Thursday Plenary Session
Urban Growth and Environment
The session was moderated by Mr. Chris Leach, President of the Canadian Institute of Planners. The session was addressed by two keynote speakers, Ms. Eveline Herfkens, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Millennium Campaign, and Mr. Enrique Peñalosa, a former Mayor of Bogotá, now serving as a Visiting Scholar at New York University. Both made impassioned speeches calling for more engagement at all levels to make cities more liveable, places where everyone felt safe and where citizens enjoyed human and civil rights.
Mr. Leach recalled that the World Planners’ Congress in Vancouver on 20 June 2006 had produced a declaration signed by 17 associations from both developed and developing countries. That declaration had laid the groundwork for a new Global Planners’ Network to confront the problems of rapid urbanization, the urbanization of poverty and the hazards of climate change and natural disasters.
The Canadian Institute of Planners was committed to combining its expertise with the excellent work already being undertaken by its global partners, and the global planning community was committed to taking action to address the problem of the sustainability of human settlements.
Ms. Herfkens urged participants to use the Millennium Development Goals as a guide to local planning and research, particularly with regard to urban environmental sustainability. She expressed the view that some might find her remarks provocative because she did not like the phrasing of the agenda on how sound planning and management would become a major factor in ensuring sustainable urban development. In that view she said she agreed with Mr. Klaus Töpfer, the former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who had always maintained that poverty itself was the biggest polluter. Consequently, pro-poor sustainable growth was required that involved the poor in urban planning: the urban poor should not be viewed as “client targets”, a view that was enshrined in the eight Millennium Development Goals forged in the consensus of world leaders signatory to the Millennium Declaration.
UN-Habitat and UCLG had produced a guide to help local and national governments meet the Millennium Development Goals. In that connection, she had been delighted to learn that the Mayor of Montréal, Mr. Gérald Tremblay, had personally undertaken a campaign to publicize the Goals: investing in achieving the Goals was investment in the future, and the current generation was the first with the resources and the knowledge to end poverty.
Mr. Peñalosa said that projections showed that the world’s urban population would grow by over 2 billion in the next 30 years, the equivalent of one city the size of Vancouver every week. The world must create an urban environment conducive to human happiness: a major point of principle, one of relevance to the whole world, was that much could be done to make cities more equitable by using existing physical resources, especially road space, for the benefit of the whole community. Doing so did not require large external resource inputs to yield major benefits for cities.
Consequently, it was important to keep cities green with parks, cycle ways and better public transport to minimize car use. Human beings needed space, as did animals in their own environments, to realize their full potential. They had a right to green, safe city spaces. Infrastructure in cities could be redistributed so that the rider of a $30 bicycle, for example, was able to have the same space and respect as the driver of a $30,000 car. In short, cities should be places where the public good prevailed over private interests. If cars were banned during peak hours – such restrictions had indeed been introduced in Bogotá – most people would be better off. Sidewalks and public parks were the minimum cities must provide for their poor, indeed they were a right. The car restrictions in Bogotá had been voted on in a referendum, and new cycle lanes had been built throughout the city, and a rapid bus transit system had been introduced. Considerable resources for the city had been freed by those changes, all of them small steps leading to large change and a greener, healthier lifestyle.
He concluded by saying that he wanted the Third Session of the Forum in Vancouver in 2006 to know that in 1976 he had accompanied his father, Mr. Enrique Peñalosa, who served as Secretary‑General of the first Habitat Conference. That Conference had inspired him to take home to Bogotá many of the ideas he had picked up there and been able to implement years later.