Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director UN-HABITAT ©Chatham House
UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs Anna Tibaijuka, said that with over half of humanity living in cities and cities already accounting for 75% of global energy consumption, urban residents are not only victims of climate change but must also be recognised as part of the solution. “Urbanisation”, she added, “brings about irreversible changes in our production and consumption patterns. How we plan, manage and live in our expanding cities determines, to a large extent, the pace of global warming.”
Giving a keynote address at a conference on “The Future of Cities” at Chatham House in London on Monday 8th February, Mrs Tibaijuka said it was no coincidence that climate change had emerged at the forefront of international debate just as the world became predominantly urban.
The two-day event on “The Future of Cities” was sponsored by UN-HABITAT, among others, to promote debate around sustainable urban development. Participants included government representatives involved in urban planning in some of the world’s most populous and fastest-growing cities, such as Nairobi, Sao Paolo, Johannesburg and Tokyo, as well as leading scholars in urban and social development and interested representatives of the private sector.
Mrs Tibaijuka also said just as urban dwellers were contributing to climate change so would they be the ones to suffer. “The threats of sea-level rise, tropical cyclones and storms, inland flooding and drought are causing heavy impacts. The most affected today, and in the future, will be the world’s urban poor - and chief among them, the estimated 1 billion slum dwellers.”
“Our cities are, after all, the driving force of out economies, and what better measures can we take than to reduce traffic congestion, improve air and water quality, and reduce our ecological footprint.”
Following on from Mrs. Tibaijuka’s keynote address, the participants at this event spent two days discussing different aspects concerned with the future of cities. In the face of climate change, numerous sessions were held on the best way to plan and manage environmentally sustainable cities, for example, with lower carbon emissions. The city level presentations led to discussions about the role of all urban stakeholders: governments, local authorities, the private sector and civil society organisations.
Chatham House is the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a world-leading think-tank on issues surrounding development and security. Its prestigious events bring together leading thinkers to promote informed debate and individual analysis of pertinent issues facing the world. Under its famous “Chatham House Rules”, participants may use the information revealed but may not name individuals present or affiliate contributions to them. This is to encourage honest and open debate.