A roundtable organized by the World Meteorological Organization and the Geneva Environment Network on the occasion of World Meteorological Day: “Hotter, drier, wetter. Face the future”.
Rapid urban growth and sprawl is creating major challenges for cities around the world. The health and safety of many urban residents are under increasing threat from air pollution, climate impacts and other hazards. At the same time, cities are powerful sources of innovation and creativity, and they are well-positioned to find solutions. Many of these solutions will be most effective when implemented by multi-sectoral partnerships among city agencies, civil-society groups and international organizations.
In anticipation of the Habitat III conference that will be held in Quito, Ecuador, from 17 to 20 October, this roundtable explored how the meteorological, public health, environmental and other communities can work together to build integrated urban services for healthy, climate-smart and sustainable cities.
– Jean-Yves BARCELO, Head, Geneva Liaison Office, UN-HABITAT
– Carlos DORA, Coordinator, Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Department, WHO
– Krzysztof OLENDRZYNSKI, Environmental Affairs Officer, Secretariat of the Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention, UNECE
– Maud POISSONNIER, JPO, Climate and Water Department, WMO
– Ruth BÄNZIGER, Co-Mayor, Onex
– Deon TERBLANCHE, Director, Atmospheric Research & Environment Branch, WMO
World Meteorological Day is held 23 March every year and marks the entry into force in 1950 of the WMO Convention creating an inter-governmental organization as a successor to the non-governmental International Meteorological Organization (IMO) established in 1873.
The roundtable was opened by WMO Assistant Secretary General Elena Manaenkova and featured presentations by a panel of experts from WMO, UN-Habitat, the World Health Organization, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, and the Swiss city of Onex.
“Homo Urbanus” now accounts for some 55 per cent of the global population, and most future population growth will take place in cities. Recognizing the scale of the challenge, the panelists discussed how urban design and services can promote healthier and safer lives for city dwellers.
A particular challenge is that many cities are not well designed for a changing climate. Urban development needs to anticipate future climate conditions in order to ensure both climate resilience and sustainable development. Taking up just two per cent of global land area but accounting for 70 per cent of global emissions, cities also have a major role to play in mitigating climate change.
Climate adaptation can be enhanced through the choice of construction materials, investments in mobility and mass transit, lifestyle changes, increased reliance on clean energy sources, improved management of hazardous chemicals, better water and waste treatment, and flood management measures to compensate for the reduced ability of urban areas to absorb water. Pollution control measures to ensure safer air are particularly important for public health; meteorological services have an essential role to play in monitoring and advising about the wind and temperature patterns that influence pollution levels. Effective decision-making on all of these issues requires collaboration among diverse public agencies as well as with the private sector and with communities.
Cities can benefit greatly from adopting new technologies and social media to improve their resilience. Smart phones can be used by individual citizens to provide observations on flooding and pollution and to receive alerts. The Twitter hashtag and other tools can be used to share a data and information cheaply and quickly. Other opportunities for cities include promoting green mobility, improving recycling programmes, encouraging building owners and managers to make climate-friendly investments and creating green spaces that promote healthy activities.
Harmonizing the policies for various sectors and issues and promoting coordination is also key. The UN Habitat III conference this October will provide an occasion for international, national and local organizations to strengthen coordination and build partnerships.
Jean-Yves BARCELO, UN-Habitat
- Development is very interrelated with GHG emissions; hence the more development countries have the more urbanized areas, the more emissions. The issue of cities is part of the mitigation and the adaptation of climate change that is already taking place.
- 4 key factors that are identified: urban forms and the structure of cities, to build environment, the level of the urban infrastructure and the power of carbon sequestration of each city. These factors affect the amount of emission of GHG.
- Importance of changing lifestyles.
- Urbanization has started already in the 50’s in several countries in the south. A real challenging task is the capacity building to design public policy while developing the infrastructure and protecting people in the meantime. It is clear that with urbanization cities has less capacity to absorb water and floods come more often. Urban planning requires strategic planning, strategic partners and decision makers who are committed to sustainable development.
- Private sectors actors can participate in many level. The role of private sector is to invest and develop on private side and prepare infrastructure and implement services on the other side.
Carlos DORA, WHO
- The SDGs were framed, accepting that cities are part of the global improvement, with a specific goal dedicated to cities: Goal 11. In the MDGs we had only slums, diseases.
- Air pollution is the main factor in strokes and heart attacks.
- Cities have effect on societies. The real attention should be on prevention of air pollution, and to take into levels what is affordable. When we think in the city, it should be planned how CO2 is built and managed; hence there is a need to think in holistic manner.
- Among people suffering from the impacts of pollution, children, who do not speak and they cannot complain, thus it is important to speak in their behalf.
- Data richness of cities: a resource that we should use in climate mitigation and adaptation.
- Crucial to include in
Krzysztof OLENDRZYNSKI, Secretariat of the Long-range Trans-boundary Air Pollution Convention, UNECE
- Major scientific assessment developed by UNECE are a flagship in driving opportunities and challenges ahead.
- There are several pollutants which should be considered as nitrogen, nitrogen oxides, the “bad” ozone, and some of the heavy metals and organic pollutants.
- Should start from national to worldwide action, because air pollution cannot be stopped at the boarders of countries. There is a need to match local policies with national and international policies.
- Importance of zero emission vehicles, and to consider international and transcontinental transport during urban planning process.
- There is a number of policies which should be harmonized, because many aspects need to be at place for this challenging situation.
- Importance of UNEP in coordination of these actions by providing contribution, and these contributions should meet at decision making.
Maud POISSONNIER, WMO
- New technology and social media could support smart cities while focus on “Looking ahead10-20 years Proactive solutions”
- These new technologies and applications are able to measure all related data in situ by the use of smart phones in developing countries and cities, where smart phones are widespread.
- These technologies could provide support on mapping flood events in the city, earthquake, floods, evacuation roads, etc.
- High technology and social media are great opportunities to share and access information and they have an important role in making the community aware.
Ruth BÄBZINGER, Onex
- Activities in urban planning are strongly evolving in cities with sustainable development in top-down projects.
- It is important to limit the need of non-sustainable goods and improve the reuse of goods, to use renewable energies such as geothermic, solar and photovoltaics that provide warm water and heat, furthermore recuperate the heat of waste incineration too.
- Simple every day actions should be used to mitigate climate change in cities.
- One of the most challenging parts is the reduction of energy consumption in medium cities.
- Residential buildings consuming the most were built in the 1960’s and 80’s. Authorities help citizens by providing them pre-audit of the buildings in Geneva, workshops to facilitate to have the specification of all buildings, and awareness raising actions to teach citizens how to separate sort the waste, and by creating green spaces which contributes to social and cultural activities too.
Documents and links
- Habitat III: https://www.habitat3.org/
- UN-Habitat: http://unhabitat.org/
- WHO and cities: http://www.who.int/healthy_settings/types/cities/
- WMO & climate services programme: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/wcsp.html
- UNECE & urban pollution: http://www.unece.org/env/lrtap/welcome.html
- Onex City: http://www.onex.ch