Currently, there is no international consensus on the problem of global food security or on possible solutions for how to nourish a population of 9 billion by 2050. Freshwater scarcity is already a global problem, and forecasts suggest a growing gap by 2030 between annual freshwater demand and renewable supply. The outlook for improved sanitation still looks bleak for over 1.1 billion people and 844 million people still lack access to clean drinking water. Collectively, these crises are severely impacting the possibility of sustaining prosperity worldwide and achieving the Millennium Development Goals for reducing extreme poverty. They are also compounding persistent social problems, such as job losses, socioeconomic insecurity, disease, and social instability. The causes of these crises vary, but at a fundamental level they all share a common feature: a lack of investment in modern, smart, infrastructures. During the last two decades relatively little was invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transportation, sustainable agriculture, ecosystem and biodiversity protection, and land and water conservation.
Reconciling the competing economic development aspirations of rich and poor countries might imply offering a development path that reduces carbon dependency, promotes resource and energy efficiency, and lessens environmental degradation. That is investing in changing and substituting existing technologies to more developed ones that can lead to new complementarities. Most renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines or solar panels, considerably reduce the amount of natural capital that is sacrificed in their construction and the lifetime of their operation, compared to fossil fuel burning technologies. Both of these types of solutions – setting thresholds and altering technologies – are important for achieving a sustainable future.
It is against this background that the 'Communities of Competence' on urban services has been established.
Towards a Green Economy, United Nations Environment Programme, 2011