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Cities will determine result of climate change initiatives

The New Urban Agenda that was prepared in 2016 is a key guiding document of the shared vision that countries have for sustainable urbanisation.

gurgaon Updated: May 30, 2019 08:07 IST
Kalpana Viswanath
Kalpana Viswanath
cities,climate change,climate change initiatives
With the world being more than 50% urban at this time and predictions that it will be more than 70% urban by 2050, these challenges, including climate change, pollution, poverty and inequality, need urgent solutions.(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

I write this week from Nairobi, Kenya, where officials from nearly 100 countries are gathering at the first UN-Habitat Assembly to discuss major urban challenges facing our planet. With the world being more than 50% urban at this time and predictions that it will be more than 70% urban by 2050, these challenges, including climate change, pollution, poverty and inequality, need urgent solutions.

The New Urban Agenda that was prepared in 2016 is a key guiding document of the shared vision that countries have for sustainable urbanisation. It was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), held in Quito, Ecuador. The New Urban Agenda (NUA) is an inclusive, action-oriented framework to guide the next 20 years of sustainable and transformative urban development. India is included in the countries that endorsed the document.

New Urban Agenda slogan

The slogan of the NUA is “cities for all” which refers to inclusive urbanisation that does not discriminate against anyone. The NUA provides key goals and road map for making urbanisation a positive force in our countries. The agenda aims to provide urban residents a better life, especially for all disadvantaged groups.

UN-Habitat is the key UN body which is monitoring the progress on the commitments of the NUA. They have identified four broad areas where progress and change are critical. The four areas include reducing inequality and poverty, enhancing shared prosperity, strengthening climate action and working towards prevention and response to effective urban crisis.

Climate change and its effects

Climate change and its effects is one of the greatest threats facing not just our cities, but the entire planet. But it has been said that cities and urbanisation will determine whether we will be able to address the host of problems that are arising due to climate change and global warming. As many as 70% of cities are already dealing with the effects of climate change, and nearly all are at risk. Over 90% of all urban areas are coastal, putting most cities on the Earth at risk of flooding from rising sea levels and powerful storms. While all of us suffer due to the ill effects of climate change, it is the disadvantaged groups including those living in poverty and slums who will be more impacted. We have already seen cities having to deal with flooding, drought and extreme weather.

Larger cities consume more than 60% of world’s energy

We have to recognise that while we are facing the effects as city dwellers, we are also the cause of the problem. Cities are the main producers of greenhouse gas emissions. Larger cities consume more than 60% of the world’s energy and create over 70% of global CO2 emissions. In India, we have three cities with more than 10 million population and 53 urban agglomerations with more than one million people.

Cities have to fight the battle

Having said that, it is in cities that the battle has to be fought and major changes are needed in how we urbanise and how we consume resources. There is evidence that compact dense cities are more energy efficient. Indian cities must look inward as well as outward for good models of urban growth and development.

We know that we are at a very crucial moment at addressing the effects of climate change and over the past month, we have seen young people raising their voice globally inspired by a 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg who has asked for immediate action to climate change so that we leave behind a better world for children and young people.

@SafetipinApp (Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities

First Published: May 30, 2019 01:42 IST