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For the UN Secretary-General, the benefits of making cities more environmentally friendly are “huge”, and include reduced climate risks, more jobs, as well as better health and well-being. to be.

“The city’s leadership in the use of green materials and the construction of energy efficient and resilient buildings powered by renewable energies is essential to achieve net zero emissions by 2050,” António Guterres said in his message for the World Habitat Day, celebrated on Monday.

The theme for this year’s celebration of the world’s cities is Accelerating Urban Action for a Carbon-Free World.

Cities are responsible for around 75% of global energy consumption and over 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Two crises

Urban areas around the world are facing the twin crisis of COVID-19 and climate change, the UN chief said.

About 4.5 billion people live in cities today, but this population is expected to increase by almost 50% by 2050. By mid-century, more than 1.6 billion city dwellers may have to survive. average summer temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius.

For Mr. Guterres, cities are at the heart of climate action to keep the 1.5 degree target within reach.

“Three quarters of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 has yet to be built,” he said. “Economic recovery plans offer a generational opportunity to place climate action, renewable energies and sustainable development at the heart of city strategies and policies.

As populations increase in emerging economies, demand for transport, which accounts for nearly 20% of global carbon emissions, is also increasing.

The UN chief said cities are already working on it, trying to ensure that demand is met with zero-emission vehicles and public transport.

Mr Guterres concluded by calling for a global moratorium on internal combustion engines to support these efforts, saying it should happen by 2040 at the latest.

Opportunity

In a message for the day, UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif said that unless the world takes urgent action, “greenhouse gases produced by ever-expanding urban centers will continue to raise global air temperatures. ”

Ms Sharif recalled that this year the day is celebrated just weeks before the UN climate change summit, COP26, which takes place in early November in Glasgow.

For the head of UN-Habitat, the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for cities around the world to put climate action at the top of their agenda.

“This is a chance to change the way we generate our electricity, construct our buildings, heat, cool and light our offices and homes, and travel from home to work,” she said.

Ms. Sharif called for “well-planned and well-managed compact cities,” which allow non-motorized transport and reduce energy consumption for cooling and heating.

“Cities are incubators of innovation and new technologies,” she said. “We need to harness this force for better solutions to climate change. ”

For Ms. Sharif, “the action will be different from one city to another”, but “the green transition must benefit everyone, especially the most vulnerable, and create new jobs”.

Activities

This year’s events will explore how governments and organizations can work with communities, academia and the private sector to create sustainable, carbon neutral and inclusive cities and towns.

World Habitat Day will also amplify the Race to Zero campaign and encourage local governments to develop zero carbon action plans ahead of COP26.

This Monday, at a ceremony in Yaoundé, Cameroon, UN-Habitat will also present the winners of the Scroll of Honor awards, one of the world’s most prestigious awards for those working on sustainable urbanization.

This year, there are five laureates: New Urban Communities Authority, from Egypt; Shining Hope for Communities, Kenya; the city of Baoji, China; Let’s do it World, from Estonia; and Ciudad Emergente, from Chile.


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