Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez World Bank Senior Director of Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice Hungary
Lu Yaoru Asian Garden Vice President China
Martina Otto UN Environment Martina Otto Germany
Mauricio Rodas City of Quito Mayor of Quito Ecuador
Michael Berkowitz 100 Resilient Cities President
Raf Tuts United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Director Programme Division Belgium
Tuan Hj Esa b. Haji Ahmad Jabatan Landskap Negara Director General Malaysia
The Special session will:
- Highlight the mutually-reinforcing potential of cities and nature; Address how landscape can serve as a practical and effective interface between the two;
- Showcase approaches to improving consumption and production patterns and, ultimately, urban metabolism as a whole;
- Provide a platform for those not typically given a voice on the topic (e.g. non-professionals and youth).
Cities are frequently regarded as culprits behind environmental degradation as in, for example, when (sub) urban expansion destroys natural habitat. Increasingly cities are also seen as victims of the change that they have wrought as they experience the ever-more extreme effects of climate change. For example, the paving over of wetlands reduces their ability to buffer human settlements against the effects of storm surge.
But less often discussed is cities’ critical role as saviors: well-designed, compact, mixed-use urban still offers the highest potential of any settlement pattern for accommodating the highest amount of population growth within the smallest physical footprint and, potentially, with the lowest per capita rates of resource use and emissions as well. Whilst urban expansion remains one of the greatest indirect drivers of natural habitat loss, the New Urban Agenda specifically highlights how infrastructure and building design— when done right,—are amongst the greatest drivers of resource efficiency. The effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda is critical for the achievement of global environmental goals, including those linked to the Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
What is good for vibrant urban cores can also be good for a vibrant peri-urban habitat. Some innovative urban ecological landscapes are even bridging the two in ways that force us to reinterpret what ‘urban’ and ‘natural’ constitute in the context of the landscape. New transdisciplinary work has begun to articulate and quantify some of those pathways, scientists have quantified many of the benefits of ecosystems to urban infrastructure and practitioners are demonstrating how particular urban interventions can support the healthy functioning of ecosystems.
This session will explore address these topics and help build the momentum of the cities-environment nexus which, in 2018, will also be addressed by the UN High-Level Political Forum—which will examine progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’ targets related to cities, sustainable consumption and production, oceans and biodiversity—and several other related summits.
Q1: Cities depend on vast outlying areas for their resource base, with corresponding footprints of consumption (e.g. of fresh water) and production (e.g. of waste) that are often unsustainable. Conversely, some highly-productive cities subsidize the cost of infrastructure and services in low-density hinterlands where per capita costs are extremely high (and equally unsustainable), to the detriment of critically-underfunded public urban infrastructure. What is fair for cities and rural areas to expect of each other?
Q2: Considering that cities will need to accommodate an anticipated near-doubling in population by 2050—in some cases by expanding, in others by densifying—and that they will face increasing political and financial pressures and constraints, how can they feasibly protect their most valuable natural spaces?
Q3: What are some of the most successful urban ecological innovations in recent years?
Q4: How can cities ensure that resource efficiency remains one of the core inputs to and outcomes of urban planning and design?
2030 Agenda, Climate Change, Green Cities, Greener Cities Partnership, Health and Cities, New Urban Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals, Urban Biodiversity, Urban Environment.