SDG 11 : Tomorrow's cities

The world demographic explosion, the world population increased from 225 million in 1820 to 7.5 billion today, has led to a total reorganization of urban areas. By 2050, an additional 2.5 billion people are expected to live in cities. In concrete terms, it means that 2 out of 3 people in the world will be living in urban areas within 30 years, if this UN forecast is accurate. This perspective leads to deep reflection on the structuring of such urban spaces in order for them to remain sustainable. Today, it must be recognized that our cities need to begin their transition to more inclusive, sustainable and resilient models. Indeed, 70% of the world’s GDP is concentrated in urban areas, but 70% of the total waste happens there as well, which gives rise to an alarming figure: 60% of greenhouse effect gases are concentrated on 2% of the planet’s surface.

Overview and challenges for cities in transition:

This transition to a sustainable model faces many challenges, including the rise of social, economic and cultural inequalities. One example is Paris, within 10 years the city has seen its number of homeless people increase by 84%, not to mention migration-related inflows. This explosion of precariousness on the streets is partly due to the high densification of urban areas, and that is why the promotion of the “Living Together” movement through local initiatives, which is a major factor in the creation of social cohesion, makes more and more sense.

From a climatic point of view, forecasts for 2050 predict temperatures reaching 50 degrees in the shade during heat wave in Paris. Moreover, it should be noted that at present time, air pollution kills as many people as alcohol and, as Sebastien Maire, Senior Manager of Resilience at the City of Paris, points out: “you can choose not to drink, more difficult to choose not to breathe”. A logic of integration of the city into its territory is becoming more and more urgent in the light of the existing pressure in rural areas. For instance, even if we encourage the development of less emissive materials such as wood, this will automatically have an impact on forests, the overall challenge here is to focus on the entire life cycle of each of our actions.

This state of play leads to the following conclusion:  Paris cannot be considered as a city integrated into a territorial policy, as evidenced by its population density of 21,000/Km², the highest in Europe, the 4th highest in the world and approximately the equivalent of Mumbai in India. To evolve, metropolitan areas like Paris will have to make use of technological innovations while betting on the fact that 60% of the infrastructure at the end of the century is not yet built today.

Cities will have to transform, the horizon is getting closer

Gérald Maradan

Co-Founder & CEO, EcoAct

Which stakeholders of the transition?

Initiatives involving the consumer:

This observation suggests rethinking the actual consideration of urban spaces towards a more local territorial vision where the priority would be now to find actors involved in this transition, but above all to understand their complementarities. The construction of the cities of tomorrow requires a multi-stakeholder approach where each stakeholder will bring its own pedagogy.

As the main actor in the ecological transition, the role of the citizen must also evolve from consumer to consum’actor in order to achieve a paradigm shift. To enable such behavioral change, many companies and associations are created with the aim of raising awareness and encouraging citizens to become the driving force behind the construction and evaluation of the city. To this end, concrete service offers are made in order to include the city dweller in the sustainable transition of his/her city (see inset of the inclusive solutions for a sustainable city presented at the Forum).

People are longing for inclusion”, “people come to cities to enjoy the wealth it produces

Lucas Pupulin, Executive Director

IMPACT Initiative

Inclusive citizen initiatives present at the Forum:

Reforest’action :

Reforest’action offers everyone the opportunity to have a positive impact on the environment by planting trees, so that citizens and companies can go beyond carbon neutrality. This very inclusive project has even become the leader in reforestation from private funds in France and a specialist in international reforestation. An initiative that rethinks how to make urban spaces greener, a crucial point for a sustainable transition of cities.

Entourage :

Entourage has created an application that allows everyone to promote initiatives for homeless people. The aim is to set up a participatory system in which the homeless people are at the heart. An innovative system to organize and coordinate solidarity actions (help to redo a CV, share a coffee…) thanks to a network of 45,000 people.

This project has a real role in raising awareness among the general public and offers every citizen the opportunity to be an actor in a more inclusive city.

Peas and love :

As a stakeholder in food production in the city, Peas and Love proposes to integrate the citizen into the center of urban agriculture. The members of the “Urban Farmers” community can rent plots of land through annual subscription which gives access to harvest, common spaces, experiences via workshops and activities to find themselves in nature while being in the city center. To go further, Peas and Love invites them to produce sustainably in urban areas by becoming the owner of their plot.

Les Connexions :

This association specializing in event waste management mobilizes participants in major events by including them in the waste collection process. Thanks to the setting up partnership agreements with the main French eco-organisations, Les Connexions has been able to develop an awareness dimension to their actions in order to broaden their field of action. An initiative that serves the sustainable development of cities while taking into account all the actors of its environment.

