Most of the world’s resource consumption takes place in cities, and the design of a city shapes how its inhabitants use transport, energy and water, and disposes of waste. The challenge is to build vibrant cities with reduced resource use and environmental impact. This report explores the potential for decoupling at the city level, building on the previous work of the International Resource Panel on Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth.
As the majority of the world’s population now resides in cities, this is where both the pressures and potential to find ways to reconcile economic growth, wellbeing and the sustainable use of natural resources will be greatest.
Analysing the role of cities as spatial nodes where the major resource flows connect as goods, services and waste, the report focuses on how infrastructure directs material flows and, therefore, resource use, productivity and efficiency in an urban context. It makes the case for examining cities from a material flow perspective, while also placing the city within the broader system of flows that makes its functioning possible.