While all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious, you can make a strong case that SDG11 is among the most stretching of goals. In aiming to make cities “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, it sets itself a challenge that gets bigger with each passing day.
There are even opportunities to leapfrog some essential infrastructure, such as energy and water, says Clinton Andrews, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University.
“You can rely more heavily on distributed energy systems, so that you can serve microgrids with district energy while waiting for the overall grid to assemble itself,” he says. “And there have been advances in small-scale water treatment, so you don’t necessarily need giant water treatment plants.” This opens the way to relying on lots of smaller facilities, which are easier to align with the uneven growth expectations of developing world cities.