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UN and Global Data Council Partner to Improve Cities’ Sustainability

Driving resource-efficient cities through the power of standardized data - New partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) & the World Council on City Data (WCCD)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Council on City Data (WCCD) have signed a new partnership agreement to demonstrate the importance of standardized urban metrics to drive sustainability and resource efficiency in cities.

The UNEP-WCCD partnership agreement, which aims to support informed policy-making, was signed October 30 at the Global Forum for Human Settlements in New York by Arab Hoballah, Chief of the Sustainable Lifestyles, Cities and Industry Branch at UNEP, and Patricia McCarney, WCCD President and CEO.

Within the framework of UNEP-led the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities, UNEP and the WCCD will work together with cities to pilot a resource efficiency toolkit, while also achieving WCCD IS0 37120 certification. ISO 37120, the first international standard for sustainable city indicators, defines a comprehensive set of 100 indicators that enables any city, of any size, to measure and compare its social, economic, and environmental performance in relation to other cities from around the world.

This pilot group includes, among other cities from around the world, Brussels and Johannesburg together with other cities globally. Johannesburg was one of the first WCCD 20 Foundation Cities to achieve ISO 37120 certification.

Dr. McCarney said: “This new partnership will further the shared goals of UNEP and the WCCD to help cities around the world to become more sustainable, resource efficient and prosperous through high-caliber city-level data.  UNEP and the GI-REC initiative is playing a leading role in addressing the complex challenge of resource efficiency in cities. It is highly appropriate the GI-REC toolkit uses the ISO 37120 city data standard as the core of its measurement framework.”

Mr. Hoballah said: “As the world seeks a global climate agreement at COP 21 in Paris in December, we are seeing that city action on climate change and sustainability is critical. Our partnership with the WCCD will demonstrate the value of the GI-REC and WCCD ISO 37120 certification to build city data, as an essential tool to drive policy making, planning and investment for resource efficient cities globally.”

Mr. Etienne Aulotte from Brussels Region said: “'The Brussels region sees great potential in developing a holistic approach to a circular economy through the UNEP/WCCD partnership. Working together with both institutions under the overall framework of the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities, Brussels will use standardised data to promote resource efficiency at city and regional levels.'' 

With more than half of the world population currently living in urban areas, and three billion more city dwellers by 2050, urgent action is required to establish more sustainable and resource-efficient models of urban development.

In this context, detailed and up-to-date information and data on urban processes is essential: they help policy-makers to assess the impacts of policies and infrastructure investments, and can lead to better decisions and more effective actions. They contribute to support decision-making with physical and social science knowledge, allowing for comparisons across municipalities and regions. They can deliver early-warning signals to prevent or reduce the impacts of environmental, economic, and social shocks. Well-organized open urban data communicates ideas, thoughts and values, and is important in holding governments and communities accountable to their targets and goals.

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