Cities Play the Green Card to Achieve Success
Bali, Indonesia, 11 December 2007- From the use of horse-drawn carriages to solve public transport shortage in Bayamo, Cuba to an emissions trading scheme in Taiyuan, China, cities around the world are providing inspiring examples in the global quest for sustainability and the fight against climate change.
The report "Liveable Cities: The Benefits of Urban Environmental Planning", published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Cities Alliance and ICLEI -Local Governments for Sustainability, showcases 12 examples of cities around the world.
It explores various options for sustainable urban development ranging from practical tools and comprehensive policies to innovative market mechanisms.
"The report contains many 'take home' messages- environmental management can boost city budgets, prove a strong marketing tool for attracting investors and contribute to public health and poverty eradication," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at the launch of the report today at the Local Government Climate Sessions at the UN Climate Conference in Bali, Indonesia.
"A modern city can only be truly successful if it can convincingly demonstrate its green credentials by recognizing its natural assets, creating efficient water, energy and transport infrastructure, and protecting its citizens in the face of present and future impacts of climate change," he added.
For example, the City of Bayamo in Cuba, faced with a situation where motorized transport was available to just 15% of local commuters, has in 2004 reverted to horse-drawn carriages. Horse-drawn services now take care of around 40% of local transport needs, demonstrating that motorized transport is not the only solution to a public transport problem.
The Municipality of Bohol in the Philippines has been using the ecoBUDGET© tool, an environmental management system that incorporates natural resources and environmental goods into budgeting cycles, to achieve the twin objectives of environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation.
Taiyuan, an industrial city in the coal belt of northern China, is addressing urban air quality problem by introducing a city-wide emissions trading scheme to help reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) concentration in the atmosphere.
The report makes a strong case for the environment as the key asset for cities. For example, a 2006 survey of professionals working in Hong Kong revealed that almost four out of five professionals were thinking of leaving or new others who have already left because of the quality of the natural environment, while 94% ranked it as the top factor in selecting a place to live.
"Cities today have to be competitive. They operate in a global marketplace, competing with other cities and urban settlements around the world for investment. A city cannot compete, however, if it cannot offer investors security, infrastructure and efficiency. Hardly any city can offer these elements without incorporating environmental issues into its planning and management strategies," said Cities Alliance Manager William Cobbett.
"Today's cities only cover one-third of the urban area we will have in 2030. That gives city mayors and planners the opportunity to influence what kind of cityscape we will have in the future. At present, city sprawl is dominating the scene with tripling of space requirement for every doubling of city population. With bold leadership we can prevent slum proliferation and urban sprawl through building denser and more energy and transport efficient cities that will curb the negative trend of undermining the natural resource base the cities are built upon," he continued.
With an estimated 80% of greenhouse gas emissions originating in cities and three-quarters of urban settlements located in coastal areas at risk from sea-level rise, local governments are also increasingly involved in global efforts to address climate change.
"Through initiatives like ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection campaign and C40, cities around the world are taking the lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions- some with targets above and beyond national commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, climate change adaptation is top of the agenda for many developing country cities featured in this report, including the ancient city of Alexandria in the Nile Delta, South Africa's coastal jewel of Cape Town, and Asia's booming megalopolis of Bangkok," said ICLEI Secretary-General Konrad Otto-Zimmermann.
Over 65 cities and local governments are participating in the two-day Local Government Climate Sessions in Bali. These sessions, organized by ICLEI in collaboration with UNEP at UN Climate Conferences since 2005, give local authorities an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the global climate change negotiations, as well as showcase their climate actions.
"As champions of the climate cause and centers for innovation, efficiency, investment, and productivity, cities are posed to play an increasingly prominent role in the international climate change debate. It is in cities that climate and sustainability solutions for more than half of the humanity will be found," concluded UNEP Executive Director Steiner.