Madrid, Spain, 25 November 2021 – As part of the World Cities Day celebrations, UN-Habitat and Fundación Biodiversidad organised a session titled "Biodiversity, resilience and quality of life in cities". The session discussed around the importance of integrating nature in urban areas to achieve healthy, resilient, comfortable and sustainable cities.
During the opening session in October, the Secretary of State for Environment of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Hugo Morán, highlighted, through a video message, that “about 70 per cent of the global population live in cities and the trend will increase in the coming decades”. Represented by Sofía Sanz, his director of the Cabinet, emphasized that “the history of cities must be written in green and blue. Urban nature is a key ally against climate change, and we have the Green Deal that aims to make Europe the first green continent.
Carmen Sánchez-Miranda, head of the UN-Habitat Office in Spain, emphasized that “70 per cent of the infrastructure has not yet been built. We have the opportunity for the construction of urban environments to be sustainable, fair, safe and resilient. If we do not get cities to improve resilience to the climate crisis, it could cost $ 300 billion.”
The meeting continued with a roundtable moderated by Carlos Mataix, director of the Center for Innovation in Technology for Human Development of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (itdUPM). Participant of the roundtable were Elena Pita, director of Fundación Biodiversidad, Francisco Javier Sigüenza, Secretary General of the Association of Green Infrastructure Management Companies (ASEJA), Leire Pajín, Director of Global Development of the Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) of Barcelona, Santiago Saura, Delegate of the Internationalization and Cooperation Area of the Madrid City Council, and Celia Ojeda, project leader of "Hack your city" from Greenpeace International.
Elena Pita stressed that "we believe that sustainability is key, projects that are promoted must be integrated into an action-oriented plan at different scales." Francisco Javier Sigüenza remarked that "a series of barriers to climate action have been identified, such as infrastructure, capacity or political barriers." Leire Pajín stated that “before the pandemic we asked for health be a key element of urban development. There is mortality related to the lack of green spaces and that is where urban planners, health experts and other specialists must work together”. Santiago Saura highlighted the importance of “connecting, adapting, collaborating and taking advantage of green infrastructures and connecting each other. Adapt the infrastructure to climate change and make it self-sufficient". Celia Ojeda mentioned the importance of making "cities, neighborhoods and districts socially green, fair and feminist."
Before the roundtable, Esteban Leon, head of UN-Habitat's City Resilience Profiling Programme, intervened virtually highlighting the importance of urban resilience to achieve better cities and urban areas, safe and sustainable where the most sustainable solutions go from the hand of biodiversity and nature.
After the roundtable, the moderator started a dialogue with the public. The Executive Director of ECODES, Víctor Viñuales pointed out that “changes in the city require a lot of will. How do we streamline them? Generating, in a participatory way, a hopeful city dream. Civil Society and all urban actors involved must also participate”. Valentín Alfaya, President of the Spanish Green Growth Group, stressed that “projects with be developed with certainty ensuring their scale to be attractive to investors”. Alicia Torrego. Director of the CONAMA Foundation pointed out that "it is essential to give a voice to people who are prepared from an environmental point of view to transform cities".
To conclude the session, Inés Sánchez de Madariaga. UNESCO Chair on gender equiality policies in science, technology and innovation of the School of Architecture of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (ETSAM-UPM) and president of the Association of Women Architects of Spain (AMAE) mentioned the importance that “environmental sustainability has to be compatible with gender equality which not always go together. It is necessary to ensure that policies do not conflict each other”.