As the world becomes more urbanized, and as populations increasingly shift to cities, community leaders will be presented with a host of new challenges and opportunities prompted by climate change. In response, the United Nations is convening a summit on Sustainable Cities and Communities. The meeting will explore practical solutions and action plans that can empower urban centers to decrease their environmental footprint and mitigate climate risks, while improving their communities and the lives of their residents.
Four Key Strategies:
- Rethink Communities: Cities must be designed in such a way that improves the lives of residents and establishes a sense of community. By increasing social interaction and establishing robust public transportation infrastructure, cities can reduce fossil fuel emissions, increase social capital, and make their communities a better place to live.
- Develop Social Capital: Cities must establish public spaces and amenities, so that residents will become more interconnected and a greater sense of community will be facilitated. These open and green spaces will also provide environmental safeguards against floods, shade during heat spells, and can be used as transportation routes in emergency situations.
- Construct Green Infrastructure: Adapting new building and housing developments to the threats posed by climate change, in addition to increasing energy efficiency and sustainability standards, will put cities on the forefront of disaster preparedness and resource-wise energy use.
- Make Cities Dynamic: Cities are more nimble and adaptable to climate change than state and national governments. Cities should embrace this advantage by swiftly reacting to the economic and environmental demands made by residents.
Mayors and community leaders are well aware of their role in creating and implementing climate solutions. Cities are, and have been, on the front lines of climate change, and this trend will surely continue. See how community and elected leaders in your area can get more involved by visiting Path to Positive Communities.
The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals on the agenda at the United Nations summit later this month reflect a world that is becoming much more urbanized. An increasing number of cities are dealing with multiple stresses, such as demographic and population shifts, new economic drivers, social equity, consumption of energy and natural resources, and rapid advancements in technology. Each of these challenges is related to Goal 11 — Sustainable Cities and Communities — as each is influencing decision-making regarding sustainable urban development for the future. However, the issue of climate change has further sharpened the 21st century emphasis on growing sustainably.
Urban planning and development has been and will be increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, extreme heat, drought and storms of greater intensity. These destructive weather events are serving as a wake-up call that we must rethink what, where and how we build for the future.
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