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Resilience and Resource Efficiency in Cities

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City superfans, there’s a new report! The UN Environment report “Resilience and Resource Efficiency in Cities” is now available. Download here

The report reflects on resilience, on resource efficiency, and on the nexus between the two. The authors explore definitions and implementation.

Key Links

Report (PDF)


How was the report prepared?

Does the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC) have an account on Facebook and Twitter?

For those interested in resilience and resource efficiency, are there relevant videos?

How can we gage how well or poorly our cities are doing in terms of resiliency and resource efficiency?

Given that this is the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, what are the connections among urban resilience, resource efficiency and tourism?

Given that this is the #YearOfOpen, what resources are available with an open access license?

Rationale for the Report

Urban areas accounted for 54% of the total global population in 2014. Yet activities in
cities account for 70-75% of natural resource consumption, with significant impacts for
resource availability and ecosystems in areas far beyond urban boundaries. Cities are also disproportionately susceptible to a range of environmental hazards due to their concentration of people, infrastructure and economic activity; their exposure to risk is likely to further increase with climate change. The resource efficiency and resilience of cities will become even more signi cant as urban population and economic growth continues: the global urban population is projected to increase by approximately 1.84% every year between 2015 and 2020, with 90% of this growth occurring in Asia and Africa.

The major global challenges of the 21st century – urbanisation, climate change, resource scarcity and poverty – therefore have huge implications for urban planners and policymakers. This report looks at the relationship between building the resilience of cities in the face of global environmental change, and increasing the resource efficiency of cities to reduce their harmful impacts on the environment. It provides examples of effective ways to address these agendas, as well as the potential and challenges for integration. This speaks strongly to global policy agendas, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the New Urban Agenda.

Key Messages

  • ƒ  A resilience agenda can help cities become more resource efficient by being more flexible and by being better able to learn and respond to changed circumstances. The process of building resilience can therefore simultaneously offer opportunities to build resource efficiency.
  • ƒ  A resource efficiency agenda can help cities to become more resilient by reducing exposure to the risk of shortfalls in essential inputs. Various inputs addressed in a resource efficiency agenda (materials, products, water, energy, food) are all essential for urban functioning. The outcome of achieving greater resource efficiency can contribute to a city becoming more resilient, because it will rely less heavily on the systems that provide resources.
  • ƒ  A number of areas of action are common to both concepts, therefore providing ground for mutual reinforcement. City leaders aiming to achieve both resilience and resource efficiency can adopt measures for each with the potential to contribute to the achievement of both objectives.
  • ƒ  Possible tensions between resource efficiency and resilience may also exist. Redundancy and modularity may help cities to be more resilient to shocks and stresses, but could also be framed as representing inefficient use of resources. Overcoming these potential conflicts will require more integrated and responsive urban planning and governance.
  • ƒ  Achieving resilience and resource efficiency at city-level can help meet broader sustainability objectives. The urban resilience and resource efficiency concepts have overlapping objectives and both aim at addressing major challenges such as climate change and pressure on natural resources. They are concerned not only with short-term achievements, but also with providing key tools for the long-term sustainable development of cities.Structure of the ReportThe report has three main sections: on resilience, on resource efficiency, and on the nexus between the two. For each concept, it explores the state-of-the-art in understanding and implementation
    – looking at definitions, characteristics, benefits, limitations and practical applications. It then explores the links between the principles, objectives, and initiatives associated with urban resilience and resource efficiency.This report draws on theoretical and grey literature. More importantly, however, it is informed by the inputs of city officials from Africa, Asia and Latin America at a series of workshops on resource efficient cities held in 2013 and 2014. The case studies presented here – largely initiated by city officials – show how urban areas around the world are grappling with the different ecological and social challenges, and indicate potential avenues for other towns and cities to achieve the transformative commitments of the New Urban Agenda.The report concludes that resource efficiency is an essential element to urban resilience, and that resource efficiency can be accomplished more effectively when it is built in the context of a resilient system. The conceptual analysis and case studies make it clear that considering these issues together can help planners to address global challenges, such as climate change and poverty.

Spotlight: Gi-Rec

In June 2012 at the Rio+20 global summit on sustainable development, UN Environment launched the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC) to capitalize on the potential for cities to lead action towards greater resource efficiency. The primary objective of the GI-REC is to integrate resource efficiency along with sustainable production and consumption into policies, tools and decision-making at city level.

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8 Comments on "Resilience and Resource Efficiency in Cities"

  1. BigMind on Sun, 28th May 2017 7:14 am 

    Being resilient is easy — get rid of all the artificial nature, and just rely on the original unadulterated nature to provide everything.

    As old Matthew wrote: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

  2. Jef on Sun, 28th May 2017 8:20 am 

    Oh that nasty oxymoron just keeps rearing its ugly head;

    Sustainable Growth.

  3. onlooker on Sun, 28th May 2017 9:22 am 

    The optimists on this planet keep on wanting to make us think we can have our cake and eat it too

  4. onlooker on Sun, 28th May 2017 9:31 am 

    I don’t think so. Repost of what AP Posted
    Found these comments:
    This is relative to a baseline of ERA40:

    What this shows is observational data that the number of anomalous FDD has switched from linear to exponential. Which proves we’ve crossed at least three critical tipping points:

    First, the ERA40 shows we were relatively stable prior to 1957. The departure from ERA40 in recent years to a linear rise was an indication of things to come.

    Secondly, it switched from linear to exponential, as shown.

    Third, the entire historical record evidences that additional acceleration forces are involved, which existing climate models are failing to account for. This tipping point is intellectual in nature. We’re not smart enough to predict what will happen next, far less prevent it or adapt to it.

  5. makati1 on Sun, 28th May 2017 9:38 am 

    Onlooker, we seem to have hit the hockey stick point in Climate Change as in many other negative areas. Nothing is going to stop it now. Buckle up!

  6. onlooker on Sun, 28th May 2017 9:43 am 

    Yep, we seem to be going exponential on alot of things now. I knew this moment was going to come, just didn’t know when. Among the things we didn’t account for is the exponential function. So be it

  7. Sissyfuss on Sun, 28th May 2017 9:58 am 

    Is sustainable entropy an oxymoron also, Jef. Or is that too much of a reach?

  8. Apneaman on Sun, 28th May 2017 3:06 pm 

    “Rajasthan continued to be face heat wave conditions with the mercury touching 48.3 degrees Celsius [118.9 F] in Sri Ganganagar on Saturday while Churu was a bit lower at 48 degrees.”

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