What does "Resource Efficiency" mean to cities? Results from a Global City Survey.


As the functioning and wellbeing of the world’s cities relies on significant supplies of natural resources, increasing resource inefficiencies, scarcity and degradation threaten to constrain the future growth and sustainable development of cities. 10 South Asian cities from Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and India, amongst the 98 across 38 countries and 7 regions participated in the Global City Survey on Resource-Efficiency in Cities by ICLEI and UNEP, conducted by ICLEI from December 2012-July 2013 which was a step towards providing a status assessment on how cities perceive “resource efficiency” within their responsibilities, and to identify eventual gaps and city needs in this regard.  


The survey was part of a comprehensive review for the UNEP-led Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC) to determine how cities understand "resource efficiency" within their responsibilities and scope of action, and what their priorities and needs are for improving their resource efficiency. The report, summarising and analysing the survey results, addresses various questions: 

  • What does "Resource Efficiency" mean to cities? 
  • What is the current state of city resources? 
  • Which governance and resource management approaches are used?
  • Experiences from implementation: what are main success factors?
  • What support do cities need in order to improve their resource efficiency?


In the survey, cities called for assistance and access to support programmes for capacity building, obtaining financing, and access to an extensive network of technical expertise. Likewise, they had signaled that innovation is a key success factor: there is no doubt that new technological solutions will need to play a key role for more efficient use of resources. The Global Survey showed that the theme of “resource efficiency” has arrived in cities, but that the concept needs operationalisation for it to be mainstreamed widely into urban strategies, policies and implementation plans. Resource efficiency is understood as a holistic concept that should be anchored in the notion of “quality of life”.


Some of the key findings of this survey were as follows:

  • Cities need practical guidance for defining and operationalising the concept of resource efficiency for different sectors at the city level - including the identification of opportunities for resource optimization from integrated policy and cross-sectoral management.
  • It is crucial to better promote the business case for investment to strengthen the political motivation for action, as well as existing innovative financing schemes.
  • The three elements that shape cities’ perceptions: Effective risk (actual exposure), prior experience, and level of awareness.
  • Resource challenges are context specific – Region and location are critical factors when assessing resources at risk.


If we are to deal with globally shared issues related to resource depletion, environmental degradation and climate change in an increasingly urban future, it will be indispensable to have cities and their local authorities on board. Therefore, it is crucial that they receive the support, information and encouragement needed to overcome their challenges.


Get the brief summary here, download the Executive Summary, or get the Full report here.



ENG | ES | FR | PT | KR | JP | CN