Planet Earth (WWF) – Countries should prioritize the environmental aspects of urbanization when they meet to establish new global standards for sustainable urban development at the Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador.
Although cities cover less than 2 per cent of the Earth’s surface, the challenges associated with urban areas are enormous. Cities produce more than 60 per cent of the globe’s CO2 emissions and shelter more than half of the planet’s population, including about three-quarters of the world’s impoverished people.
It’s against this backdrop that UN member states should address the environmental aspects of sustainable urban development, especially the role that cities play in climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as integrated land management that includes biodiversity and ecosystems.
“The road travelled to Habitat III, starting in a participative process in 2014, represents an enormous opportunity in the transition toward a low-carbon future where cities play a key role in achieving a sustainable global footprint and biodiversity conservation,” said Hugo Arnal, Director of WWF-Ecuador.
The centrepiece of the conference that is meeting from 17-20 October will be the adoption of the New Urban Agenda. The agenda will establish global standards of sustainable urban development for the next two decades and should energize global political commitment to the sustainable development of towns, cities and other human settlements.
The success of the conference hinges not only upon the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, but also on the speed with which local and national governments implement related actions, beginning with the development of necessary national and international frameworks. Also essential will be the capacity of Habitat III, national and local governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, and others to support implementation on a local level, especially in cities with limited capacities.
“It is critical to win greater recognition of ecosystem and climate-based approaches in relation to the resilience of cities and human settlements,” said Arnal. “Given the strong interlinkage between the environment and climate change, we need to develop reliable systems to monitor and report greenhouse gas emissions data at city-level.”
If properly implemented, the New Urban Agenda can contribute to the achievement of sustainability goals included in other important international agreements, like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the new global climate deal adopted in Paris last year.
To highlight the role cities can play in reducing the global ecological footprint while improving quality of life, Paris was recognized as the global winner of the 2016 Earth Hour City Challenge at an award ceremony that took place Sunday, 16 October, as part of the Second World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments.
This report prepared by World Wildlife Fund.