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Cities were center stage at the recent UN Summit on Climate Change held in New York City. And while historically cities have been less involved at the UN level than country governments on the topic of climate change, the shift in conversation reinforced our belief that addressing climate change cannot happen without addressing our urbanizing world.

Cities generate around 80 percent of global economic output, and around 70 percent of global energy use and energy-related GHG emissions. How the world’s largest and fastest-growing cities develop will be critical to the future of sustainability and managing climate change. So, how can we reconcile the anticipated growth of urban areas and our dependency on natural resources, with the need to create more efficient, prosperous and economically competitive cities?

Faced with the mounting pressures of population growth and resource depletion, only cities that find ways to manage their resources more efficiently and bridge the disparate systems within a city to optimize performance and value creation will lead the way. Investing in information and data as a resource will allow cities to be able to service increasing populations more efficiently and with less waste. Leveraging data to better manage cities’ infrastructures will assist in providing more higher quality services while at the same time offering greater cost certainty.

We’ve written previously about our approach to smart cities called Microsoft CityNext, in which Microsoft and our worldwide partner network are working with cities to modernize and provide safer, healthier and more educated communities where citizens can thrive. As smart cities and sustainability become more interdependent, we realized the importance of harnessing our expertise and commitment to both of these issues, and bringing them closer together. In order to better address the challenges and opportunities that both cities and our partners face in the increasingly systemic areas of sustainability and cities, my sustainability team and I will be joining forces with our CityNext team to drive greater synergies and opportunities for enabling impact at scale. This new team will allow us to bring together the expertise across Microsoft and drive a more holistic approach to this challenge. What does this mean for the company’s sustainability efforts? The move brings together Microsoft’s corporate sustainability practice with its CityNext efforts and creates opportunities to better leverage our work in energy, carbon, water and IT-enablement. As environmental issues increasingly affect cities and governments, Microsoft has a great opportunity to increase the company’s impact through our continuous efforts to grow and improve in this area. In many ways, this move reflects changes that have been recognized by many of the largest cities around the world.

We hope the combination of our work with cities and sustainability will help us and our partners better explore the linkages between the two – to deliver creative solutions that help cities use technology to their optimal benefit.

We are excited to see where this new transition will lead us, and the future opportunities that will result to work with our partners and cities around the world to help accelerate the positive impact that IT can have on societal and cities’ challenges.