Building climate-smart cities

Building climate-smart cities

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Published

24 March 2016

WMO collaborated with the Geneva Environment Network to host a roundtable on World Meteorological Day that explored how UN and other partners can collaborate on promoting sustainable urban development and climate-smart cities.

The roundtable was opened by WMO Assistant Secretary General Elena Manaenkova and featured presentations by a panel of experts from WMO, UN-Habitat, the World Health Organization, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, and the Swiss city of Onex.

“Homo Urbanus” now accounts for some 55 per cent of the global population, and most future population growth will take place in cities. Recognizing the scale of the challenge, the panelists discussed how urban design and services can promote healthier and safer lives for city dwellers.

A particular challenge is that many cities are not well designed for a changing climate. Urban development needs to anticipate future climate conditions in order to ensure both climate resilience and sustainable development. Taking up just two per cent of global land area but accounting for 70 per cent of global emissions, cities also have a major role to play in mitigating climate change.

Climate adaptation can be enhanced through the choice of construction materials, investments in mobility and mass transit, lifestyle changes, increased reliance on clean energy sources, improved management of hazardous chemicals, better water and waste treatment, and flood management measures to compensate for the reduced ability of urban areas to absorb water. Pollution control measures to ensure safer air are particularly important for public health; meteorological services have an essential role to play in monitoring and advising about the wind and temperature patterns that influence pollution levels. Effective decision-making on all of these issues requires collaboration among diverse public agencies as well as with the private sector and with communities.

Cities can benefit greatly from adopting new technologies and social media to improve their resilience. Smart phones can be used by individual citizens to provide observations on flooding and pollution and to receive alerts. The Twitter hashtag and other tools can be used to share a data and information cheaply and quickly. Other opportunities for cities include promoting green mobility, improving recycling programmes, encouraging building owners and managers to make climate-friendly investments and creating green spaces that promote healthy activities.

Harmonizing the policies for various sectors and issues and promoting coordination is also key. The UN Habitat III conference this October will provide an occasion for international, national and local organizations to strengthen coordination and build partnerships. For more about the roundtable, please visit the Geneva Environment Network website.

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