Globally, more people live in urban areas than in rural areas, with 54 per cent of the world’s population residing in urban areas in 2014. In 1950, 30 per cent of the world’s population was urban, and by 2050, 66 per cent of the world’s population is projected to be urban. 73 per cent of the population in Europe and 82 per cent in Northern America live in cities, and the share of the urban population is continuously increasing.
Cities are major consumers of energy and producers of carbon emissions. In the UNECE region, buildings alone are responsible for approximately one third of total energy consumption and account for almost forty per cent of CO2 emissions. Unsustainable urban development creates even greater inequalities and marginalizes the most vulnerable populations. Addressing urban challenges requires urgent attention and application of innovative and integrated approaches.
The Austrian capital city of Vienna is a source of multiple best practices on sustainable housing and urban development. In the city, housing is affordable, there is a high social mix, excellent public transport services, and inhabitants enjoy a high quality natural environment. The City of Vienna leads the campaign “Housing for All” promoting sustainable housing and smart sustainable cities principles, which are grounded among others in the Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing. The Geneva Charter is a non-legally binding document adopted by UNECE in 2015 that aims to support countries as they seek to ensure access to decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all.
Vienna is preparing to hold an international housing exhibition “IBA Wien” which will take place in 2022. The exhibition will showcase best practices in housing construction and management. As part of the preparations for the Exhibition, the City of Vienna and the UNECE Committee on Housing and Land Management organised an international Conference on Sustainable Housing, held on 12-13 April 2018. This provided the opportunity to explore progress in achieving access to affordable and decent housing for all in the UNECE region through the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the New Urban Agenda and the Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing.
The Conference formulated proposals for the integrated work plan to implement the Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing, and adopted the Vienna Conference Message on Sustainable Housing on access to adequate, affordable and decent housing for all. The integrated workplan is further expected to be agreed by the Committee at its 79th session which will take place in Geneva from 3 to 5 October 2018.