Climate Smart Cities – New city-focused climate innovation competition launched

UN-Habitat and Sweden today launched the Climate Smart Cities Challenge at the Swedish Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai to accelerate the shift to climate neutral cities.

The Climate Smart Cities Challenge invites innovative organisations of different types and sizes to submit their best approaches, solutions and technologies to reduce carbon emissions while providing positive impacts on the quality of life in four cities – Bogota, Colombia; Bristol, United Kingdom; Curitiba, Brazil and Makindye Ssabagabo, Uganda.

The climate challenges of these four cities range from green and affordable homes, net-zero-carbon neighbourhoods to urban freight management. Up to 20 finalists per city will be invited to form teams to demonstrate how to solve the cities’ climate challenges.

“Cities are at the heart of the climate change problem. But cities are also the key to the solution. Cities need to take climate change seriously and significantly reduce their carbon emissions, while improving their resilience and adaptability to climate-related disasters and negative effects. Now is the time for action,” said UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

The Climate Smart Cities Challenge uses an open innovation competition process, where teams of innovators are selected to collaborate with cities and investors to demonstrate climate smart approaches that will inform future investments in the cities.

Tommy Mikelsen, Director at Swedish Export Credit Corporation (SEK) said: “We welcome financial institutions to partner with us in finding ways of financing the transition in the four cities and beyond.”

The outcomes of the competition will have a significant impact on the four cities’ responses to climate change by significantly strengthening their capacity to engage in diverse partnerships, enabling communities and innovators to play a key and often new role collaborating with government and stakeholders in designing people-driven solutions and reinvent the way that cities innovate.

During the launch event, Dr. Gunveena Chadda, Director of India Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, received the first birdhouse.

With over 190 countries present at Expo 2020 Dubai, the country pavilions provide an opportunity to reach out to innovators globally. In order to attract innovators from around the world to the competition, each country pavilion at the Expo has been provided with a ‘birdhouse’, where innovators can leave their contact details.

“A mission-oriented and people-centered innovation challenge process will provide a platform for a whole range of organizations across different sectors to participate, creating a movement to speed up the climate transition,” said Olga Kordas, Director of the Swedish strategic innovation programme Viable Cities.

The competition was launched on 3 November 2021 at Expo 2020 Dubai. Deadline for submissions is 5 January 2022. Up to 80 finalists will be presented on 20 January 2022. This will be followed by a process to form winning teams that will plan for system demonstration.

More information about the Climate Smart Cities Challenge and how to enter a submission can be found on

Press contact:

Elcim Yilmaz

[email protected]


Pontus Westerberg, UN-Habitat

[email protected]


Olle Armstrand Dierks, Viable Cities

[email protected]

All partners:

Viable Cities, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the Swedish Engineering Association (Teknikföretagen), Vinnova, Swedish Energy Agency, Office of the Mayor of Bogotá, Secretaries of Mobility and Environment, Bristol City Council & Bristol Housing Festival, IPPUC – Urban Planning and research Institute of Curitiba & Curitiba City Hall, Makindye Ssabagabo Municipal Council, ABB, Business Sweden, Ignite Sweden, Mission Innovation, Nesta Challenges, NIR, Scania, Sveriges Allmänna Utrikeshandelsförening (SAU), Swedish Export Credit Corporation (SEK), Smart City Sweden, Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, Swedish Institute and Swedish Secretariat for Expo 2020 Dubai.

More information:

The four cities of Climate Smart Cities Challenge

Bogotá, Colombia. Challenge: Improve freight mobility and reduce congestion-based greenhouse gas emissions in Bogotá.

Nicolas Estupiñan, Secretary of Mobility:

”Freight in Bogotá is a major cause for greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. We invite you to participate in Climate Smart Cities Challenge, to help us find innovative solutions so we can contribute to fight climate change, improve air quality and enhance mobility logistics.”

Bristol, United Kingdom. Challenge: Contribute to a new model for delivering affordable, carbon-neutral homes in Bristol.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol:

“As One City, we are delighted to be supporting the Climate Smart Cities Challenge, with Bristol as one of four finalists. We are committed to addressing the twin challenges of the housing crisis and the climate emergency. We want to hear from people with their innovative solutions for building good quality homes for people to live in, while reaching net zero carbon as quickly as possible in the build process. Bristol is an ambitious city that is already demonstrating global leadership in how we address issues of common concern. We look forward to seeing the responses to the Climate Smart Cities Challenge as we work together so that future generations have a planet to inhabit with a good quality of life.”

Curitiba, Brazil. Challenge: Advance new models for creating zero-carbon neighborhoods in Curitiba.

Luiz Fernando Jamur, president of the Institute for Research and Urban Planning of Curitiba (IPPUC):

“Curitiba’s participation among the selected cities for the Climate Smart Cities Challenge strengthens the principles of orderly development already established in the Master Plan. Curitiba’s pragmatism in complying with what is established in its development plan is what has ensured, over time, the success of the projects applied in our city. The support of UN-Habitat, Viable Cities and other partners in Sweden are of great value to add experiences and innovations aiming at the common challenge of climate change”.

Makindye Ssabagabo, Uganda. Challenge: Propose scalable ways to develop zero-carbon, energy-efficient, affordable homes in Makindye Ssabagabo.

Ssemwanga Godfrey, Mayor of Makindye Ssabagabo:

”The Climate Smart Cities Challenge presents the city a golden opportunity to address challenges of GHG emissions and acute housing shortages while meeting Sustainable Development Goals 10, 11, 13 and 17”

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