FGV study develops step-by-step guide to make cities sustainable 

The guide was officially launched during the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-15), which took place last December


Faced with the challenges of aligning the demands of development with sustainability policies, researchers at the School of Business Administration (Eaesp) of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), together with the organization Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and other partners, have created the Green and Blue Infrastructure Guide, which demonstrates a step-by-step on how to make cities sustainable, focusing onimproving local governancein relation to: Food, Water, and Energy (FWE).

According to the researcher in charge of the project, José Puppim, the accelerated urbanization without planning, climate change and loss of biodiversity can generate food insecurity and shortage of water and energy, since the consumption of these three elements will increase significantly in the coming decades, especially in cities. "These are some of the issues that most concern the world population today and that can generate major consequences for the coming years, especially within the cities," Puppim said.

The preparation of the Green and Blue Infrastructure Guide was supported by JPI Urban Europe and Belmont Forum, a program that brings together 30 funders, encompassing several projects to make sustainable cities, using green and blue infrastructure. FGV's participation in this Guide is directed towards governance, that is, focused on understanding how municipalities are dealing with the Food, Water and Energy systems, and how it is possible to improve the management of these resources in order to  reduce the risks of shortages in supply and make the city more sustainable.

The study led by FGV is part of a larger project, IFWEN (Innovative Initiatives to Govern Water, Food, and Energy in Cities). This is a consortium led by FGV Eaesp, which includes Yale University, Stockholm University (Stockholm Resilience Center-SRC), ICLEI, Ming-Chuan University (Taiwan, China), and The Nature of the Cities. It is funded by six research agencies, including the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), among others.

Green infrastructure and blue infrastructure

Jose Puppim says that before considering the Guide, it is necessary to understand what these infrastructures are and why these elements were selected as parameters. "If green infrastructure is more focused on urban forests and agriculture, green roofs, street plantings, conservation areas, etc., blue infrastructure is focused on the urban water system, such as urban wetlands, lakes and ponds, urban rivers, coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and bays, the urban drainage system, among others.

The researcher also explains the importance of the three systems that make up the project: "it is estimated that there will be a large increase in the consumption of food, water, and energy in the next 50 years, and a large part of this consumption will come from the cities. In terms of governance it is evident that cities usually have little management of these systems. For example, much of the food comes from outside the cities, the management of the water system is usually state, while that of energy is federal. This makes it clear how little governance of systems cities have, which prevents them from governing 'green and blue infrastructure',"Puppim said.

Considering the three systems, the Green and Blue Infrastructure Guide (GBI) proposes best practices for governance in categories such as provisioning (water, medical, raw material services), regulation (local temperatures, carbon indexes, water waste), and cultural (recreation, health, aesthetics), in addition to supporting the preservation of species and their habitats in cities.The themes that encompass "Food, Water and Energy", present in the GBI, are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of the United Nations (UN).

Building the Guide

The study that gave rise to the Guide was initiated through the following questions: "Where are we?" and "Where do we want to go andhow can we improve the governance of cities toget there?" First the challenges and problems to be faced were identified, and from there the impacts that affect the population were analyzed, as well as the possible partners capable of being engaged in the fight against these problems. This initiative made it possible to set up an action base, which included the creation of different teams, strategies, scenarios, identification of tools, indicators, resources, etc.

After making the necessary observations about the challenges and the possible ways to solve them, the project reached its implementation phase, which involves communicating the respective plans, applying the proposed solutions, testing alternatives, and recording this process step by step. This phase involves constant reporting of the entire course and monitoring of the actions and results by the researchers.


The guide is aimed at communities, governments, leaders, and researchers, and uses the integration of knowledge about food, water, and energy systems and their best management to avoid waste and generate public policy. In total, 10 cities around the world were initially selected by the researchers for application of the different lessons in "Food, Water and Energy". Later these lessons can be used by other cities with the help of the Green and Blue Infrastructure Guide.

The expectation is that more than 30 cities will use the Guide, among them, in Brazil, are São José dos Campos (SP), which is more immersed in the use of the tools, and Florianópolis (SC), which has already started a new food safety program based onthis study.


Puppim recalls that through climate change and the constant growth in demand, these resources have already taken cities hostage in water, energy, and food crises. Therefore, the idea of this project is to understand how better management of Green and Blue Infrastructure can prevent shortages of these resources.

"We create ways to develop cities in a sustainable way in the three factors, aiming to make them more efficient in the consumption of Food, Water and Energy, using models that already exist," said the researcher when mentioning that the Guide was officially launched on December 14, after being presented atan eventat the UN CBD COP-15, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which took place between December 7 and 19, in Montreal, Canada. You can check out the complete guide here.