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Cities and Climate Change - World Habitat Day 2011

On October 3rd, the FAO “Food for the Cities” multidisciplinary initiative celebrated the World Habitat Day 2011 dedicated this year to “Cities and Climate change” (information in the Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements 2011). It took place on the opening day of the World Landslide Forum hosted in FAO HQs. It has also been the kick-off of the month dedicated to urban and peri-urban forestry within the International Year of Forests. The seminar gave the opportunity to see how food, agriculture and management of natural resources (particularly forestry) can be integrated in the city agendas to cope with climate change and propose ways forward.

Paul Munro-Faure, Food for the Cities chairperson and Climate, Energy and Tenure division principal officer of the Natural Resources and Environment Department, gave a welcoming adress (extracts below). 

"Dear colleagues,

[ ... ] The theme of World Habitat Day this year is “Cities and Climate change”. It brings together 2 of the greatest challenges of our century: The first of these challenges is Urbanization: 50 % of the world’s 7 billion people now lives in cities. It will reach 70% in 2050 that will be of 9 billion. That means an increase of 3 billion people, almost a doubling of the number of the urban dwellers that will occur in the low income and transition countries. The other important challenge we all face is climate change: climate change is not just the fact of having summer days but it’s also, and most of all extreme weather event, with intense droughts, as now in the Horn of Africa, and floods, as again these days in Pakistan. [ ... ] Today is also starting the Month of Urban and Peri-Urban Forestry within the International Year of Forests. Urban and Peri-Urban Forestry contributes to better adaptation of cities to climate change in many ways. It will be presented. In order to address urbanization challenges, we’ll all need to work in a cross cutting way. I look therefore to a reach discussion in order to discuss on how we can all contribute to better address the challenges related to cities and climate change".

The message of UN-Habitat Executive director, Mr. Joan Cloas, for World Habitat Day 2011 was projected. UN-HABITAT also delivered a special statement to link the overall World Habitat Day message to the specific focus of this meeting on integration food systems in urban system.

"We are currently witnessing a second urbanization wave.  By 2050, the large majority of the additional 3 billion people will live in Asian and African medium-sized cities. Pressures will be greatest where the urban and institutional infrastructure is weakest. Many of the cities that will be created do not even exist yet. Many of the ones that do exist are ill‐equipped to handle such large‐scale expansions. This is further exacerbated through the increasing impacts of climate change, whereby cities are not only called upon to address the vulnerability of people, places and sectors that may be affected by a changing climate, but also have a responsibility to mitigate their greenhouse gases emissions to avoid unmanageable climate change.
For such rapid urban growth to be sustainable, in the context of climate change and food security, there is need for “decoupling”, i.e. to enhance the quality of life while minimizing resource extraction, energy consumption and waste generation and while safeguarding ecosystem services. Decoupling will depend on how cities are planned and on how city-based energy, waste, transportation, food, water and sanitation systems are expanded and/or reconfigured. In this regard, there is a clear role for food systems and urban agriculture. Indeed, well planned and managed urban agriculture can play a key role in decoupling, as part of the overall food systems within a city-region.
For this to be meaningful, it is important to consider planning at the city-region level. At this level, there are key opportunities to plan for land mosaic patterns that protect valuable ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots, preserve natural corridors preventing flooding and landslides, optimize and expand existing network infrastructure,  promote compact cities and planned extensions and construct built environment that uses water and energy efficiently. In this regard, agriculture must be considered as a key land use feature in the city region.
This integration of food systems in city-region planning must be supported by urban management and governance measures. In terms of urban management, special attention needs to be paid to health control, storage and processing, land legislation, land tenure systems, use of vacant land and ensuring access to water. In terms of urban governance, it is important to ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups, with special attention for gender, youth and migrant workers. While the voice of these groups need to be enhanced, it is important to ensure transparency related to the integration of food systems in urban decision making processes.
In conclusion, there is a need for the following policy measures: to mainstream urban agriculture in global climate change and food security agendas ; to further integrate urban food security in urban policies at various levels; to better articulate the co-benefits of climate change adaptation and mitigation; to aim for impact through scaling up urban food security planning from neighborhood to city-region level

Sylvie Wabbes, co-secretary of the "Food for the Cities" multi-disciplinary initiative presented some important activities of FAO regarding cities and climate change

Claudio Baffioni, from Roma Capitale, environmental observatory for climate change presented an example of action of the city of Rome on how to deal with climate change through green public procurements for school canteens.

