By 2050, the world’s urban population is expected to increase by 2.5 billion people, with more than 90 percent of that increase occurring in Asia and Africa. To address the rapidly changing urban environment, World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities is developing the flagship World Resources Report (WRR) entitled Towards A More Equal City.

The WRR seeks to empower those who shape, govern and build cities to ensure a higher quality of life for all residents. For millions of under-served city-dwellers, the lack of access to core services undermines peoples’ economic productivity, challenges them to fend for themselves in inefficient and costly ways and risks polluting the environment. The WRR examines if equitable access to core services is the key to unlocking economic growth and environmental sustainability in cities.

During 2016-2017, WRI will release working papers that evaluate:

  • Housing: how cities can provide growing numbers of residents with secure and affordable shelter located near economic opportunities and urban amenities;
  • Energy: how cities can meet growing energy needs through improved access to modern fuels, clean and efficient cook stoves and distributed renewable energy;
  • Transportation: how cities can avoid car-centric decisions and support walking, biking and public transportation for all.
  • Water and sewage: how cities can find alternative approaches for treating and delivering affordable and reliable potable water cost-effectively, while reducing stress on urban watersheds.

  • Land use and urban expansion: how cities can limit unplanned urban expansion through coordinated spatial planning, more effective land use and density regulations, and monitoring of land markets.

Sector-specific approaches are a start, but they are not enough. To build thriving cities of the future will require transformative change. Preliminary case studies find the following ingredients are key to urban transformation: a strong coalition of urban change agents with a shared vision, a seminal problem that unleashes a cycle of positive change, the availability of financial resources to implement ambitious reforms and a long-term political commitment can spark broader, city-wide transformation. WRI will develop a series of city-level case studies to examine how transformative change does or does not happen.

A global consensus is emerging that sustainable cities are integral to our common future. We need to imagine and build a new type of city—one that is structurally different from the past. For cities to make meaningful progress to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement and Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda, they need practical and coordinated action from a diverse group of urban change agents, including governments, the private sector, and civil society. The World Resources Report seeks to empower these change agents with clear, actionable strategies and robust empirical evidence that will improve quality of life for all and help achieve sustainable cities.