Mayors and Senior Officials from 10 city governments across Asia are meeting in Bangkok for a workshop on climate change hosted by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The message coming out of the meeting is that Asia’s cities are central to the world’s battle against climate change. With the dual challenges of supporting the urban poor to adapt and reduce emissions, cities hold the keys to a sustainable and inclusive future.
“I can’t ignore the impact of climate change while developing Makassar into an ‘eco-politan city’, a city where all its inhabitants – both the haves and the have nots – live in harmony with the environment,” said the Mayor of Makassar, Indonesia, H. Ilham Arief Sirajuddin at the event.
Cities are change-makers. They can “encourage climate-friendly energy use, more efficient transport options, greener buildings and better waste management. Supported by access to technology, finance and knowledge, integrated solutions can help cities move towards a lower-carbon, climate resilient future,” says the UNDP-sponsored Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, One Planet to Share, presented at the event.
The Asia-Pacific region has made progress in reducing slum numbers, but it is still home to more than 500 million slum-dwellers or over half the world’s slum population. Urban poor communities, often concentrated in makeshift shelters, in flood-prone areas alongside rivers or even directly on watercourses, are more sensitive to climate change.
“It is no coincidence that climate change has become a leading international development issue precisely at the same time the world has become predominantly urban,” said Mariko Sato, Chief of UN-Habitat’s Bangkok Office at today’s event, “Climate change and urbanization are virtually inseparable. Mayors and local authorities can make a difference in the lives of the urban poor as they are directly accountable to their residence.”
“Poor people in cities are not only poor from an economic perspective, they often lack the legal identity to benefit from city responses to climate change,” said Pauline Tamesis from UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Regional Centre, “Urban governance institutions need to be strengthened to address climate change in a more inclusive manner.”
The one-day workshop brought together decision-makers, regional development partners and city government representatives from: Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Makassar, Indonesia; Kathmandu and Biratnagar, Nepal; Sorsogon, the Philippines; Negombo and Balangoda, Sri Lanka; and Bangkok, Thailand.