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Building climate-smart cities

A roundtable organised by the Geneva Environment Network (GEN) with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and partners has explored how urban services can be built for healthy, climate-smart and sustainable cities.


With 55% of the world’s population already living in cities, their rapid expansion worldwide is threatening citizens’ health with air pollution, climate impacts and other hazards.


Yet cities are also hubs of innovation, meaning they are well placed to find solutions to these problems. Partnerships between city agencies, civil society and international bodies can ensure these solutions are most effective – and the Habitat III conference taking place in October will offer the chance to form these.


A panel debate was opened by Elena Manaenkova, WMO Assistant Secretary-General. The challenge for the global South is to design public policy that develops infrastructure while protecting people too, noted Jean-Yves Barcelo, head of UN Habitat’s Geneva Liaison Office during the subsequent discussion.


City planning should also focus on how CO2 is managed, stressed Carlos Dora, Coordinator of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health department. Air pollution is the main factor causing strokes and heart attacks, he underlined.


In order to fight air pollution, local policies must match national and international ones, while urban planning should take international transport into account, said Kryzstof Olendrzyski of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Long-range Trans-boundary Air Pollution Convention Secretariat.


Maud Poisionnier, a Junior Professional working in the WMO’s Climate and Water department, meanwhile noted the role social media could play in sharing and providing access to information on climate-related hazards such as floods.


Ruth Bäbzinger – Vice-Mayor of the Swiss municipality of Onex – noted how everyday actions could mitigate climate change in cities, while the use of non-sustainable goods should be reduced.


The event was held on 23 March - World Meteorological Day – and moderated by Deon Terblanche, Director of the WMO’s Atmospheric Research and Environment branch. It was organised by GEN together with the WMO, UNECE, UN Habitat and the World Health Organisation, with support from the Swiss government.


A Regional Habitat III conference was meanwhile convened in Prague, Czech Republic on 16-18 March 2016, raising a high level of interest. UNEP was represented at the conference and contributed to the outcome document, the Prague Declaration, by stressing the potential that cities have in addressing global environmental challenges and how European instruments and institutions can lead by example.


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