Road traffic in Berlin, numerous cars driving closely packed on a multi-lane road

Climate change and development Cities and climate

Today more than half of all people are already living in towns and cities. By 2050, the figure will probably be more than two thirds – while the global population continues to grow. There can be no doubt that this is the age of urbanisation.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General from 2007 to 2016
Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost.
Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary-General from 2007 to 2016

Towns and cities are heating up the planet. They are responsible for around 80 per cent of global energy and resource consumption. However, cities are not just major drivers of climate change. They are also particularly affected by its impacts. They often lie on coastlines, rivers, river deltas or mountain slopes, so that damage caused by natural phenomena is particularly severe in cities. Rising temperatures, too, are more noticeable in urban spaces, where there is a lot of concrete and asphalt. Sustainable urban planning and climate-resilient infrastructure can help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The global climate and development goals from the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement can only be achieved by working hand in hand with the world’s cities. These days, many cities and metropolitan regions are in the vanguard of climate action and resource conservation, with space-saving structures, low-emission transport systems, energy-efficient buildings or integrated waste management and a circular economy.

Video: Cities for a better world

Still from the BMZ video "Cities for a better world"

German activities

sustainable urban development cover

BMZ Position Paper: Sustainable urban development

File type PDF | Date of status 07/2023 | File size 3 MB, Pages 19 Pages

Measures supported by German development cooperation aim to ensure that cities contribute less to global warming and at the same time adapt to the consequences of climate change. Particular attention is given to developing sustainable urban infrastructure, promoting climate-friendly mobility, and establishing an urban waste management system and a circular economy. Measures in other sectors where many of the same issues need to be addressed such as energy supply, and water supply and sanitation also make an important contribution here.

Priority areas of German activities

Planning and financing sustainable urban infrastructure

Growing urbanisation means that new housing and new infrastructure needs to be built. The goals of the Paris climate agreement cannot be achieved if the cities of the future are built mainly from cement, steel and glass, as was the case in the past. Construction therefore needs to become more efficient, climate-friendly and resource-saving. By modernising existing buildings and ensuring that new ones meet sustainability standards, by 2050 the energy consumption of buildings could be reduced by half. Nature-based solutions offer a sustainable alternative or additional option to technological approaches.

In the next 15 years, an estimated 93 trillion US dollars will need to be invested worldwide in climate-friendly and sustainable infrastructure – more than 4.5 times the gross domestic product of the US.

Residential house in Tirana, Albania

Residential house in Tirana, Albania

Residential house in Tirana, Albania

Accordingly, a major share of German financial cooperation is already being directed towards urban infrastructure or towards supporting the urban population in our partner countries. As part of these efforts, innovative financing instruments are increasingly being used to mobilise private capital.

In order to continue supporting cities in coping with this massive need for investment, Germany contributes to the global Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (CCFLA). The Alliance brings private and public-sector players together who share the goal of capitalising more climate finance for cities. This is done partly via the City Climate Finance Gap Fund, which is to be used to mobilise up to four billion euros for climate-friendly infrastructure in cities. Furthermore, in collaboration with the cities network C40 (External link), the BMZ has been supporting cities’ efforts to prepare sustainable infrastructure projects via the Cities Finance Facility (CFF) for some time now.

E-bus charging station in Florianópolis, Brazil

Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI) Together for a better mobility future Internal link

In order to make cities worldwide environmentally friendly and liveable, the BMZ has been working with ten partner institutions under the framework of the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI) since 2016. The central focus of this mobility initiative is promoting climate-friendly, safe, inclusive and affordable urban mobility.

Flooding in the city of Barisal in Bangladesh

Bangladesh: cooperation in action Adapting cities to climate change Internal link

Bangladesh is one of the countries that will be most strongly affected – compared to the rest of the world – by climate change. Rising sea levels threaten to leave one fifth of the country permanently under water. In August 2022, one third of the country was flooded after heavy rainfall.

View of Mexico City

Mexico: cooperation in action Living better while using less energy Internal link

Half a million new housing units are being built in Mexico every year; eight per cent of the population works in the construction industry. The country’s energy consumption is rising steadily, with private households accounting for around 17 per cent of total usage.

Guardians of the hills in San Pablo, Ecuador

Ecuador: cooperation in action Guardians of the hills: women in the vanguard of climate resilience Internal link

San Pablo is one of the districts in the hills of Portoviejo, the capital of the coastal province of Manabí in Ecuador. About 12,000 people live here. Frequent heavy rainfall together with landslides are a danger for the houses, infrastructure and lives of the people living here.

Ein Flusslauf in Durban, Südafrika

South Africa: cooperation in action The transformation of Durban’s rivers Internal link

Climate change is already making itself felt in South Africa. A river management system is in place that will serve not only to prevent flooding but also to foster the local economy with a view to creating jobs and new avenues for private investment.

Resource centre in the city of Sarandra, Albania

Albania: cooperation in action Modernised, climate-friendly waste management and a circular economy Internal link

The majority of household waste in Albania ends up in illegal rubbish dumps, where it is left to rot in the open air or is burnt. With the assistance of the BMZ, systems for composting organic waste and for recycling are being developed in the cities, thus reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

As at: 27/09/2022