20+ Cities Call for Integrating Climate, Biodiversity Concerns into Urban Planning
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The São Paulo Statement calls for integrated solutions to urban development and social inequality that mitigate climate change and avoid biodiversity.

Cities consume two-thirds of global energy, and account for more than 70% of emissions, although only 55% of the world’s population resides in them.

20 September 2019: More than 20 cities, including Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), Dakar (Senegal), Helsinki (Finland), Paris (France), La Paz (Bolivia), Melaka (Malaysia) and São Paulo (Brazil), have endorsed a statement on urban development that integrates environmental considerations, including low-emission targets, local biodiversity action plans, and nature-based solutions focused on enhancing green urban infrastructure and urban resilience.

The ‘São Paulo Statement on Urban Sustainability: A Call to Integrate Our Responses to Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Social Inequality’ argues that cities are part of the climate solution. In addition, the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, to be adopted during the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming, China, in 2020, is expected to enhance the ambition of cities to respond to biodiversity loss. Integrated urban planning can help cities and local governments support national climate and biodiversity goals.

A Global Environment Facility (GEF) press release notes that while cities generate 80% of global gross domestic product (GDP) and drive economic transformation, they also consume two-thirds of global energy, and account for more than 70% of emissions, although only 55% of the world’s population resides in them. Compact and connected cities use fewer resources, while unplanned growth and urban sprawl can increase emissions, contributing the climate change. However, cities are also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and, by 2050, as many as 143 million people could become climate migrants, a phenomenon that will disproportionately impact poorer communities.

The statement calls for integrated solutions to urban development and social inequality that mitigate climate change and avoid biodiversity loss to create opportunities for green, low-carbon and competitive urban growth while building resilient, inclusive and livable cities.

More specifically, the statement explains that while each city faces unique challenges, many have implemented one or more of the following in order to develop their own integrated solutions:

  • setting low-emission targets with the aim of becoming carbon neutral;
  • developing and implementing local biodiversity action plans to conserve and enhance urban biodiversity and urban protected areas;
  • integrating climate and biodiversity information into spatial planning, while investing in compact and connected urban development;
  • bringing nature closer to people by restoring connectivity and green corridors between urban areas, surrounding landscapes and protected areas;
  • supporting social inclusion while addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and economic development; and
  • promoting nature-based solutions (NbS) to enhance ecosystem functions.

The São Paulo Statement was launched during the 3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC), which convened under the theme, ‘Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Futures,’ and took place from 16-20 September in São Paulo, Brazil. The conference was organized by GPSC, with support from the GEF, São Paulo City Hall and Brazil’s Sustainable Cities Program. [São Paulo Statement] [GEF Press Release] [Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Futures Conference Webpage]

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