Nairobi, 22 September 2023 — As we approach COP28, the intersection of climate change and sustainable urbanization must be prioritized. That is the narrative that UN-Habitat championed during Nairobi's dynamic week as a global epicenter for climate action. The Africa Climate Summit (ACS) and Africa Climate Week (ACW) were long-awaited events that not only highlighted Africa's unique climate challenges but also underscored the continent's growing importance in global discussions.
Climate action and sustainable urbanization
Africa, despite contributing only 4 per cent of global carbon emissions, faces disproportionate burdens and risks from climate change impacts, including heatwaves, floods, cyclones, and droughts. The future of the continent hinges on its cities, with urban areas expected to house over half of Africa’s population by 2030.
The first-ever Global Stocktake (GST) found that the world is not on track to meet its climate goals. African leaders, understanding that the war against climate change will be won or lost in cities, unanimously vowed their support for the African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action. The Nairobi Declaration underscored the significance of inclusive and sustainable urbanization, emphasizing green growth and resilience to climate change. Launching initiatives along with UN-Habitat, leaders have acknowledged the need for investment in urban infrastructure and nature-based solutions, including upgrading informal settlements and slum areas.
Multi-level climate action and the role of cities
Throughout the week, the importance of multilevel climate action and the pivotal role of cities and local governments in attaining Paris Agreement goals were highlighted. UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, in partnership with the Kenyan government, unveiled the Building Climate Resilience of the Urban Poor (BCRUP) initiative, aimed at empowering marginalized urban communities to withstand climate challenges.
UN-Habitat hosted a panel discussion that brought together African city leaders, national government representatives, and climate experts, highlighting the importance of collaborative multi-level governance and multi-stakeholder partnerships, community engagement, unlocking investments, and fostering innovation. It also showcased the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe) initiative, designed to boost local and urban climate action through integrated tracks focusing on buildings, urban energy, waste and consumption, mobility, and water.
Transforming African cities for resilience
A groundbreaking partnership was announced as UN-Habitat, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the African Union Commission (AUC) united to launch a joint regional programme for "Building Smart Urban Resilience in Africa”. This initiative promises to revitalize African cities, making them more resilient to risks. With a focus on urban planning, infrastructure enhancement, social unity, and the embrace of digital and green technologies, the programme encourages new beginnings for African urban landscapes.
Simultaneously, at the "Power of Participation in Urban Resilience Planning” event, the spotlight shined on the importance of community involvement in resilience planning. The City Resilience Action Planning (CityRAP) methodology, a UN-Habitat initiative, now empowers secondary cities and urban areas to evaluate and enhance their readiness for diverse challenges and risks, including natural disasters, climate change, and social vulnerabilities. This event championed the grassroots approach to resilience, making it a powerful force for positive change.
Shaping a sustainable future
As the week-long event concluded in Nairobi, it left no doubt: climate action is paramount. UN-Habitat, alongside African leaders and global partners, remains committed to a sustainable urban future. These discussions pave the way for COP28, where UN-Habitat will co-host a Ministerial Meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change, amplifying these initiatives globally.