Economic opportunities in cities to build sustainable future: ADB

Diplomatic Correspondent

30 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Improving quality of life, and social and economic opportunities in Asia’s fast-growing cities are instrumental in fulfilling their potential as engines of economic prosperity and hubs for sustainability, said Creating Livable Asian Cities, a new book released on Thursday by the Asian Development Bank.

The publication examined the region’s urbanisation challenges and presented solutions across five priority areas: smart and inclusive urban planning; sustainable transport that provides equitable access to services and opportunities; sustainable energy sources that are less polluting; innovative finance to bridge resource gaps; and greater climate and disaster resilience.

“Urbanisation has driven regional productivity growth, but opportunities in cities have not been available to all residents and are further limited by the  COVID-19 pandemic,” said ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono.

Cities in Asia and the Pacific are among the largest and most vibrant in the world, with many experiences and best practices to share. This publication collects these lessons and aims to guide cities to learn from common challenges and opportunities, Bambang Susantono added.

Developing Asia is home to 17 of the 33 megacities with more than 10 million residents. More than half of the region’s 4 billion population lived in urban areas in 2019 and a billion more are expected to migrate to cities in the next 30 years.

By 2050, the region’s urbanisation rate could reach 64 per cent, read a press statement of ADB.

To plan for livable and sustainable cities that are people-centered and accessible, the report highlighted the need for governments to employ smart and inclusive planning.

This included policies that promote the use of technology, data and innovation to make urban services—mobility, social infrastructure, resilience management, and utilities, among others—more effective and efficient.

Governments should also focus on sustainable transport and energy as these have a direct impact on people’s productivity, the vibrance of a city’s economic activity, and the environment’s sustainability. Increased mobility will help realise urban economic potential and increase inclusion.

Sustainable transport solutions, for example, could include using electric vehicles in public transport systems.

Sustainable energy options included household and community-level solar grids, which benefit as the price and availability of solar photovoltaic cells become cheaper and more widespread. Other options include waste-to-energy systems that can lead to improved urban sustainability.

Expanded access to finance will be instrumental in helping cities achieve targets outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Cities will account for about 70 per cent of the $1.7 trillion in annual investment developing countries need to meet the SDGs.

The publication laid out innovative financing models such as new forms of private sector partnerships, capital market instruments and bonds for housing finance, and strengthening institutional frameworks and the capacity to apply value-capture mechanisms.

Lastly, the report highlighted the need to improve the resilience of cities, particularly in response to climate change, natural disasters, and public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tools that can help build a city’s resilience include nature-based solutions, financial tools drawn from the insurance industry, and a range of operational approaches drawn from the lessons being learned while cities are responding to the pandemic.