BeeOdiversity :

With their slogan “Be part of the cycle” BeeOdiversity makes beekeeping accessible to all. With a wide range of services ranging from the installation and management of hives at private homes to colony sponsorships, this initiative animate a diverse and strong community. Indeed, this project brings together a large number of stakeholders, creating a complete multi-stakeholder community. We can find beekeepers, farmers, scientists, institutions, companies and citizens; they constitute a driving force and are committed to the sustainable transition of cities.

Clem :

In partnership with local authorities, Clem offers self-service electric cars. A system designed to relieve congestion in cities through shared eco-mobility. The project aims to rethink the cities of tomorrow by combining ecological, economic, technological and social issues. It contributes to new transport accessibility with reduced costs for the citizen and a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

A growing awareness of companies with negative externalities in their territory

The trend for multinationals is also to commit for the transition in the light of the impact they have on their territories of action. While their main strategic area of activity remains a source of negative externalities, many are working to transform their practices and are beginning to open up to clearing activities. To structure this emerging ecological awareness within the private sector, often technical in its implementation, organizations experts in sustainable transformation of companies put their experience to work for these major groups. Some of these actors were present at the Convergences Forum such as Ekodev to discuss alternative mobility in companies, a structure aiming to advise and implement sustainable programs within companies. Consulting firms such as Deloitte also support companies through the development of their sustainable development branch, which specializes in the transition and transformation of professional practices. It

Indeed, the carbon offsetting of the event was done through a precise evaluation of the event’s emissions in the first instance. Then to the financing of a project with a positive carbon footprint, thus allowing Convergences to achieve a balance in their emissions. The project in question was voted by the participants in the Forum among a panel proposed by EcoAct, it is possible to find the results on the Convergences website. A model that EcoAct applies to many corporate projects.

Role and impact of public authorities

On a completely different scale, international organizations such as the R20, which are intended to help sub-state governments and local authorities, have emerged. They propose to support the development of projects with a social impact, such as reducing carbon emissions, for example. This type of structure acts in a transversal way by covering social, economic, cultural, environmental and resilience sectors. Such initiatives now exist above all to support the implementation of actions by local public authorities.

Rethinking the city, the region at the heart of political issues

Michèle Sabban

Presidente du R20

Under these conditions, the role of cities and territories is to provide a framework for action and to be a catalyst for them (Example of the Paris carbon neutral objective for 2050). The objective is really to trigger the acceleration of this transition by mobilizing actors able to promote innovation. To take concrete action, public authorities have several levers for action, such as supporting the development of markets with green and sustainable bonds, investing in SMEs focused on sustainable cities (air quality, circular economy, sustainable buildings). In most cases, it is necessary to mobilize both public and private capital in order to obtain synergies of skills and thus have the greatest possible impact. Partnerships of this type are real accelerators of initiatives. For example is the Paris lighting, which is the result of an alliance between the private company EVESA and the Paris City Hall.

Example of a bilateral public-private funding partnership: Paris fond vert

This territorial investment fund dedicated to the ecological transition, managed by the company Demeter, is a perfect example of a public-private alliance initiated by the City of Paris. The objective of this collaboration is to invest in SMEs with high growth potential that have already found their business model and will develop innovative solutions for Paris and its inhabitants in the field of ecological transition. To ensure the sustainability of these projects, it is possible to identify two key areas:

  • Financial profitability
  • Optimization of the territorial impact

This scheme has set itself an investment target of €200 million and seems to be on track with a first round of funding of €100 million last July.

Example of government failure: Housing insecurity in Central America

In many cases, it is possible to witness the devastation that can result from the lack of investment by public authorities in access to decent housing for all. The example of Central America is all the more alarming because it is a geographical area very vulnerable to climatic events and has a very high population density (84 inhabitants/km² and 50 million inhabitants). Today, 7.5 million people live in precarious housing in Central America. In such a context, it would be natural for the public authorities to seize a phenomenon of this magnitude, however Central America is one of the most unequal regions in the redistribution of land. Indeed, a large part of the population is in conflict with the State and the paramilitaries, due in large part to a redistribution of institutional resources biased by corruption. To take the example of Salvador, 80% of the population does not have access to decent housing due to a lack of resources, while the State invests less than 1% of its budget in social housing.

