Urban Transformation Summit Showcases Local Impact on Social Housing, Climate Action and Energy Transition

16 Oct 2023

World Economic Forum, public.affairs@weforum.org

  • Government, business and civil society leaders from more than 25 countries met in Detroit at the World Economic Forum’s Urban Transformation Summit to accelerate urban prosperity and resiliency in cities.
  • The summit recognized three public-private collaborations in Toronto, Canada, Sønderborg, Denmark, and Belgrade, Serbia, for their work on creating social housing, lowering carbon emissions and innovating waste-to-energy solutions.
  • The Forum launched a series of new efforts to mobilize action in support of more sustainable and inclusive cities and urban economies.
  • Read more about the Centre for Urban Transformation here.

Detroit, USA, 16 October 2023 – As cities continue to grapple with an unpredictable economy, climate change, migration and an affordability crisis, 200 global leaders from more than 25 countries gathered in Detroit, USA, to forge and amplify collaborations between government, business and civil society to lay the foundation for a more sustainable recovery.

“Cities face new challenges as we continue to emerge from the pandemic,” said Jed Kolko, Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs of the United States, who participated in the opening panel of the World Economic Forum’s Urban Transformation Summit 2023. He added that the US is targeting tens of billions of dollars in place-based investments to support places with pressing needs and untapped capacities.

"Across the globe, cities are grappling with a daunting convergent of economic, social and environmental crises, which left unchecked, could threaten the global economy and public well-being,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of Urban Transformation at the World Economic Forum. “Fortunately, in the face of these challenges, new alliances are emerging as governments and business leaders take decisive action to diversify and nurture local economies, fortify urban infrastructure, enhance city services, and invest in innovative new solutions.”

The summit showcased world-leading examples where cities are collaborating with the business community and other stakeholders to improve lives, drive climate action and create more resilient economies.

“Detroit is the city where the future of the mobility industry is being designed and developed,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “As great entrepreneurs dream up innovative new ideas, we are working to make doing business in Detroit easy and attainable. Detroit can and will be a magnet for this innovation.”

Models for collaboration

The summit recognized three public-private partnerships for their ground-breaking outcomes around social housing, carbon emissions and waste-to-energy innovation.

In Toronto, Canada, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation worked with the Daniels Corporation to create a vibrant mixed-use, mixed-income neighbourhood through a multi-phase redevelopment that engaged the original residents throughout the planning process and ensured them a right of return. The community is now comprised of affordable and market-rate housing, as well as parks and sports facilities, office and retail, and a community centre.

“The Regent Park revitalization demonstrates that involving community voices can lead to positive change, and the partnership and collaboration amongst stakeholders not only transformed Regent Park, but also provides a blueprint for successful revitalization efforts internationally,” said Heela Omarkhail, Vice-President of Social Impact at the Daniels Corporation.

In Denmark, the municipality of Sonderborg collaborated with the Bitten & Mads Clausen Foundation to create ProjectZero, an initiative to reduce local carbon emissions. To date, the project has realized a 57% reduction in carbon from energy usage.

“Cities account for more than 70% of annual global carbon emissions and it’s crucial that we learn from each other,” said Rick Sporrer, President of the North American Region for Danfoss. “A public-private partnership like ProjectZero is replicable, adaptable and scalable for other cities around the world and can help us achieve our global climate goals.”

In Serbia, the City of Belgrade and Beo Čista Energija partnered to close the Vinca landfill that emitted 90 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. By the end of 2023, both an energy-from-waste plant and a landfill gas facility will produce renewable energy.

“This Project enables 15 municipalities in Belgrade to dispose of municipal waste at a sanitary landfill after 44 years, replacing traditional open dump site, and delivers new facilities for waste treatment and energy production,” said Mitsuaki Harada, Managing Director of Beo Čista Energija.

Meeting outcomes

  • The Forum launched the Alliance for Urban Innovation to support the development and growth of innovation ecosystems in key cities across the globe.
  • Public and private sector leaders committed to work with the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance to ensure that new advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning can be leveraged to advance urban sustainability and equity goals.
  • Members of the Global Commission on Nature-Positive Cities outlined new activities to help accelerate the development of green buildings and address air pollution in cities.
  • Innovations districts committed to help pilot and scale approaches to combat bias within startup funding, such as those employed by TechTown Detroit.
  • The Forum, in collaboration with Infosys and C40 cities, announced a new model policy to help cities create legislation for whole life carbon assessments for new construction.
  • Members of the Global New Mobility Coalition scoped new areas for collaboration including opportunities to leverage new technologies to help address last-mile transportation and logistics challenges within cities.

Notes to editors

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

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