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Urbanization in developing countries is a defining feature of the 21st century. Some 90 percent of global urban growth now takes place in developing countries – and between the years 2000 and 2030, developing countries are projected to triple their entire built-up urban areas. This unprecedented urban expansion poses cities, nations and the international development community with a historic challenge and opportunity. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to plan, develop, build and manage cities that are simultaneously more ecologically and economically sustainable.

We have a short time horizon within which to impact the trajectory of urbanization in a lasting and powerful way. The decisions we make together today can lock-in systemic benefits for the present and for future generations.

"Eco² Cities: Ecological Cities as Economic Cities" is a new initiative launched by the World Bank in order to respond to this challenge. Its objective is to help cities in developing countries achieve greater ecological and economic sustainability.

What are Eco2 cities?

Eco2 Cities are cities that create economic opportunities for their citizens in an inclusive, sustainable, and resource-efficient way, while also protecting and nurturing the local ecology and global public goods, such as the environment, for future generations.

The Eco2 Cities Program

“Eco2 Cities: Ecological Cities as Economic Cities” is a new program to help cities in developing countries achieve greater ecological and economic sustainability. The program will provide practical and scalable, analytical and operational support to cities. The program also aims to build a global partnership among forward-looking cities in developing countries, global best-practice cities, academia, and international development communities.

The Eco2 cities program has developed an analytical and operational framework that can be used by cities across the globe to work towards their sustainability targets.

How does it work?

Cities will face challenges when trying to adopt a new approach. These challenges have been carefully anticipated in the framework, and together with the valuable ground level lessons from best practice cities they help to frame our strategic response: the four key principles that define the Eco² City Program. Each of the principles is widely applicable, critical to success, and frequently ignored or under-appreciated. These interrelated and mutually supportive principles are:

  1. ‘A City Based Approach,’ which enables local governments to lead a development process that takes into account their specific circumstances, including their local ecology;
  2. ‘An Expanded Platform for Collaborative Design and Decision Making’ that accomplishes sustained synergy by coordinating and aligning the actions of key stakeholders;
  3. ‘A One System Approach’ that enables cities to realize the benefits of integration by planning, designing, and managing the whole urban system; and
  4. ‘An Investment Framework that Values Sustainability and Resiliency’ by incorporating and accounting for life cycle analysis, the value of all capital assets (manufactured, natural, human, and social), and a broader scope of risk assessments in decision making.

Clearly, taking on all the core elements simultaneously may not always be possible for all cities. Probably many cities will need to take an incremental or phased approach.

Moving forward together

The World Bank intends to collaborate with cities in developing countries, their national governments, the international community, global best practice cities, multilateral and bilateral development agencies, academia, the private sector and NGOs. As pilot Eco2 Cities in developing countries develop and implement their own Eco2 pathways, we hope to channel their support to other cities beginning their Eco2 pathway.

Learn more details about the Eco2 Program through our synopsis (pdf, 535KB) and book. 

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The development of the Eco2 Cities Program was supported by generous co-funding from the Australian Government's overseas aid program AusAID.


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Eco2 Cities synopsis (pdf, 535KB) 

Last updated: April 26, 2011

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