UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, warned a meeting of European leaders and experts last week that they had to get to grips with the link between cities and climate change.
In a rapidly urbanising world with half of humanity now living in cities, climate has its greatest impact on cities, and their residents, especially those living in poverty. Cities are also among the biggest polluters and catalysts of climate change, she said.
Her warning was given at the European Commission’s 2nd European Development Days conference in Lisbon 7-9 November. It drew a wide range of decision-makers, experts, leaders, members of parliament, local authority representatives and UN chiefs to discuss the impact of climate change and development.
Mrs. Tibaijuka addressed a ministerial roundtable on the linkage between climate change, poverty, human settlements and migration. The people most affected by climate change today, and in future, will be the world’s urban poor, particularly those living in slums.
She also stated that the new century is faced by enormous crises like HIV/AIDS and chaotic urbanisation which had dramatically affected the developing world, particularly Africa.
“We have to reverse the HIV crisis. If we do not, there won’t be any Africans to talk about. But beyond that, we need to arrest chaotic urbanisation. Africa is experiencing premature urbanisation,” she said explaining how people were cramming into cities and setting up home burgeoning informal settlements.
She said since urbanisation is imperative, it follows that cities had to be a central focus of efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change and its consequences, stating the clear need to act strongly and differently. Such action would require not only a consensus on immediate measures through a concerted framework at local and global level, but also common vision for the future – something crucial for global cooperation on climate change and its impact on development.
Mrs. Tibaijuka discussed these issues and the ongoing cooperation with the EC in successive bilateral meetings with Mrs. Louisa Morgantini, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Mr. Louis Michel, EU Commissioner in charge of Development and Humanitarian Aid.
Mr. Michel said UN-HABITAT will play an important role at next year’s meeting in the French city of Strasbourg, when the conference will discuss the theme, ‘Decentralisation and Local Authorities’.
It was agreed that a UN-HABITAT day focusing on world urbanisation challenges should be organised during the first half of next year in the European Parliament. Mrs. Tibaijuka invited Mrs. Morgantini and Mr. Michel to address the opening plenary of the fourth session of UN-HABITAT’s World Urban Forum in Nanjing, China next year.
Mrs. Tibaijuka also held talks with Mr. João Ferrão, Secretary of State for Spatial Planning and Cities in Portugal which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. The aim of the meeting was to strengthen cooperation between Portugal and UN-HABITAT. Mr. Ferrão stressed Portugal’s strong engagement in the implementation of the territorial agenda and socially sustainable human settlements. It was agreed to explore ways for cooperation between Portugal and UN-HABITAT, particularly in developing Lusophone countries.