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City life can be deeply unfair. This was true before the coronavirus pandemic exposed just how differently the rich and poor are able to cope with lockdowns, from the ability to work from home to access to green space. The pandemic’s devastating impacts on vulnerable groups have only widened existing fault lines tied to income, race and postal codes.
Cities face much longer-term trends underlying vulnerability for hundreds of millions of people. Even as poverty has declined globally, the share of poor people living in urban areas is rising worldwide. Meanwhile, cities are more likely to experience flooding and extreme heat than in years past, and the poorest residents are hardest hit by these events. Increasingly, cities need solutions that address both climate change and inequality together.
The good news is that cities remain creative dynamos, constantly innovating and changing. Below are five big ideas for how to reduce urban inequality and respond to climate change at the same time. Chosen from more than 260 submissions, these projects are the finalists for the 2020-2021 WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities.