Greener Cities Partnership Blog Series

To advocate and promote environmental sustainability in urban development, and to mainstream environmental considerations into urban policy making, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Human Settlement Programme have jointly developed to the Greener Cities Partnership.

For over two decades, a partnership framework between the two agencies has been a useful instrument to promote dialogue and cooperation. After the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) held in October 2016 in Ecuador’s capital Quito, the role of the partnership in implementing the urban environmental targets of the Sustainable Development Goals is more crucial than ever.

By integrating the complementary expertise of UN Environment and UN-Habitat, the Greener Cities Partnership is an incubator of ideas for collaboration and innovation, while serving local, national and international stakeholders in a variety of activities.                


It is increasingly evident that in order to solve urban environmental challenges we need a stronger emphasis on integrated and inclusive policy-making and management. UN-Habitat’s 2016 World Cities Report states that urban environment issues have implications on various spatial scales, and therefore should be tackled on all levels of governance: municipal, metropolitan, national, sub-regional, regional or international levels, overcoming many institutional boundaries.

Thus, the objective of the Greener Cities Partnership is to mainstream environmental considerations into local, national and global urban policy-making, as well as highlight local-global linkages of environmental issues.


The Greener Cities Partnership maintains flexibility and is open to innovation to enable successful collaboration between the two UN programmes. Past priorities of the partnership have included eco-system based adaptation to climate change; green building; and transport planning in the African context.

The development of new joint activities is a process of stakeholder engagement, dialogue and reflection of global, national and local priorities. Current priorities therefore include resource flows, efficiency and resilience; waste and wastewater management; transport and mobility; and the monitoring and reporting on urban environmental SDG indicators. The types of activities depend on the feasibility of cooperation, as long as they emphasize areas that help to shape greener, more inclusive, and more resilient cities.

Sustainable Transport

The gas emission by private cars in cities is one of the main sources of air pollution. In the work related to sustainable transportation in the urban areas, UN-Habitat has a stronger focus on the AVOID side, for example, through integrating land-use and transport planning, while UN Environment Programme has many activities focusing on the IMPROVE side, including promoting cleaner fuels and vehicles. Both organizations work on the SHIFT focus area, for example, through the promotion of a model shift to non-motorized and public transport.

Climate Change Strategies

While climate change is a profound global issue, it is also a local issue, as urban areas have a crucial role in the climate change arena. It is crucial to recognize that cities must also be part of the solution to climate change.

Urbanization offers many opportunities to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with climate change especially through urban planning and design. The critical factor shaping urban responses to climate change is government capacity, which is hindered by factors that are institutional, technical, economic, or political in character.

Waste and waste water management

The world’s cities will be generating about 2.2 billion tons of solid waste per year in 2025 against 1.3 billion tons per year in 2012. Solid waste management dominates municipal annual budgets in low- and middle-income countries, with shares of 30 to 50 per cent.

At the same time, contaminated water, due to inadequate wastewater management, is a major threat to public health in cities. The waste and wastewater priority under The Greener Cities Partnership builds on both agencies’ joint work. It is based on rigorous criteria that will determine the approach and geographical priorities.

Monitoring and reporting on urban environmental indicators

The Greener Cities Partnership aims to monitor and report urban environmental SDG indicators on regional levels. Currently, we are working with the city of Qazvin, Iran to enable the municipality to create baseline data on the prosperity of the city related to urban SDGs indicators – and with the support of the GCP, monitor specific urban environmental indicators.

There are over 20 SDG indicators that have direct relevance to the urban environment, while some areas of indicators are underdeveloped. Realizing that, we will explore those indicators where there is most need for us to work together.

Resilient and resource-efficient cities and air quality

There are several definitions of urban resilience: those linked to the mitigation and adaptation of cities to external (climate-related) events; and those linked to resource flows. Cities increasingly understand that novel ways are called for to build resilience in process of contributing to more equitable environment. One of the main challenges to our world’s resources is our consumption and production patterns.

By some estimates, urban areas consume 75% of the earth’s natural resources and produce 60% of its greenhouse gas emissions and 50% of its waste. Much peri-urban development is destroying the very natural capital that would provide resilience to brace against resource scarcity and climate change. UN-Habitat and UN Environment Programme have joined forces in the development of a harmonized framework to monitor resource use at city level.


The Greener Cities Partnership’s on-going work contains two flagship projects, among many other activities. The Greener Cities Partnership cooperates with Qazvin city in Iran to build urban environmental SDG and the Urban Renewal and Green Space Development in Chengdu, China. In the future, the Greener Cities Partnership will continue expanding its cooperation with local and national government from other districts.


In the Chengdu Project, the Greener Cities Partnership is responsible to the development of the city’s greenbelt construction and evaluation...Read More-->


This project is to enable the Qazvin city, Iran, to create baseline data on the prosperity of the city related to urban SDGs indicators – and with the support of the GCP, monitor specific urban environmental indicators. It is expected that the action plan will improve the prosperity of the city in a multi-dimensional way, touching on areas of urban ecology, urban governance, urban planning and basic services, and municipal finance, among others...Read more-->.

Mode of implementation

The work of The Greener Cities Partnership is based on the complementarity of the two United Nations programmes in the focal areas. The mode of implementation is based on the AVOID – SHIFT – IMPROVE model. The Greener Cities Partnership use this model as the principle for two organizations’ cooperation, as well as its project development procession.

In summary, the Greener Cities Partnership is working on four basic areas: the Information Sharing, Analysis and Advice, Tools Development and Practice and Actions.