Credit East Africa Trade and Investment Hub Nairobi Business Commercial District, seen from Kenyatta International Conference Center.


Cities around the world are facing daunting challenges from more frequent and intense weather events and a more variable climate. As populations and city boundaries grow, these changes in climate will make it more difficult for cities to provide reliable services and adequate infrastructure to residents. For example, an estimated $158 trillion in assets—double the world’s annual productive output—is at risk of being damaged or destroyed by 2050 from extreme storms, floods, fires, and droughts. But as centers of economic activity, civic engagement and political will, cities are well positioned to proactively manage risks and increase the positive impact of urbanization on national economies.

Cities also have a large role to play in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings are responsible for approximately 40 percent of urban emissions. Many cities can drastically reduce emissions by improving the efficiency of building heating, cooling, and lighting systems.

City landfills release methane, a greenhouse gas many times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Improvements in waste management can cut emissions by as much as 15 percent, up to 20 percent if overall waste reduction measures are also included.

Many cities are dependent on infrastructure and the services that it provides. This makes city dwellers vulnerable to a loss of those services, which include transportation, water and wastewater, electricity, and others. Extreme heat is another concern in cities, many of which are already experiencing urban heat islands. Climate change will result in more intense summer temperatures and more frequent heat waves, putting urban populations at risk. And because many cities are located in coastal zones, they will be at higher risk of damage from flooding and coastal storm surge.

Traffic congestion generates significant urban emissions, and creates an opportunity to reduce those emissions. Encouraging people to shift away from using private, combustion engine vehicles to using mass transit, walking, and biking can reduce emissions by upwards of 20 percent, as well as improving air quality and public health.

Ensuring that cities can run on clean, low-carbon power sources is also essential. Many cities could achieve a grid mix of up to 70 percent renewables by 2030, which would reduce their emissions by at least a third.


In July 2019, USAID launched a new Environmental and Natural Resource Management (ENRM) Framework to coordinate, unify, and elevate environmental and natural resource management across the Agency. The Framework outlines a unifying vision to address emerging challenges and the most critical threats to the environment and development, and serves as a guiding document for cross-sectoral investments in environmental and natural resource management.
The majority of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and they continue to grow by more than 75 million people per year. Cities, especially rapidly growing cities, are likely to be the driving economic force in many countries, even more so than they are now.
Stacks of sustainable charcoal produced at Mampu cooperative site outside of Kinshasa visited as part of a scoping mission looking at alternative local species to integrate into agroforestry woodfuel systems to increase the volume of sustainable charcoal supply for urban areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, carried out by the U.S. Forest Service International Programs and supported by USAID’s Africa Bureau in July 2018.