City of tomorrow: How megacities are pioneering sustainable development solutions

On 20 June 2024, ICLEI South America and ICLEI East Asia co-hosted a session titled “Tomorrow’s cities today: Megacities driving global change” in collaboration with the Metropolis network in São Paulo during the ICLEI World Congress 2024. Megacities from all over the world shared their effective urban policies and practices for sustainable development and discussed the numerous challenges they face. This session provided a platform for mutual learning and information exchange among local governments, highlighting exemplary practices and fostering the adoption of innovative solutions.

Why are we targeting megacities? 

In the realm of urbanization, megacities stand as bustling hubs of activity and opportunity. However, beneath the surface, they grapple with a myriad of pressing issues – from poverty and social inequality to environmental degradation. As the pace of urban growth quickens and urban populations expand, it becomes increasingly vital to craft and implement effective urban policies. Furthermore, the challenges faced by megacities are intricately tied to a web of key stakeholders, including local and regional governments, civil society, and corporations. As a result, cooperation with these stakeholders is paramount. The overarching goal of this session was to foster the exchange of information, enabling each city to gain valuable insights and a deepened understanding of the significance and complexity of the urban sustainability agenda.

What solutions did megacities provide? 

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Panel 1, thematic session of Tomorrow’s cities today: Megacities driving global change (photo: ICLEI)

The issue of housing in megacities, especially those in the developing world, poses significant challenges. The rapid growth in population, stemming from both natural increase and rural-urban migration, has resulted in a shortage of housing supply. The issue of housing has been a longstanding problem in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “To tackle housing issues including informal settlements, we have integrated housing policies in urban planning and the climate action plan as priorities for urban resilience”, said Ana Ciuti, Deputy Secretary of International Relations of Buenos Aires.

In highly populated megacities, effective waste management is another significant concern. The immense size of these cities presents notable environmental challenges and potential threats to human well-being. As a result, the management of waste is increasingly pivotal for the daily functioning and the long-term sustainability of these megacities. “Effective waste management is a cornerstone of Guangzhou’s commitment to sustainable urban living as a megacity of over 18 million residents,” said Decun Zhan, Director General of Foreign Affairs Office of Guangzhou Municipal Government, China, “Through comprehensive planning and international cooperation, we aim to set a benchmark for waste reduction and recycling, contributing significantly to global environmental sustainability.”

Information exchange is key to enhancing decision-making processes and supporting the efficient functioning of urban environments on a day-to-day basis. Barbaros Büyüksağnak, Head of Foreign Relations Department of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Türkiye, emphasized the importance of mutual learning and knowledge sharing among cities. He said, “it is essential for megacities to establish a platform to learn from each other as they play crucial roles as the economic and cultural hub.” In the face of common challenges, megacities have the opportunity to leverage shared experiences and knowledge to discover solutions and opportunities for collaboration.

Panel 2, thematic session of Tomorrow’s cities today: Megacities driving global change (photo: ICLEI)

The exchange of ideas and experiences among these megacities has enabled urban centers worldwide to gain valuable insights into sustainable development practices. This collaboration fosters hope that we can work together with governments, companies, communities, and individuals to construct cities that are not only environmentally friendly and resilient but also equitable for all.

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