World Habitat Day Focuses on Cities and Climate Change

Aguascalientes, Mexico, Photo: UN-HABITAT
[4 October 2011] -- The City of Aguascalientes in Mexico on Monday led the global celebration of World Habitat Day 2011 – a year in which the message is about the huge influence of cities on climate change and its impacts on large population centres.
“Experts predict that by the year 2050, global population will have increased by 50 per cent from what it was in 1999. Also by that time, scientists say, global greenhouse gas emissions must decrease by 50 per cent compared to levels at the turn of the millennium. I call this the 50 – 50 – 50 challenge,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message read out on his behalf at World Habitat Day events around the world.
“The nexus between urbanisation and climate change is real and potentially deadly,” he said. He reminded the world that both developed and developing countries had committed to reduced greenhouse gas emissions in a formal, accountable international agreement.
In a statement also read out on his behalf around the world, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos, said: “It is estimated that by 2050, there could be as many as 200 million environmental refugees worldwide, many of whom will be forced from their homes by rising sea levels and the increased frequency of flooding or drought.”
“Prevention should be addressed through better urban planning and building codes so that city residents, especially the poorest, are protected as far as possible against disaster,” he said. “Such measures can also help to keep their ecological footprint to the minimum.”
UN-HABITAT chose the Cities and climate change theme for the 2011 observance of World Habitat Day because it is important to see what cities are doing about climate disruption: This means their pollution and environmental footprint, as well the impact in turn of climate change problems on cities, especially on the poorest and those least able to cope when a weather-related disaster strikes.
Mr. Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, also made a special World Habitat Day statement in which he stressed the need to “green” the buildings in which we live and work around the world so that they consume less energy.
“As countries prepare for the United Nations Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012, there are real opportunities for cities to lead the greening of the global economy, where economic development can reduce environmental risks and improve human well-being,” said the chief of UN-HABITAT's Nairobi-based sister agency.
“Today, our homes and offices contribute to around one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. The development of greener buildings to house the world’s fast-growing urban population is therefore essential to tackling climate change.”
In keeping with a well established tradition, UN-HABITAT also presented the 2011 Habitat Scroll of Honour winners, while The Building and Housing Social Foundation headquartered of the United Kingdom, bestowed the winners of the 2011 World Habitat Awards.  
Celebrations to mark the occasion were held in many cities around the world. For details see: World Habitat Day celebrations around the world
This article was first published on the UN-HABITAT website 3 October 2011.
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