Cities contain 56% of the world’s populace and are responsible for 70% of energy-related global CO2 emissions. They are economic engines, producing 80% of global GDP. Yet they struggle with urban sprawl, traffic and air pollution, which limit access to jobs and services for those living within them. As climate shocks damage over-stretched essential infrastructure, cities must become resilient, inclusive and low-carbon.

Zero-carbon cities offer a powerful lever to secure economic prosperity and boost living standards for whole countries — all while tackling the climate crisis. But city governments cannot realize this opportunity without national governments. The Coalition for Urban Transitions (CUT) worked with a network of partners to realize this vision for thriving cities empowered and enabled by national governments.

Active from 2016 to 2021, the Coalition aimed to drive a shift away from business-as-usual by empowering national governments with the evidence-based rationale and policy tools they need to prioritize more compact, connected, clean urban development. In this way, the initiative helped catalyze and inform implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the New Urban Agenda, and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

While many organizations share the overarching goal of supporting the decarbonisation of cities around the world, the Coalition’s work filled a critical gap by bringing national government decision-makers into the process.

National leaders – including ministers of finance, transport, energy and urban development – hold many of the powers and levers that directly or indirectly affect cities. However, few recognize this dynamic: only around two in five countries globally have a national urban policy, and even fewer have embedded urban policy within their core economic development strategy or have sufficient capacity for implementation. The Coalition’s work showed national decision-makers that smart urban policy is central to achieving national economic, social, and environmental goals.

Between 2016 and 2021, the Coalition built a rigorous evidence base to support the strong economic case for smarter urbanization. It equipped policymakers with the evidence they needed to make better informed decisions on large scale urban planning and infrastructure investment. And it helped them take the first steps toward establishing the policy, financing, and governance mechanisms necessary for thriving cities and prosperous countries.

A special initiative of the New Climate Economy (NCE), the Coalition for Urban Transitions was jointly managed by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and World Resources Institute Ross Center. A partnership of 37 diverse stakeholders across five continents drove the Coalition, including leading urban-focused institutions and their practice leaders from major think-tanks, research institutions, city networks, international organizations, major investors, infrastructure providers, and strategic advisory companies.