UN Secretary General Guterres: Cities are central to virtually every challenge we face

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Due to shifting attitudes around the world, sustainability is turning into a must for cities. The future of all species on the earth, as well as human existence, is being heavily impacted by global warming. Sustainable practices are quickly becoming essential for mayors, municipal governments, and other local authorities.

The Polish city of Katowice hosted the World Urban Forum (WUF) between June 26 and June 30 this year. It is the world’s premier conference devoted to sustainable urbanization. The significance of the event is that it brings together diverse key players to engage, interact, and share their opinions, insights, and experiences as well as to broaden their networks and address some of the most pressing issues of today. Every two years, it attracts numerous participants and is regarded as one of the most significant international events centered around urban issues.

The World Urban Forum was created by the United Nations in 2001 in order to explore one of the most important problems that the world is currently facing, namely the growing urbanization and its consequences on cities and communities. The inaugural WUF was conducted in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in 2002, and subsequent WUFs have taken place all around the world. This year also marks the first time that WUF takes place in Eastern Europe.

Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, also delivered a video message to the World Urban Forum. In remarks to the event, Mr. Guterres highlighted the important role of the world’s cities, especially as the world is looking to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Guterres stated in a video message: ‘’Cities are central to virtually every challenge we face – and essential to building a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future. They have been at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look to recover, promoting more inclusive, gender responsive urban infrastructure and services will be critical to give all people – especially young people, women and girls – access to a better future.’’

Another significant role for cities around the world in relation to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was also emphasized by Mr. Guterres. To keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, cities must lead the way. Nearly all countries ratified the historic international agreement known as the Paris Agreement in 2015 to combat climate change and limit global warming.

‘’Cities generate more than 80 percent of global GDP – and 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. They must be leaders of climate action to keep the 1.5 degrees goal within reach. More and more cities across the world are committing to net zero by 2050 or before. The sooner we translate these commitments into concrete actions, the sooner we will achieve green job growth, better health, and greater equality,’’ Guterres also stated.

The UN Secretary-General also stated that the cities will need help in order to achieve this transformation and secure a more sustainable future for their residents. 

‘’They need more coordinated support from all levels of government, stronger partnerships with the private sector and civil society, and greater fiscal and policy space to bring solutions to scale,’’ Guterres said. (photo credit: Adam Borkowski/Unsplash)