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UNEP-Hosted IRP Releases City-Level Decoupling Report

17 April 2013: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP)-hosted International Resource Panel (IRP) has released a report on the potential for decoupling at city-level. Titled “City-Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions,” the report includes 30 case studies of innovative approaches to sustainable infrastructure change that could inspire leaders of other cities, and recommendations for cities. 

The report argues that, although the majority of the world's population resides in cities and most resource consumption takes place in cities, potential exists to reconcile economic growth, wellbeing and the sustainable use of natural resources in cities. The report focuses on the way in which urban infrastructure directs material flows and therefore resource use. It frames infrastructure networks as socio-technical systems, examining pressures for change within cities that go beyond technical considerations

The report also includes recommendations for city planners to minimize environmental damage and maximize sustainable use of resources. These include: that government investments support infrastructure that stimulate low-carbon, resource-efficient and equitable urban development; building capacity of city-level governments and universities to collect and analyze data on resource use and flows in cities; that cities set specific targets to use resources more efficiently; and that procurement activities, promote and use criteria favoring low-carbon, resource-efficient, green technology goods and services. The report also concludes that the private sector can play a key role in taking small-scale sustainable infrastructure, to a city-wide scale. [UNEP Press Release] [UN Press Release] [City-Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions] [International Resource Panel Website]