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The United Nations will review SDG11 this year – here’s what cities should know

Karolina Eklöw Mon, 06 February 2023

2023 is a big year for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general. It’s also a big one  for SDG11 (Cities) in particular.

There are two reasons: first, the upcoming High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in July, followed by the second Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) in September – halfway to 2030. Cities have a window of opportunity to improve the uptake of their progress. 

  • Cities are making sure their progress is highlighted through working with national governments, reporting to international data collection systems and civil society engagements. 
  • Cities make sure their climate action contribute to SDG targets by monitoring costs and co-benefits, and getting a holistic overview. 
  • Cities with digital tools have a lower threshold in their reporting and public engagements thanks to the inherent transparency. 

What to expect at the SDG review at HLPF in July?

From July 10 to July 20 2023, governmental delegations and NGOs are heading to New York to showcase progress (and regress). During the three-day ministerial segment of the forum, member states will present their status on SDG11 and share their experiences and best practices. The other highlighted goals are SDG6 (Water), SDG7 (Energy), SDG9 (Innovation) and SDG17 (Partnerships) in 2023. 

The review will be based around Voluntary National Reviews showing progress made so far. It’s to be expected that points will be made on access to financing for cities to successfully deliver on the SDGs. 


What will we learn about city data in 2023? 

There’s more than the HLPF process in July to map out city data this year. The 2023 GSDR in September is next up. It is a report that comes out once every 4 years - the last GSDR was in 2019. It’s authored by experts from many fields – the Independent Group of Scientists appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General. 

We can expect the data deluge this year to make us smarter when it comes to city action, and which direction we’re heading in. In 2019, the GSDR updated us on the direction of growing cities up until 2050. For instance, by 2050 cities will be the home for 70% of the world’s population and produce 85% of global economic output. 


Source: GSDR (2019). Redesign: ClimateView (2023) 


How can cities make sure their progress is highlighted? 

While governments and the UN have an oiled machinery for gathering statistics and running databases, it’s in your interest (yes, you, working in a city) for the SDG process to take into account your achievements. Here’s how you can do that: 

  • Collaborate with their national governments: By tightening their communication with national governments, cities share information and ensure that their data is included in the HLPF review process.
  • Use international data collection systems: Existing data collection systems, such as the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, are great means to gather and report on their progress towards the SDGs.
  • Create transparent reporting: Make sure that anyone who wants to access your data, can access your data. Cities can report to actors like CDP and create transparent reporting systems to ensure that their data is updated, visualized and easily accessible.
  • Engage civil society: Cities can engage with civil society organizations and NGOs contributing to the UN reporting, or attending through national delegations. 

By following these steps, cities can help to ensure that their progress towards the SDGs is nicely reflected in the two processes (and beyond) this year. 


How can your city climate action contribute to SDG work?

Theoretically, all climate action contributes to the SDGs – it’s in the nature of the interdependent 2030 Agenda, right? 

But it’s not that easy to monitor the co-benefits. To manage that, many cities are leapfrogging into digital governance where they rely on data tracking, stakeholder integration and co-benefit calculations. This way, cities monitor their status and identify areas where they need to improve and make data-driven decisions. Cities using digital climate planning tools advance their SDG progress while at it. 

When the plan is publicly available online, cities build a standard of transparency that invites all citizens to take part of the journey to a sustainable future.  Cities in North America, Japan and Europe are using ClimateOS to monitor their climate planning – measuring their progress against local indicators. The ClimateOS platform builds on Transition Elements which helps cities to advance their climate planning and therefore their contribution to multiple SDG targets. 

A window of opportunity 

In conclusion, all eyes are on SDG data this year. Lots of it will be updated city data. Local governments have a window of opportunity to make sure their progress is taken into account at the two SDG highlights in 2023, HLPF and GSDR. 

To do so, climate-forward cities can streamline data reporting with digital governance, monitoring their status through data tracking, stakeholder integration, and co-benefit calculations, and building transparency through publicly available online climate planning. This helps when they collaborate with their national governments, contribute to international data collection systems and engage civil society. 

Does digital climate planning in cities have anything do with the SDGs? Yes, here's a factsheet!
Ps. This blog's header is part of a campaign by Project Everyone.