Sustainable development goals number 1 and number 10 are about poverty and inequality respectively. Economists and policy-makers know well that these two are very different subjects. A country or a city can reduce poverty while increasing inequality. In fact, this is exactly what has happened in many countries (at different levels of development) in the last 30 years. This is what has happened globally as well.
As urbanization intensifies, the role of cities is changing to adjust to this new reality. This evolution is aided and abetted in part by national governments that are increasingly abdicating their responsibilities on the global stage on issues like climate change, migration and – as we are seeing with the COVID-19 pandemic – public health. As a result, cities are banding together to tackle these crises and exerting their collective power to effect change for their constituents.
Unlike the major global agreements that preceded it, the formulation of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda was a collective process open to all actors working in the area of sustainable development. In particular, major cities sought to highlight their contribution as laboratories in which globalisation’s greatest challenges are taking shape.
The mayor of London oversees decisions regarding energy provision, transport, housing stock and waste management for the city’s nearly 9 million inhabitants, more than the total population of Denmark or Austria. This is true for many global cities, which make decisions about infrastructure provision that determine energy use and carbon emissions for populations larger than entire countries.
City leaders are confronting one of the most urgent crises in their careers. As they scramble to protect their citizens and communities while COVID-19 ripples throughout the world, the idea of sustainable development and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 may seem irrelevant to their current demands. Yet the very principles that drew mayors and local governments to the SDGs, and elevated the importance of local leadership to global progress, may be just the thing for enabling a rapid path forward in the aftermath of COVID.
The UN agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could not be more important than during these challenging times. The COVID-19 crisis is teaching us that it will be important, once the mitigation phase of the impacts will be over, to re-think and re-orient our economic and social systems towards a more sustainable future. Urbanisation is one of the key transformative trends of our time and any successful path to achieving such a future will run through sustainable cities.
While working on this Dossier, the whole world has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. I found myself doubtful: can we still discuss SDGs without sounding disrespectful? Will SDGs still be relevant in the upcoming post-COVID-19 world? In addition, will cities – now fighting day and night to open new emergency units in the hospitals and to heal as many patients as possible – be able to focus again on such an ambitious, comprehensive and difficult-to-achieve Agenda?
In 2015 the UN General Assembly included a specific target for cities and local communities (n. 11) in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), thus recognizing urbanisation as a major global challenge. Today, the role of global cities is put to the test by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Se c’è un settore travolto dal Coronavirus è il turismo. Quando muoversi diventa un pericolo, e chi si sposta è stigmatizzato, viene infatti a mancare la reason why di tutto il comparto. Potrebbe sembrare un fatto marginale, vista l’emergenza sanitaria che tutto il mondo sta vivendo, ma non è proprio così: parliamo di un giro d’affari che, nel 2017, costituiva più o meno il 10% del Pil globale. Il che significa ovviamente decine se non centinaia di milioni di lavoratori, tra impieghi diretti e indotto.
Le immagini di alcuni ospedali di Madrid, con i malati stesi per terra tra asciugamani e coperte, rischiano di essere il tragico presagio di ciò che attende il mondo nei prossimi giorni. Mentre l’Italia gioca la sua partita più importante, cioè quella a difesa di Milano (e del Mezzogiorno), città come Londra, Parigi e soprattutto New York potrebbero trasformarsi nei focolai più incontrollabili del Covid 19.
Secondo i calcoli di Richard Florida, il Pil prodotto nel 2015 dalle prime dieci città del mondo era superiore a quello aggregato di Germania e Giappone. Tokyo sarebbe quindicesima nella classifica tra gli stati del mondo, subito sotto la Corea del Sud. L’economia di Londra sarebbe comparabile a quella dell’Olanda, e Parigi sarebbe più ricca dell’intero Sud Africa. Del resto, anche per Eurostat il Pil delle due metropoli europee supera quello di Belgio, Austria, Danimarca, Irlanda e Ungheria.
Cities are gaining importance and influence worldwide. They sustain the global economy, set cultural trends, produce greenhouse gas emissions and consume energy; they attract migration flows and foster new political waves. While cities were supposed to be declining back in the 1980s, the globalized economy has established them as crucial world hubs leading billions of people on every continent, both at the top and the bottom of the social ladder, to move to cities. Today, global cities cry out for a more prominent role. But why and to what extent do they matter?