This article is an opinion piece written by Javier Cortes, Head of Local Engagement with the UN Global Compact Cities Programme, that first appeared in the online public journal of Portuguese daily newspaper, Público. Read the original article in Portuguese here.
These days we are celebrating the 18th edition of European Mobility Week and the 20th edition of the European Car Free Day. Thousands of cities and organizations seek to raise society’s awareness of the need to adopt cleaner modes of mobility and sustainable urban transport. Last Friday more than 2670 cities and towns had confirmed their participation in this campaign, which from the outset seeks to improve public health and the quality of life of those who live there.
By seeking to engage their citizens in behavior change through the use of less polluting or even active mobility – this year’s theme is Safe Walking and Cycling – cities are doing much more than meeting a media calendar. They are looking for ways into the future, which will determine not only the future of themselves but the entire planet.
Last week, the report by the group of independent scientists on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at the request of UN member states, recalled that the “Future is Now” and that of the 17 Goals a All of them have transformative and influential power over everyone else, such as working for sustainable cities and communities, known as Goal 11.
By 2030, the world is expected to have 43 megacities (over 10 million people each), and nine out of ten will be born in developing countries, not counting many secondary cities that will have less resources, less economic power and will be less well endowed. infrastructures.
Looking at trends in urban development and its peripheries, scientists are sending out several key messages about the 11th SDG that should lead us to look at initiatives such as European Mobility Week with the eyes of the future.
They begin by stating that “sustainable cities are central to achieving all 17 Sustainable Development Goals”. If today more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, by 2050 it will be about 70%. And in them will reside 80% of world economic activity. Three billion people will then live in slums.
Scientists therefore remember that building sustainable cities and communities involves many other areas, starting with their own planning and the awareness that the nature of urban systems and infrastructure is long-term, as well as the impacts of their policies and investment.
This report also reinforces what “good planning” of cities is: it is integrated and inclusive urban development, bringing them all together in collective action with innovative city governments and the commitment of businesses, civil society, organizations, universities, citizens, national governments, authorities of neighboring cities, towns and rural areas and around the world. This inclusive effort should also be independent of gender, age, ability and ethnicity.
As for the priority for urban decision-makers, it must be the heart of the 2030 Agenda itself – leaving no one behind. This implies poverty eradication policies and measures, access to decent jobs, quality public services and sustainable transport.
All of society – governments, businesses, civil society and individuals – must also be provided with tools that promote sustainable levels of production and consumption that prevent environmental degradation, from housing to transport. Economic dynamism has been linked to aggravated pressure on the climate, contributing to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, mostly from energy consumption and transport.
Projects that seek to address this concern take place, for example, in the cities of Matosinhos and Cascais where a new concept developed by CEiiA operates: the AYR platform that quantifies, values and allows for carbon credits avoided by its users in cities by opt for more sustainable modes of mobility. At the same time, this tool strengthens the role of citizens in adopting more sustainable ways of life.
Without cities and citizens, the Paris Agreement goals will not be met or the SDGs implemented by 2030, as was the commitment of world leaders at the 2015 New York UN Summit. Today we have a SDG Plan to to mobilize all local, public and private actors from around the world and a bottom-up strategy to scale up individual efforts, connecting them on a universal scale, from Cascais, Matosinhos, Lisbon and Porto with Madrid, Mexico, Melbourne, Maputo to the United Nations Headquarters in New York.