Mankind is living a unique period in its history that specialists call the urban transition and that will double the world urban population, from 3 billion in 2000, to 6 billion in 2050. Almost all this growth will occur in developing countries, including one billion in sub-Saharan Africa[1]. Two-thirds of the urban areas that will be known in 2030 did not exist in 2000[2]

This is a huge challenge, but also an opportunity to invent a new world, in which the cities of tomorrow will be the solution to many of today’s problems, first and foremost to climate change, as cities are responsible for about 75% of CO2 emissions[3].

In particular, the evolution of urban mobility in the cities of the South will be crucial for this future urban world, since it largely determines the form and the long-term urban structure. The time has come to act to avoid in the South the mistakes often made in the North, starting with the inclination towards “all cars” and urban sprawl. The digital revolution expands the range of possibilities and increases hopes for rapid progress.

For almost 40 years CODATU has been developing exchanges between the North and the South in terms of urban mobility. But given the urgency of the situation, we believe that it is time to invent new ways of doing things through a historical mobilization of all the cities of the world. Global warming doesn’t have territorial or national borders: All the efforts led by the national and local governments of the North will be in vain if at the same time the cities of the South are not supported effectively.

Supporting developing cities on the sustainable urban mobility theme is the most effective way to succeed in the long term. This support is meant to strengthen local institutions, to train actors, to lead pilot actions, and to help develop projects that will then be funded by conventional instruments at national or international level.

Northern cities have a special responsibility, because of their historical contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, and the accumulated experience with urban utilities and organization of mobility. They must therefore step up to the front and effectively support sister cities in the South.

This will represent fewer resources compared to what northern cities already spend to mitigate or adapt to climate change. But the impact will be considerable per dollar invested, as the margins of progress are large in the South. We estimate that an annual effort of 0.02% of the current budget of Northern cities, mainly in human resources, supplemented by an efficient methodology of partnership between cities, will bring a tremendous change in the South.

This cooperation between cities can be inspired by the manual on decentralized cooperation, in the field of urban mobility, published by CODATU in 2018. It is important to respect some basic principles:

  • to promote a comprehensive approach to mobility over time, which works on both supply and demand, includes paratransit and active modes of travel, and which is strategically planned;
  • to always analyze the local specificities and adapt to them without trying to automatically copy the solutions put in place elsewhere;
  • to respect local priorities, which are not necessarily climate change. Intermediate steps may be necessary;
  • to promote, as much as possible, the reinforcement and the good functioning of local institutions, the training of the technicians, the appropriation of the processes;

This new alliance is absolutely necessary between the main cities of the world. It will not only effectively and sustainably fight climate change, as it has never really been attempted before, but it will also contribute to the sustainable and local economic development of the countries in the South, solidarity between peoples, and the strengthening of local governments.

For Northern and Southern Cities, register on the website to be part of this great initiative. We will welcome commitments until the end of 2018 to build a global network of players, before taking action in 2019.
For all stakeholders that can somehow support this call, private sector, foundations, ministries, international institutions and donors, networks of cities or actors, also register on the website to join this network.

[1] UN Data. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision.
[2] Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools. Karen C. Seto, Burak Güneralp and Lucy R. Hutyra. PNAS September 17, 2012
[3] Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements 2011. UN HABITAT.