To respond to this disengagement on the part of public authorities, organizations are replacing it and responding to an urgent need: to make housing a right and a necessity in these regions. Habitat-Cité works internationally for solidarity and support actions towards vulnerable populations. Its objective is to strengthen local skills to improve living spaces (train craftsmen, and women, exchange and disseminate good practices) and consequently the inclusion of populations. Their model is based on an analysis of what people have historically done in response to environmental constraints and then promotes learning. This approach is intended to support change rather than provide it.

The issue of financing can also be addressed unilaterally by the private sector, as the example of solidarity banks shows. Initiatives of this type help accelerating the transition to sustainable models by financing innovation. For example, La Nef, which is present at the Forum Convergences, is a specialized credit institution in the form of a cooperative. Its status allows it to offer savings and credit solutions oriented towards projects with a social, ecological and/or cultural utility. It is through the creation of financial tools for citizen participation that it sets in motion and supports new ways of producing, consuming, undertaking and living.


Recycling, a central sector of the sustainable transition of cities and inclusive of all stakeholders. Focus on the challenges of plastics and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).

To illustrate these new partnerships between the various transition actors, recycling seems to be one of the most appropriate issues. Indeed, this activity requires particular attention and follow-up from all existing stakeholders if it want to be operational on a large scale. It is the result of a long process and includes a multitude of actors, from the company to the citizen and including local authorities. To promote such initiatives, companies as CITEO are created with the objective of developing an ecosystem around the circular economy and thus meeting the two main current recycling constraints: technology and economics. Driven by the companies themselves, this structure aims to respond to the entire recycling chain by providing support ranging from eco-design to communication and compliance.

It is to the industrial producing companies to finance the end-of-life management of their products

Jean Hornain


Focus on plastic:

Worldwide, plastic production is exponential. In 20 years, more plastic has been produced than in 50 years before 1998. Plastic production generates 400,000 tons of CO2 worldwide each year, the equivalent of the emissions of a country like France. The Coca-Cola Company has launched a large-scale campaign with the objective of recovering 100% of the plastic packaging produced by the brand by 2030. Nevertheless, as Arnaud Rolland, CSR Director at Coca-Cola European Partners France, reminds us, today the demand for recycled plastic is greater than the supply. This is a paradox in France, given that every second bottle is recycled.

However, a ton of plastic costs 1000 euros and companies know it. In addition, the more complicated the packaging, the more packaging there is, and the higher the costs will be for the company: both for production and recycling. This observation calls for greater efforts to be made in terms of technological innovation, which is still too limited today, particularly in terms of recycling and alternative materials. It is necessary to create materials that do not generate waste or non-disposable waste with a new logistics circuit.

The process is therefore underway in some large companies and the main blocking points are the lack of homogenization of an ecosystem where all stakeholders should be included in the process. Under these conditions, as Arnaud Schwartz of France Nature Environnement and member of the European Economic and Social Committee points out, it is crucial to sensitive citizens through partnerships with public and private organizations about this transgenerational issue.

The development of this sector therefore lies in the synchronization of these actors in order to be as efficient as possible. All strata are concerned by the need to simplify sorting for households by modernizing sorting centers so that, by 2025, no packaging remains without a solution (plastic/aluminum mixture). It is also a question of organizing a collection “in a colossal way” by raising awareness among citizens. The production actors must also review their model by integrating more technological innovations, thus reducing their environmental impact.

Focus on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE):

In a completely different approach, the management of WEEE, especially in developing countries, poses very different challenges: rapid growth and significant management constraints in view of some of the toxic components that constitute them. The fact that recycling is not yet part of local culture, in Africa for example, and that people keep their old equipment is an additional challenge in the treatment of WEEE.

The WEEECAM project, which received the IPPAG International Convergence Award, initiated by Solidarité Technologique, for the moment located in Cameroon but which could be exported to the rest of Africa, aims to collect and process these WEEE. This project aims to demonstrate the economic viability of recycling through institutional and financial partnerships while including civil society in the process. The question here is who should be included in such a mechanism and how. Theoretically, European countries are also responsible for the management of electronic waste because they are the producing countries. African governments are more concerned with security and defense but should set up a legal framework on WEEE, and local institutions must be made responsible for the implementation of legal texts in this area. NGOs, such as Solidarité Technologique, have the role of contributing to raising everyone’s awareness in order to create a homogeneous whole that acts as an ecosystem.


