The proportion of the global population living in cities and towns is expected to rise from 54 per cent in 2015 to 66 per cent by 2050, which will result in a significant expansion of existing cities, as well as the construction of new cities. There’s an opportunity to shift this expected urbanization to a more environmentally sustainable and equitable path. Decisions made today on urbanization and land-use models, as well as on buildings and critical infrastructure, will determine whether or not the investment decisions lock us on to an unsustainable path.
Much empirical evidence exists on increasing city costs stemming from spatial expansion and decline in population density: per capita costs to provide public services go up, as do social costs associated with congestion, pollution, and urban inefficiencies. But even though the diagnostic is clear, and multiple solutions have been proposed to address unsustainable urban growth and improved buildings, now, the pressing question is how we scale solutions for quick impact.
Moreover, in many cases, solutions around land use planning and buildings have been partial and disconnected. But evidence suggests that integrated approaches, which address urban expansion and buildings simultaneously, create opportunities and can generate exponential positive impacts.
At the same time, local governments are dependent on national policy and resources to enable successful approaches and in many cases must operate in a context where informality and climate risks, especially risks affecting the poor, are prevalent. Local governments must also grapple with the urgency of meeting core urban services for a growing population and dealing with growing informality and migration, while making decisions that prevent long-term lock-in to high carbon approaches. In this context, vertical integration and coordinated approaches become central for succeful decarbonization at the local level.
This session will explore how cities can mainstream climate mitigation and adaptation actions while improving access to services for all and achieving increased efficiency. Climate action requires cross-sectoral and cross-jurisdictional coordination. The session will discuss a variety of entry points reflecting national, regional, local, neighborhood and building level approaches, including public housing, urban expansion, informal neighborhood upgrading and zero carbon districts. The session will also discuss how local governments (can) operate under challenging environments – where decision making, planning capacity and resources are limited – by looking at local processes, outcomes and capacities for climate action. Finally, the session will focus on how to scale up proven solutions for rapid impact.
Session 1 – Vision: Setting the climate-related ambition high for cities while responding to urban growth
Urban areas are expected to triple in size between 2000 and 2030. This growth provides an opportunity for ambitious, climate-neutral cities or a risk of locking in carbon-intensive urban plans and infrastructure. Unmanaged urban expansion increases the costs of service provision, deepens spatial inequities, requires the construction of new housing and other built infrastructure, and imposes heavy economic and environmental burdens. The challenges of rapid expansion are greatest in lower-income cities that have weak planning and land governance and less mature financial markets. Cities with rapid expansion are often challenged by distorted land markets, deficient services in growing areas, and disjointed informal expansion .
Addressing such significant physical expansion requires vision, ambition, financing, and vertical and horizontal coordination. Looking at both planning and building examples, the session will explore the following questions:
• How can cities set the ambition related to climate goals high enough to respond to this challenge?
• What is the role of national governments in this context?
• What can cities achieve, and what must cities achieve to meet the Paris agreement?
• How have local governments demonstrated leadership and ambition?
• How do national government commitments, policies and actions shape local ambition, and vice versa?
• How can the private sector drive city ambition around climate goals, and vice versa?
Welcome and opening remarks:
• Ani Dasgupta, WRI, Moderator [5 minutes] World Resources Report Urban Expansion paper, main messages
• National policymaker from Turkey [7 minutes]
• Parks Mpho Tau, President UCLG [7 minutes]
Panel discussion: [40-minute guided discussion, 5 panelists], framing presenters also join discussion.
• Johanna Partin, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance
• Cristina Gamboa, CEO, World Green Buildings Council
• Private real estate developer or other private sector alternative suggested by UN Habitat [TBD]]
• Debra Roberts, IPCC + City of Durban?
• Mark Watts, C40 [or someone else from C40]
• Martina Otto, Head of Cities Unit, UN Environment [5 minutes]
Closing and Segway into next segment:
Ani Dasgupta [5 minutes]
Session 2 – Implementation: successful planning and building approaches and tools to tackle climate change at the local level
Rapid rates of urbanization in much of the world will lead to an unprecedented expansion of urban areas and the built environment. Some strategies to address unsustainable urban expansion and building practices include: using regulations and incentives to prioritize spatial equity and green buildings; working in partnerships to align stakeholder goals and address systemic barriers; and integrating existing informal settlements while creating affordable density.
This session will continue the conversation, moving from ambition to practical implementation. The discussion will explore the following questions:
• How is city ambition for climate goals translated into successful implementation?
• What are some of the successful low-carbon approaches in the land use and buildings sectors that have been utilized at the local and national levels?
• What role do integrated planning, land use regulations, and building codes play in climate mitigation and adaptation?
• How can coordination between national governments, local governments and communities help speed and replicate innovative approaches?
• What key factors have enabled collaborative climate action in various contexts?
• How can be proven low-carbon approaches be scaled up?
Welcome and opening remarks:
Shipra Narang Suri, UN-Habitat, Moderator [5 minutes]
• Sheela Patel, SDI/SPARC, India [7 minutes]
• Kate Gordon, Senior Advisor to the Governor on Climate, California, USA [7 minutes]
Panel discussion: [40-minute guided discussion, 5/6 panelists], framing presenters also join discussion. Proposed TBC:
• Drazen Kucan, Lead Urban and Energy Efficiency Specialist, GCF (tbc)
• Christiana Hageneder, Programme for Energy Efficiency in Buildings, GIZ
• Somsook Boonyabancha, Asian Coalition for Housing Rights
• Jorge Wolpert, former head of CONAVI, Mexico [housing finance]
• Jonathan Woetzel, McKinsey or Abel Schumann, OECD
• Bert Smolders, ARCADIS (tbc)
• Emma Stewart, Director of Urban Efficiency & Climate, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable cities
[20-minute Q&A, discussion with the audience]
• Shipra Narang Suri, UN-Habitat [5 minutes]