12 January 2024 — In the bustling corridors of COP28, where global leaders converge to confront the existential threat of climate change, UN-Habitat took action. 

From 30 November to 12 December 2023, UN-Habitat has not merely participated in discussions but has emerged as a driving force, orchestrating a symphony of initiatives that underscore the organization’s commitment to sustainable urban development in the face of a changing climate.

Driving sustainable urban development: UN-Habitat's core mission

Amidst the dynamic events and high-level engagements, it is crucial to highlight UN-Habitat's core mission – the promotion of sustainable urban development and advocacy for local action. The organization advocates for urban planning that addresses the challenges posed by climate change head-on. The imperative for action is clear: urban models based on monocentric development must transform into polycentric cities, characterized by connected, mixed-use neighbourhoods that provide access to key services, amenities, and public transport for all.

A call for collaborative action: UN-Habitat’s vision for the future

As the world grapples with the impacts of climate change, UN-Habitat stands as a beacon of hope, calling for convergent action at the local, national, and global levels. The organization recognizes that cities, often on the frontlines of climate challenges, require robust support frameworks. UN-Habitat’s engagements at COP28 underscore the need for collaborative approaches, acknowledging that true transformation requires the involvement of governments, local communities, private sectors, and international organizations.

The pulse of action: UN-Habitat’s vision for COP28

As COP28 unfolded, the word “action” resonates like a heartbeat, emphasizing the urgency and determination needed to address climate change. UN-Habitat, under the leadership of Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, embodies this spirit, driving tangible change and pioneering sustainable urbanization in the face of environmental challenges.

UN-Habitat’s key initiatives and events at COP28

UN-Habitat’s initiatives at COP28 are not mere rhetoric but a symphony of action. Co-hosting the Ministerial Meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change, facilitating high-profile discussions on urban planning, and championing the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe) Initiative and CHAMPS, the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships, the organization is at the forefront of shaping global strategies for resilient cities.

In a session titled "Closer to Home: Planning the Cities of the Future," UN-Habitat facilitated discussions that resulted in commitments and announcements supporting efforts towards better urban planning and city management. The session highlighted the critical role of integrated urban planning, emphasizing that it can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23 to 26 per cent by 2050, according to the latest IPCC report.

Spotlight on the Ministerial Meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change

Just one of the many significant highlights of UN-Habitat's engagement at COP28 was the second Ministerial Meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change on 6 December 2023. Co-hosted by the COP28 Presidency, UN-Habitat, and the High-Level Climate Champions, this meeting reflected and urged for a collective commitment to addressing the complexities of climate change within urban contexts.

Building on the success of the first-ever ministerial meeting, the second ministerial meeting aimed to accelerate local climate finance through a dialogue involving ministers of housing, urban development, environment, and finance, along with local and regional governments, multilateral banks, and other non-state actors. This inclusive approach seeks to cultivate a collective response to the intricate challenges posed by the climate crisis in urban settings.

Banner image: Attendees during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on 1 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates [Photo by COP28/Walaa Alshaer]