OECD work on Cities

Green growth in cities


Cities are crucial hubs of economic activity and innovation that can contribute to environmental sustainability by introducing inclusive and sound green growth policies.  

  • What's the issue?

Cities are home to nearly half of the world’s population and centralise much economic activity, job creation and innovation. However, despite their economic potential, cities at the same time create complex socio-economic and environmental challenges that need to be properly managed. These include unsustainable development patterns such as urban sprawl, which has negative environmental impacts on carbon emissions, air and water quality, land-use and waste management.

Traditionally, expanding economic opportunities and addressing environmental pressures have been considered to be contradictory policy objectives. However, green growth presents opportunities to realise the two together. More precisely, the OECD defines green growth as ‘fostering economic growth and development while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies’. With the right policy mix in place, green growth policies can manage potential trade-offs and deliver synergies between the economic and environmental pillars of sustainability.

In cities, successful urban green growth policies take into account local policy contexts and seek to pursue economic development while seeking environmental and social benefits. It is especially relevant in cities exploring new growth potential with green investment, as well as cities facing environmental challenges due to urbanisation and population growth. Urban green growth reflects the ambitions of the New Urban Agenda and provides a means of achieving the SDGs, especially Goal 11, that aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The green growth approach is also particularly relevant to the green economic recovery in the context of COVID-19.


  • What can the OECD offer?

OECD work on green growth in cities supports cities and countries of both OECD member and non-member countries. It examines how policies and governance practices can contribute to improve the economic performance and environmental quality in urban areas, by benchmarking their green growth performance with internationally comparable indicators, and provides policy recommendations as well as examples of relevant international practices. 






For further information, please contact Tadashi Matsumoto, Head of Unit, Sustainable Development and Global Relations.


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