Cities and Nature

Highlights and images of main proceedings for 23 February 2022

Online

United Nations Environment Assembly – UNEA

The Second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) Cities and Regions Summit convened virtually on 23 February 2022 under the theme, “Flip the Script: Cities and Nature.”

Martina Otto, Head, Cities Unit, Economy Division, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), welcomed participants, outlining the objective to highlight the role nature can play in cities and regions.

Martina Otto, Head, Cities Unit, Economy Division, UNEP

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, and UN Under-Secretary-General, presented keynote remarks, sharing optimism that cities and regions can realize goals set out in the New Urban Agenda, which envisions well-planned and well-managed cities as a tool for sustainable development. Valérie Dumontet, Vice-President, Aude Department, France, called on leaders to be inspired and make their commitments visible and audible as “the actors of transformation” to face the future and leave no one behind.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, and UN Under-Secretary-General

Otto concluded the opening session, highlighting growing evidence that protecting and conserving nature makes business sense and calling for mindset change that embraces natural accounting.

Urban Nature-based Solutions to Counter Climate Risks and Limit Global Warming

Moderator Jennifer Lenhart, Global Lead, WWF Cities, said cities are spaces of challenge and change, and investing in nature tackles the issues of climate change and pollution, and improves quality of life.

Jennifer Lenhart, Global Lead, WWF Cities

Jennifer Lenhart, Global Lead, WWF Cities

Stewart Maginnis, Deputy Director General, IUCN, underscored that nature-based solutions (NbS) are 50% more cost effective than standalone grey alternatives and 28% more productive. He emphasized urgency, calling for a whole-of-society approach and recognizing that each urban dweller has agency to implement such solutions.

Stewart Maginnis, Deputy Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Stewart Maginnis, Deputy Director General, IUCN

Dieudonné Bantsimba, Mayor, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, noted the approval of a framework to protect the environment in Brazzaville, including through reforestation, the creation of green spaces within the city, and the encouragement of urban agriculture.

Dieudonné Bantsimba, Mayor of Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo

Dieudonné Bantsimba, Mayor, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo

Eleni Myrivili, Chief Heat Officer, Athens, Greece, stated nature is the basic, only, and most important solution to “beat the heat” in cities. Athens, she said, has learned from others, including from the Cool Cities Network and Resilient Cities Network.

Eleni Myrivili, Chief Heat Officer, City of Athens, Greece

Eleni Myrivili, Chief Heat Officer, City of Athens, Greece

Supriya Sahu, Principal Secretary, Environment Climate Change and Forest, Government of Tamil Nadu, India, highlighted solutions to address climate vulnerability in the coastal city of Chennai, an UrbanShift city.

Supriya Sahu, Principal Secretary, Environment Climate Change and Forest, Government of Tamil Nadu, India

Supriya Sahu, Principal Secretary, Environment Climate Change and Forest, Government of Tamil Nadu, India

Ming Jiang, Deputy Director, Development and Reform Commission, Chengdu City, China, on behalf of UrbanShift, shared approaches to cope with the risks of climate change by, inter alia: respecting nature in the master plans of urban development; establishing infrastructure to reduce commuting and improve urban efficiency; and restoring nature.

Ming Jiang, Deputy Director, Development and Reform Commission, Chengdu City, China, on behalf of UrbanShift

Ming Jiang, Deputy Director, Development and Reform Commission, Chengdu City, China, on behalf of UrbanShift

Rebecca Pow, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Nature Recovery and the Domestic Environment, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom, highlighted the mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain mechanism under the Environment Act 2021, which requires all new development in the UK to restore at least 10% more nature than what was present at the start of the project, contributing to the UK's goal of restoring species abundance by 2030.

Rebecca Pow, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Nature Recovery and the Domestic Environment, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom

Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, India, presented the collaborative effort among federal, state, and local governments to reduce urban heat in India in the context of rapid urbanization.

Slide by Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, India

Slide from the presentation by Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, India

Geordin Hill-Lewis, Executive Mayor, Cape Town, South Africa, spoke on efforts to implement NbS to improve water security, noting that while grey infrastructure is being used, the most cost-effective tool with the best yields is through the removal of alien vegetation in water catchment areas.

Geordin Hill-Lewis, Executive Mayor, Cape Town, South Africa - 2nd UNEA Cites and Regions Summit - 23Feb2022 - Photo

Geordin Hill-Lewis, Executive Mayor, Cape Town, South Africa

Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven, Director-General, GIZ

Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven, Managing Director, German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)

Kongjian Yu, President, Turenscape, Founding Dean and Changjiang Chair Professor of Design, College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Peking University, elucidated on the concept of a “sponge city,” where cities use NbS to manage, among others, storm water surges.

Slide by Kongjian Yu, President, Turenscape, Founding Dean and Changjiang Chair Professor of Design, Peking University and College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

A slide from the presentation by Kongjian Yu, President, Turenscape, Founding Dean and Changjiang Chair Professor of Design, Peking University and College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Closing the session, Andy Deacon, Acting Managing Director, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, said while cities are already extremely vulnerable to the climate crisis, NbS can be employed to increase resilience, improve livelihoods, and combat the many crises they face. He highlighted the publication Beating the Heat: A Sustainable Cooling Handbook for Cities as a practical guide to inform city planners on what can be implemented.

