ICLEI’s overarching goal is the creation of Sustainable Cities. Sustainable cities ensure an environmentally, socially, and economically healthy and resilient habitat for existing populations, without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same. They aim for sustainability in a comprehensive and inclusive manner. They integrate policies across sectors to connect their ecological and social goals with their economic potential, rather than addressing challenges through fragmented approaches that meet one goal at the expense of others.
A low-carbon city recognizes its responsibility to act. It pursues a step-by-step approach towards carbon neutrality, urban resilience and energy security, supporting an active green economy and stable green infrastructure. The local government collaborates with other levels of government on optimizing climate action through effective vertical integration. Together with other cities, Low Carbon Cities look to scale up their efforts, conform to global standards, report to national and global platforms, and continuously improve their performance towards low carbon, sustainable development.
Resource-efficient cities - often called Eco-Cities - ensure that their socio-economic development is significantly decoupled from resource exploitation and ecological impacts. They accomplish this by minimizing the required inputs of all natural and human resources within their area, including water, air, soil, nutrients, minerals, materials, flora and fauna, ecosystem services, and social and financial resources, while avoiding their degradation and reducing waste generation. Productive cities go beyond improving the efficiency of current or future urban systems, including new cities or new urban developments, with the aim of becoming net productive systems in ecological, economic and social terms.
A resilient city is prepared to absorb and recover from any shock or stress while maintaining its essential functions, structures, and identity, adapting and thriving in the face of continual change. Examples of the change cities face include natural and industrial disasters, environmental emergencies, economic shocks, climate change impacts, drastic demographic changes, and other unforeseen challenges. Building resilience requires identifying and assessing hazard risks, reducing vulnerability and exposure, and increasing resistance, adaptive capacity, and emergency preparedness.
Biodiverse cities understand that a diverse natural world is the foundation of human existence, as it is necessary for both survival and quality of life. They are aware that ecosystem services contribute towards many essential municipal services, as well as towards the local economy, sustainability and social well-being of their cities. Biodiversity in cities provides a critical contribution towards achieving the global biodiversity targets. It buffers further biodiversity loss, improves the urban standard of living, and provides local opportunities for global education and awareness.
A smart city has embedded “smartness” into its operations, and is guided by the overarching goal of become more sustainable and resilient. It analyzes, monitors and optimizes its urban systems, be they physical (e.g. energy, water, waste, transportation and polluting emissions) or social (e.g. social and economic inclusion, governance, citizen participation), through transparent and inclusive information feedback mechanisms. It commits to continuous learning and adaptation, and through the application of systems thinking, aspires to improve its inclusivity, cohesion, responsiveness, governance and the performance of its social, economic and physical systems.
An EcoMobile city fulfills its objective of creating a more livable and accessible city by utilizing Sustainable Urban Mobility principles to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, improvements to air quality, and increased mobility opportunities for all citizens. A key component of Sustainable Urban Mobility is EcoMobility, which gives priority to integrated, socially inclusive, and environmentally-friendly transport options. EcoMobility comprises walking, cycling, wheeling, and passenging and, wherever possible, integrates shared mobility as an integrated alternative personal automobile use.
Happy, healthy and inclusive communities look beyond GDP as the primary indicator for development, choosing to prioritize health and happiness for all. They are vibrant, clean, healthy, inclusive, peaceful and safe, and offer education, culture, green employment, high quality of life, and good governance. They provide opportunities for interaction and community engagement in decision making, and plan for both the needs of an increasingly aging society and for the development for younger demographics. Happy, Healthy and Inclusive Communities will extend its mandate to both individuals and society-at-large.
A sustainable local economy improves human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and natural resource scarcity. A sustainable local economy is resource efficient, low-carbon, socially responsible and diverse. It prioritizes an economy that creates jobs in green-growth industries, investment in cleaner technologies, innovation, skills and entrepreneurship, all of which are needed to create sustainable cities. By undertaking innovative and sustainable procurement, local and regional governments ensure that tax revenue is used responsibly and that public purchasing power brings about major environmental and social benefits locally and globally.
Regions and sub-national governments are crucial drivers for global sustainability. In addition their own policies, plans and initiatives which align with sustainability principles, they provide enabling framework conditions for the cities and municipalities within jurisdictional boundaries, and use their powers of representation to amplify influence at the national level. City-region cooperation builds the conditions necessary to advance sustainability on the local, regional and sub-national level. Public transport, local and regional energy generation, resource flows, food systems, productive city-regions and urban planning can often most successfully be approached within a wider functional area.