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UN Environment Assembly hosts inaugural Cities Summit
Nairobi, 13 March 2019 – UN-Habitat and UN Environment, together with ICLEI, UCLG and Cities Alliance, co-hosted the first Cities Summit during the Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA4) in Nairobi. Held under the theme Innovation for Livable and sustainable Cities: Multi-level and Integrated Urban Systems, the Cities Summit provided a forum for high level dialogue between mayors, ministers, private sector leaders and civil society representatives.
The event was jointly opened by the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, and the Acting Executive Director of UN Environment, Ms. Joyce Msuya. Ms. Maimunah said she was “very pleased that the Cities Summit will now feature prominently at the UN Environmental Assembly,” adding that “it is in our cities that the most severe challenges arising from human-made climate change will have to be confronted”.
Ms. Msuya stated that: “the concentration of people and ideas means we have proven capacity to innovate and act. The fact that close to 70 per cent of urban infrastructure is yet to be built, provides an opportunity for future proof investment.”
The President of UNEA4, Siim Kiisler, Estonia’s Minister of Environment stressed the importance of engaging communities in order to create sustainable cities.
“We need to think about how to develop [our] existing environment, as what surrounds and impacts us defines us, whether it is waste, access to water, transport, or food,” he said.
The rest of the day was divided into six dynamic sessions, which together questioned and highlighted the need for circularity, good governance, integration, technology, financial readiness and engagement of communities in order to create livable and sustainable cities.
Practical examples were demonstrated by the Governor of Nairobi, Mike Sonko, in which he praised the partnership between the Nairobi and UN-Habitat in cleaning Nairobi. He cited the personal involvement of Ms. Maimunah Sharif in the clean-up exercise as evidence of this partnership. The Governor indicated that he is committed to dealing with solid waste in Nairobi and was engaging various stakeholders on a plan to ban single-use plastic bottles and on a project to convert food waste to fertilizer.
The need for citizen engagement as one of the key elements of a working environmental policy was highlighted by Ms. Lan Marie Berg, the Deputy Mayor of Oslo, Norway. She noted that it was key for cities to set climate targets that matter and design tools to achieve these targets.
Among the representatives of the private sector, Ms. Lena Pripp-Kovac, Sustainability Manager at IKEA, illustrated the evolving concept of “home” for citizens all around the world: “Our home is not four walls anymore. Our city is our home,” she said. She also highlighted the importance of including citizens not only in the decision-making process but also in designing the city saying it is only at this point you can talk about sustainable consumption.