Michelle Gauthier of the Forestry Department of FAO, focal point for urban and peri-urban forestry (UPF) introduced  the main actions of FAO for UPF

Michael Martin, on behalf of Eduardo Rojas, FAO, ADG, Forestry Department, then questioned the audience on the main role of UPF and launched the urban and peri-urban forestry month.

J.P. Dilip Kumar, Director-General of Forests and Special Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, from New Delhi send a message on Local and National Experience for Forest Cities “Environment and Livelihood for All: Together in action".

"Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a privilege for me to get an opportunity to address as distinguished a gathering as I do today. I congratulate FAO for the initiatives it has taken in the increasingly important area of urban and peri-urban forestry. Reason are not far to see. Urbanisation is an inevitable consequence of societal and economic development. As economies become more sophisticated and services and manufacturing sectors acquire primacy cities expand to service the myriad needs of various kinds.  In this context 2008 was a watershed year when, for the first time in human history the global urban population equaled the rural population on earth. Though rooted in economy and politics, the emergence of cities as a preferred place of residence by an increasingly large proportion of human populations has profound ecological and environmental consequences. For instance while cities today account for just 3% of global terrestrial surface they account for 78% of carbon emissions, 76% of residential water use and 60% of industrial wood. Major impacts on biodiversity in remote natural areas also often emanate from pressures of demand in urban areas. Fastest urban growth is today happening in Asia and particularly Indian subcontinent where the sheer momentum of numbers is dwarfing earlier records. In the last 50 years while India's population grew 2.5 times, the urban population grew 5 times. More than 590 million people are expected to be living in Indian cities by year 2040. Creation and management of green spaces (including urban forests) has been gaining importance as urbanization becomes the most significant reason for human migration in the world. The population of South Asia is expected to have increasing number of young people whose energies need to be utilized properly. We have to be ready to meet our urban future and the environmental challenges it is likely to pose. Urban greens have to recognised for benefits beyond the business for housing and infrastructure. Urban green spaces helps conserve water, sequester carbon, enhance energy efficiency, serve as repositories of biodiversity and most important make cities liveable, leading to  improvement in the physical and mental health and development of people. Government of India is conscious of its role in promoting the integration of urban green spaces with the core of urban planning. Even though management of urban green spaces is largely a function of city administrations and municipal bodies, it is necessary to develop general standards as a minima for urban green spaces, there is also a need develop a well oiled structure of incentives and disincentives that encourages more emphasis on urban green spaces. It is also imperative that city redevelopment plans factor in expansion of green spaces as an important deliverable rather than just aim replacing old mortar with new concrete. Urban green spaces should no longer be a privilege reserved for the urban rich but should be a seen a basic necessity that should be addressed for all sections of the society. It is often not easy to achieve as green spaces compete for land and land is now a days big money, and a special effort has to be made to identify, demonstrate and protect such spaces through a dedicated agency such as the forest departments. Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India has developed an ambitious program called the Greening India Mission, as one of the eight missions to combat climate change. Under the green India Mission, a special place has been given to the protection and restoration of open spaces in urban and peri-urban areas, especially the remnants forest patches that are in danger of being swallowed up by expanding urban development. The role of agencies like FAO is critical in this context as it helps bring various stakeholders together at a regional level and build a favourable climate of opinion and articulate it for the cause of urban green spaces. The forthcoming International Congress on Urban Green Spaces being held in Delhi will be an important occasion to deliberate further on this important issue and I am glad that FAO is taking an active part in it. I wish the seminar success in meeting its objectives and look forward to receiving copy of proceedings. Thank you."

Kobie Brand, of ICLEI - local governments for sustainability recorded a video message regading how governments, mayors and citizens can promote Urban Forestry and Greening Cities.

During the discussion, a question was addressed to the representative of the city of Rome regarding the policy on waste management and energy. The answer of Claudio Baffioni concerned Rome's challenges in increasing levels of separete waste disposal.

Another question came on the way FAO is considering the youth in the urbanization process, particularly regarding rural to urban migration of young people skilled in agriculture. Julien Custot, facilitator of the Food for the Cities multi-disciplinary initiative replied announcing a forthcoming paper, which will also present the thematic related to migratory patterns from rural to urban areas and viceversa, including the role of youth.

Paul Munro-Faure thanked all the speakers - present or not in the room - and participants in this low carbon seminar. He wished a great sucess for the UPF month. He also invited all to join in the up-coming important "Food for the Cities" event during the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) on October 20th, in FAO HQs.