Valuation of innovations and good practices:

Innovation is at the center of the evolution of good practices. However, in order for their impact to be real, it is crucial to give them visibility, which is not always the case. It is under these conditions that the CGET and La Fonda have promoted the “carrefour des innovations sociales” (crossroads of social innovations), a project that aimed at identifying all the social innovations in France. This tool will make it possible to visualize good practices as a whole, a major challenge, particularly in the context of the transition of cities. Indeed, having a national and precise vision of territorial innovations makes it possible to promote the networking of project leaders and support staff and thus boost the sector.

The revitalization of territories involves also in many cases the creation of complementary and citizen local currencies. Indeed, this trend reflects a general desire on the part of citizens to be inked in their territory and is a credible alternative for consumption. A practice that requires a global change in consumption habits but allows the development of local innovations. With a desire to develop short circuits and circular economy through partnerships and synergies, MLCCs respond to the challenge of accessibility and visibility among the initiators of good practices. These awareness-raising tools against overconsumption help guide citizens towards services that are committed to the sustainable transition of their territory. Today, there is the problem of financing and developing a sustainable business model that would bring these new currencies into a broader dimension. To do this, more than 30 local currencies have gathered to create the “Mouvement Sol” in order to raise their voice up to public authorities. Among them, the Convergence World Forum had the opportunity to host La Gonette: local currency of the Lyon area, Une monnaie pour Paris (A currency for Paris): La Pêche and Mytroc with its nuts. In this sense, these structures are increasing calls to public authorities through media forums such as the one in Le Monde published last March.

In order to make these initiatives more accessible to the citizen, the POI Company aims to digitize part of the process by using the “block chain” as a basis. This application will reward responsible consumption by offering local currency. This initiative will connect currencies and facilitate their acquisition.


  • Juliette Decq, Carbone 4
  • Stéphanie Chrétien, Demeter – Paris Fonds Vert
  • Myriam Maestroni, Économie d’Énergie
  • Célia Blauel, Ville de Paris
  • Felipe Gordillo, BNP Paribas
  • Timothée Quellard, Ekodev
  • Laura Brimont, Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales (IDDRI)
  • Meriem, Gazzar, Clem
  • Nicolas Malpiece, EcoAct
  • Bénédicte Pachod, Commissariat général à l’égalité des territoires (CGET)
  • Emmanuel Dupont, Association de préfiguation du Carrefour des Innovations Sociales
  • Sylvain Maschino, Fédération nationale des Caisses d’Épargne (FNCE)
  • Léna Geitner, Ronalpia
  • Do Huynh, Carton Plein
  • Olivier Moles, CRA Terre
  • Natalia Quiñonez, FUNDASAL
  • Annabella Orange, Habitat-Cité
  • Lucile Schmid, La Fabrique écologique
  • Stéphanie Bouziges-Eschmann, Secrétariat du Fonds Français pour l’environnement mondial
  • Patrick     d’Hugues, Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières (BRGM)
  • Boris De Fautereau, La Guilde
  • Armel Poughela, Solidarité Technologique
  • Eva Ah-Kow, Syctom
  • Carlos Moreno, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
  • Vincent   Caillebaut, Architecte
  • Michèle Sabban, R20
  • Luca Pupulin, IMPACT Initiative
  • Mahmoud Mohieldin, Banque mondiale
  • Sharyn Sassen, Future Cape Town
  • Gerald Maradan, EcoAct
  • Laurent  Auguste, Veolia
  • Valérie Fobe, BeeOdiversity
  • Jean-Patrick Scheepers, PEAS&LOVE
  • Claire Duizabo, Entourage
  • Marianne Guyon, Les Connexions
  • Charlotte Jamet, La Koncepterie
  • Bruno De Menna, Mouvement sol
  • Sarah Tartarin, Une monnaie pour Paris
  • Alexandre Mézard, POI
  • Floriane Addad, My Troc
  • Jean-Vincent Jéhanno, La Gonette
  • Amandine Albizzati, La Nef
  • Clément Fournier,
  • Catherine Gomy, Fédération Envie
  • Olivia Conil Lacoste, Bouygues Immobilier
  • Stéphane Hallaire, Reforest’Action
  • Catherine Pouliquen, Crédit Agricole Immobilier
  • Régis Boigegrain, Réseau de transport d’électricité (RTE)
  • Sébastien Maire, Ville de Paris
  • Giulietta Gamberini, La Tribune
  • Laura Chatel, Zero Waste
  • Sylviane Oberlé, Association des Maires de France
  • Arnaud Rolland, Coca-Cola European Partners France
  • François Demeure dit Latte, Suez & Reco France
  • Jean Hornain, Citeo
  • Arnaud Schwartz, France Nature Environnement et Comité économique et social européen