UN, Mayors Shine Spotlight on Sustainable Urban Development
UN Photo/Kibae Park
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The UNGA Second Committee discussions and interactive debate on UN-Habitat and the NUA acknowledged that increased efforts to address rapid urbanization are critical to implementing the NUA and achieving the SDGs.

A report, titled ‘Urbanization and Industrialization for Africa’s Transformation: 2017 Economic Report on Africa,’ shows how harnessing the continent’s rapid urbanization can drive industrial development.

During the first-ever Together4Climate event, C40 mayors signed a declaration pledging to ensure fossil fuel-free streets in their cities.

23 October 2017: Recent developments on cities and human settlements show that sustainable urbanization continues to be addressed in conjunction with climate action at all levels, from the national to the local. These developments include the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Second Committee’s discussion on the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the role of urbanization in sustainable development. In addition, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and partners are implementing projects that focus on basic services and low emission development strategies (LEDS) in cities.

Other initiatives reported here include a declaration by C40 mayors pledging to ensure greener and fossil fuel-free streets in their cities, and a report on urbanization and industrialization in Africa demonstrating how harnessing the continent’s rapid urbanization can drive industrial development.

The UNGA Second Committee discussions and interactive debate on UN-Habitat and the NUA, which took place on 18 October 2017, acknowledged that increased efforts to address rapid urbanization are critical to implementing the NUA and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During the event, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed that: urbanization must be at the center of development efforts; the UN reform process must ensure a better response to cities’ needs; and UN‑Habitat’s reform should “go hand-in-hand” with ensuring increased coherence and collaboration on urban issues across the UN system.

UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos presented, inter alia: the UN Secretary-General’s report on implementing the outcomes of the UN Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, and strengthening UN-Habitat; and a summary of the 5 September high-level meeting on NUA implementation. Clos urged countries to provide stronger political and financial support to UN-Habitat, promote UN‑Habitat as a focal point for sustainable urbanization and human settlements development, support incorporation of a robust implementation and monitoring mechanism, and continue to build partnerships at all levels. [UNGA Second Committee Discussion and Interactive Debate] [UN Secretary-General’s Report on Implementing the Outcomes of the UN Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, and Strengthening UN-Habitat] [Summary of the High-level Meeting on NUA Implementation and the Positioning of UN-Habitat in this Regard]

UN-Habitat and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability are implementing the second phase of a project titled, ‘Accelerating climate action through the promotion of Urban Low Emission Development Strategies’ or ‘Urban-LEDS II,’ which will be expanded to include an additional four countries and will run from 2017-2021.

The UN-Habitat Urban Pathways project will contribute to implementation of the NUA, the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, particularly SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and targets 11.2 (access to sustainable transport) and 11.6 (improving air quality and waste management).

Urban-LEDS II includes eight cities in Colombia, Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and Rwanda. It focuses on adaptation and climate resilience to deliver mitigation and adaptation co-benefits and ensure a comprehensive climate and development approach. It aims to contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change by, inter alia: transforming how urban infrastructures and services are planned, delivered and maintained; integrating climate action into national and local strategies and policies; and cooperating on urban climate action at all levels. [UN-Habitat News Story] [Urban LEDS Website]

UN-Habitat, with UN Environment (UNEP) and the Wuppertal Institute, launched a project titled, ‘Urban Pathways: Supporting Low Carbon Plans for Urban Basic Services in the context of the NUA.’ This project was launched at a workshop in Berlin, Germany, held from 16-17 October 2017. The Urban Pathways project will contribute to implementation of the NUA, the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, particularly SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and targets 11.2 (access to sustainable transport) and 11.6 (improving air quality and waste management). It will focus on cities in Brazil, India, Kenya and Viet Nam, and will help develop: national action plans that assess political, technological, socio-economic and financial viability; and local implementation concepts into bankable projects, focusing on access to urban basic services that directly link climate mitigation and the SDGs. This process will be replicated regionally. [UN-Habitat Press Release] [Urban Pathways Website]

In other news, a report titled, ‘Urbanization and Industrialization for Africa’s Transformation: 2017 Economic Report on Africa,’ published by the UN Economic Commission on Africa (UNECA), identifies and analyzes drivers, enablers and policies for strengthening linkages between industrialization and urbanization. It explains that half of the continent’s population will live in cities by 2035, which will increase infrastructure and service needs, and argues that, with the right policy framework, Africa’s rapid urbanization can drive industrial development.

During the report’s launch on 19 October 2017 in Kigali, Rwanda, speakers highlighted, inter alia: the role of the expanding informal sector in driving Africa’s urbanization; the need for countries to implement industrial policies that generate the skilled jobs and productivity gains necessary for economic transformation; and the need to connect economic and spatial policies and strategies in the context of national development planning. [Urbanization and Industrialization for Africa’s Transformation: Economic Report on Africa 2017] [Publication Landing Page] [UNECA News Story]

The first-ever Together4Climate event, held by C40 in Paris, France, from 22-23 October 2017, discussed how to ensure more sustainable communities, while growing the green economy and promoting innovation. Discussions among mayors and company leaders focused on, inter alia, mobility, energy and urban planning.

During the event, mayors of Auckland, Barcelona, Cape Town, Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Milan, Paris, Quito, Seattle and Vancouver signed the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration. In it, they pledge to procure only zero-emission buses from 2025 onwards and to ensure zero emissions for major areas of their cities by 2030 through people-friendly planning policies and increasing rates of walking, cycling and use of public and shared transport that is accessible to everyone. They also undertake to transition away from fossil-fuel powered vehicles, and to collaborate with suppliers, fleet operators and businesses to accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles and reduce vehicle mileage in cities. They mayors will report on progress made in achieving these goals every two years.

C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. [C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration] [Together4Climate Website]


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