The Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) of the Organization of American States (OAS) held a debate today, as part of its regular meeting, on urban planning and the construction of cities and communities in greater harmony with the environment.
In introducing the meeting, the Chair of CIDI and the Permanent Representative of Belize to the OAS, Ambassador Nestor Mendez, explained that as the Americas is the most urbanized hemisphere in the world, the issue of sustainable cities is one of the most challenging areas to tackle, “as cities are responsible for as much as 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emission. The accelerated pace of urbanization is creating new forms of social and economic marginality that nurture crime and violence at epidemic levels,” he noted.
Ambassador Mendez also said that often cities “expand beyond their planned limits and official and informal systems that provide water, sewage, waste disposal, and other common services are overtaxed.” In this regard, he highlighted examples of cities in the Hemisphere that have spearheaded efforts to meet the challenges of rapid urbanization, and cited the innovative sustainable transport initiative in Medellin, Colombia; the mobility project in Mexico City; initiatives to promote citizen involvement in the planning of projects in Honduras and Nicaragua; and the efforts of Barbados, Belize, and Trinidad and Tobago to reduce their carbon footprint, among others.
The panel on sustainable cities and communities in the Americas began with the presentation of Claudia Adriazola- Steil, Director of the Health and Road Safety Program at the World Resources Institute (WRI), who spoke of the impact of transport and urban development in public health, focusing on ways to improve traffic safety, air quality, physical activity and quality of life through sustainable mobility. “Road traffic injuries are expected to be the fifth leading cause of death globally by 2030,” she said, noting that traffic safety is today the leading cause of death among young people between 15 and 29. In order to combat this problem, she presented successful experiences in building safer cities.
Meanwhile, the Senior Specialist of the Energy Sector Management Program of Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank, Anna Lerner, shared the experience of the City Energy Efficiency Transformation Initiative (CEETI), launched by the global institution, which recognizes cities as audiences and actors in the implementation of the initiative, urges municipal policies that complement national efforts, and provides a knowledge base to develop and implement energy efficiency measures.
The World Bank specialist also spoke of the Tool for Rapid Assessment of City Energy (TRACE), which helps to identify under-performing sectors in energy efficiency, evaluate improvement and cost saving potential, and prioritize sectors and energy-efficient interventions. This tool has been applied in 25 cities worldwide and six in Latin America.
Finally, the Project Coordinator of the Solar Foundation of Guatemala, Virginia Rodas, spoke of a project that organization promotes to foster development in 11 communities “through the appropriation of best environmental practices and clean energy production, with a focus on productive uses and resilience to natural disasters.” She explained that the initiative seeks to reduce carbon emissions from the use of firewood through the appropriation of clean technology, contribute to the livelihood and income of families through improved agricultural production and foster the conservation of watersheds and reduction of environmental threats through the adoption of best practices.
The “Program for Sustainable Cities and Communities in the Americas,” run by the OAS Department of Sustainable Development with resources from the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) has enabled the implementation of initiatives in the Hemisphere in areas like clean energy, sustainable waste management, natural disaster mitigation and sustainable transportation.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The video of the event will be available here.
The audio of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.