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- UN-Habitat Executive Director: World Cities Day Message
Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require far reaching transitions in cities in the coming two decades.Our responsibility is to support urban climate action in every country, city and community.
UN-Habitat supports transformative actions in countries, regions, cities and communities in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. UN-Habitat helps partners to develop robust adaptation and mitigation plans and strategies to prepare human settlements to withstand climatic extremes, through multi-level and pro-poor approaches. Ambitious climate action is embedded at all levels in our work to help accelerate transformation well before 2030.
Cities are one of the corner stones in our quest to limit warming to 1.5°C, an absolutely critical threshold to avoid the future we don’t want. In order to limit warming to 1.5 ͦC, we must reduce GHG emissions by 40 to 50 % before 2030 from 2010 levels. This will require bold and ambitious efforts and changes in the way we plan, design, build and manage cities.
Scale matters. Cities will be hardest hit by floods, extreme heat or water stress affecting large numbers and massive interventions will be required to address the growing challenges. Climate action needs to be ambitious as cities grow at a fast pace in some regions. The urban population is increasing by 1.3 million people, the population of Copenhagen or Bamako, every week. The transition towards sustainable cities has begun where leaders have understood that there is no time to waste given the scale and speed of this transition.
Starting with the poor. Because climate change is a poverty multiplier, we need to start with the displaced marginalized groups who have already escaped climate-related disasters. We also need to prepare the most vulnerable communities and make them resilient to upcoming risks. Participatory approaches to preparedness and climate resilience are needed; engaging citizens, civil society and the private sector to take responsible climate action.
Cities are where global and local priorities intersect. Introducing a low carbon city mobility plan not only cuts future emissions, but also brings new jobs to communities while improving lifestyles and health.
Cities and communities are where joint climate action start, learning to live and build a sustainable future differently together, coping with the rapid changes to come towards a low carbon fossil-free future.
Urbanization is fast in some part of the world. We need to find ways to also mitigate and adapt fast as well in order to cope with the pace of change.
- Planning differently. Cities need to take steps to address climate changeby promoting climate-proof planning, setting emissions reductions targets, and outlining strategies to reduce these emissions along innovative urban design and mobility plans.
- Building differently. GHG emissions from buildings represent approximately one quarter of total global emissions. In order to remain under the 5°C threshold, emissions from buildings must be reduced by 80 to 90 % by 2050, at the same time that huge new areas of urban development are built. This requires retrofitting 5% of all buildings in developed countries every year from 2020, and ensuring new urban construction becomes fossil fuel free. the same time, we need to anticipate the impacts of extreme weather and be much more proactive in making buildings and infrastructure resilient through affordable yet robust low-carbon technologies and approaches, along efficient compact urban design.
- Managing differently. We have already begun a great transition towards sustainable living, valuing preservation and resource optimization. A more proactive approach is needed through harnessing effective solutions to ensure resources are minimized and fully reutilized, by improving waste management, generating clean and resource-efficient energy, decarbonizing the electric grid and enabling the next-generation mobility. This starts at the community level by engaging all stakeholders – individuals, the private sector, government and civil society – to collaborate.