for fluctuations in wind and solar power in the future and thus support the expansion and market integration of these volatile energy sources. The goal is one million electric vehicles on Germany's roads by 2020. The federal government has therefore put together a package of measures to promote funding: this includes a purchase bonus for electric cars (environmental bonus), the expansion of the charging infrastructure and a procurement program for the public sector.

Another important aspect for an efficient and sustainable design of transport is the strengthening of local public transport. The quality of life in our cities and in the countryside is directly linked to the quality of public transport. Public transport not only has advantages in terms of space consumption, but also a clear environmental advantage: trams, suburban trains and underground trains as well as local buses and trains emit on average fewer air pollutants and CO2 per passenger kilometer than a car the demand-oriented use of automated vehicles in urban and rail traffic contribute to increasing the attractiveness of local public transport.

In addition, the federal government supports municipalities in digitizing urban transport systems. For example, it promotes the networking of modes of transport (e.g. measures to improve the networking of all modes of transport) and the comprehensive availability of environmental, mobility and traffic data (e.g. measures to digitize traffic management through the use of mobility data).

Germany is involved globally

Without future-oriented urban development, the sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved. It is therefore an important field of action in German development policy. Urban projects with a total volume of almost 20 billion euros are currently being carried out in more than 50 countries. The aim is to improve the living conditions of the urban population, especially disadvantaged groups, in the long term and to enable them to participate in social, political and economic terms.

The demand for living space is also increasing rapidly in developing and emerging countries. Example: In Mexico the demand for real estate is high - the urban population is growing rapidly and wants more quality of living. In order to limit energy consumption and protect the climate, the Mexican government is promoting energy-efficient housing construction with the "EcoCasa" program. The federal government is participating with a low-interest loan and investment grants. Around 36,000 energy-efficient houses have already been financed, which use 20 percent less energy on average.

The rapid growth of cities often leads to increasing traffic volumes and thus to greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and traffic jams. The federal government has therefore launched the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI). The aim of the initiative is to work with cities in developing and emerging countries to protect the climate and, at the same time, to give the poorest sections of the population access to work, health care and education.

The initiative has therefore been supporting the development and expansion of sustainable mobility systems, such as bus lines, S-Bahn and U-Bahn networks, footpaths and cycle paths, since 2016. In addition, more than 1,500 specialists and managers receive training and further education and innovative pilot projects in small and medium-sized towns are promoted in a global competition.