Cities are critical to the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement. Using available technologies, cities can help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, transport, materials use, and waste by almost 90%, reduce climate risks for over 50% of the global population, improve health outcomes through cleaner air, and help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Cities encounter significant challenges when it comes to planning and implementation. Competing priorities require cities to balance a wide range of issues. To succeed, therefore, cities need to make connections between their wider environmental, social and economic goals, collaborate with a broad range of stakeholders and design solutions that yield multiple benefits. 

The decisions local and national leaders make today regarding energy, resource efficiency, the built environment, transport, as well as our shared atmosphere, will significantly shape the future of cities for decades to come determine the success of global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change and achieve equitable and sustainable development.  

The Urban Efficiency & Climate team supports cities in adopting an integrated approach to transforming the built environment, cleaning the air, and tackling the causes and impacts of climate change. We do this by helping cities make connections between environmental, social, and economic goals, using science to guide policymaking, and through facilitating collaboration and coalition building among the many stakeholders that impact cities. We also support the development of global standards and data platforms and provide direct technical assistance to cities. 

The Urban Efficiency & Climate team's approach to helping cities adopt an integrated approach includes three main areas.  

One Atmosphere 

Air pollution is the world’s number one environmental health risk, responsible for to up to 7 million deaths every year. Beyond human health, the impacts of worsening air pollution are also affecting climate change, the water cycle, energy and food production. The sources and causes of air pollution are complex, varying between places, across seasons and over time is complex and we take a ‘One Atmosphere’ approach. This approach seeks to integrate action on air pollution and climate by driving strategic alignment and fostering collaboration. 

Integrated Climate Action 

Globally, one third of potential urban emission reductions relies on collaboration between local, regional and national governments, a further third is the primary responsibility of higher tiers of government. What’s more, half of the possible urban emissions reduction lies in cities of fewer than 750,000 people, cities which often lack the financial and technical resources of larger municipalities and are therefore particularly reliant on a whole of systems approach, integrating regional and national government support and enabling conditions. WRI’s Integrated Climate Action team facilitates improved collaboration across national government, city and private sector stakeholders to advance more effective climate action, including integrated planning and budgeting, improved accountability mechanisms for climate commitments, and research on the pathways to systems change.   

Built Environment 

Building efficiency gains have the largest economic mitigation potential of any climate solution making them an investment priority. Improved built environments are also a key lever for city-wide change beyond climate action, including providing affordable housing, resilient infrastructure, green jobs, and healthy living and working spaces. WRI partners with local and national governments, civil society and the private sector to enable net zero, regenerative and socially just building environments and surrounding infrastructure, connect local and national policymaking tracks to ensure local implementation and improve access to resilient housing.