Andy Deacon, Acting Managing Director, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy

Andy Deacon, Acting Managing Director, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy

Leveraging Sustainable Food Systems for Nature-Positive Cities

Jamie Morrison, Director, Food Systems and Food Safety Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), highlighted the need to empower local governance and increase exchange with national governance, referencing the benefit or urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA), such as community gardens and rooftop gardens.

Jamie Morrison, Director, Food Systems and Food Safety Division, FAO

Jamie Morrison, Director, Food Systems and Food Safety Division, FAO

Izabella Teixeira, Co-Chair, International Resource Panel, emphasized the call to transform the world’s food system, explaining that with 70% of food consumed in cities, it is critical to “change how, and what, urban populations are eating.” She introduced the launch of the Think Piece Urban Agriculture: A Natural Resource Perspective, as not only a technical and science report, but also as political guidance.

Izabella Teixeira, Co-Chair, International Resource Panel

Ana Lucía Reis, Mayor, Cobija, Bolivia, shared experiences linking conservation to the empowerment of youth and women in a region with more than six million hectares of Amazon, such as through a school breakfast programme.

Ana Lucía Reis, Mayor of Cobija, Bolivia

Ana Lucía Reis, Mayor, Cobija, Bolivia

Marta Suplicy, Secretary of International Relations of São Paulo, Brazil, said that remodelling food systems to take climate change into account will require major changes in power dynamics to shift the scope and restore biological balance.

Marta Suplicy, Secretary of International Relations, Sao Paulo, Brazil - 2nd UNEA Cites and Regions Summit - 23Feb2022 - Photo

Marta Suplicy, Secretary of International Relations, São Paulo, Brazil

Kate MacKenzie, Director, Mayor's Office of Food Policy, New York City, US, outlined a number of initiatives underway in New York City to holistically address food and the environment.

Kate MacKenzie, Director, Mayor's Office of Food Policy, New York City, US

Kate MacKenzie, Director, Mayor's Office of Food Policy, New York City, US

R. Anang Noegroho Setyo Moeljono, Director of Food and Agriculture, Bappenas, Indonesia, and National Convener of the UN Food Systems Summit, said government is encouraging that food system planning be included in urban planning. Honest Kessy, Director of National Food Security, Ministry of Agriculture, Tanzania, and National Convener of the UN Food Systems Summit, noted steps taken to encourage local policies to be supportive of UPA.

Anang Noegroho Setyo Moeljono, Director of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of National Development Planning, Indonesia

R. Anang Noegroho Setyo Moeljono, Director of Food and Agriculture, Bappenas, Indonesia, and National Convener of the UN Food Systems Summit

James Njiji, on behalf of Manuel de Araújo, Mayor, Quelimane, Mozambique, and UN Food Systems Summit Champion, said that the Coalition on Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Food Systems paves the way for sustainable food system by strengthening participation from local and international stakeholders. Nona Yehia, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Vertical Harvest, presented hydroponic vertical greenhouses as a business solution aimed at growing food while increasing meaningful employment and professional development.

Nona Yehia, CEO and Co-Founder, Vertical Harvest

Nona Yehia, CEO and Co-Founder, Vertical Harvest 

Musonda Mumba, Director, Rome Centre for Sustainable Development, UN Development Programme, summarized the discussion, highlighting, inter alia, NbS as an entry point for local governments to act on global goals.

Panelists of Scaling up Solutions to Harness the Power of Nature in Cities

Panelists of the session on Scaling up Solutions to Harness the Power of Nature in Cities

Scaling up Solutions to Harness the Power of Nature in Cities

Wanjira Mathai, Vice President, Regional Director for Africa, World Resources Institute, moderated the panel, stating that while cities are often seen as destroyers of nature, this view is shifting.

Wanjira Mathai, Vice President, Regional Director for Africa, World Resources Institute

Wanjira Mathai, Vice President, Regional Director for Africa, World Resources Institute

Mauricio Vila Dosal, Governor of the State of Yucatán, Mexico, on behalf of RegionsWithNature, ICLEI, called for policies that focus on cities’ nature and sustainability, saying these should be a cross-cutting axis of government policies.

Mauricio Vila Dosal, Governor of the State of Yucatan, Mexico

Mauricio Vila Dosal, Governor of the State of Yucatan, Mexico, on behalf of RegionsWithNature, ICLEI

Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal, Canada, on behalf of CitiesWithNature, ICLEI Global Biodiversity Ambassador, said the COVID-19 pandemic has renewed efforts to create green urban spaces, and encouraged transparency in actions so citizens are aware of local governments’ policies.

Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal, Canada, on behalf of CitiesWithNature, ICLEI Global Biodiversity Ambassador

Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal, Canada, on behalf of CitiesWithNature, ICLEI Global Biodiversity Ambassador

Carlos Eduardo Correa Escaf, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia, drew attention to cities’ role in achieving Colombia’s goals of having net zero emissions and being nature positive by 2050.

Carlos Eduardo Correa Escaf, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia

Carlos Eduardo Correa Escaf, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia

Badre Kanouni, Chairman of the Board, Al Omrane, Morocco, outlined numerous initiatives to increase green spaces and reduce urban sprawl in Morocco.

Badre Kanouni, Chairman of the Board, Al Omrane, Morocco

Badre Kanouni, Chairman of the Board, Al Omrane, Morocco

Mohamed Bakarr, Lead Environmental Specialist, Global Environment Facility (GEF), underscored the importance of NbS to achieve the global goals.

Mohamed Bakarr, Global Environment Facility

Mohamed Bakarr, GEF

Anna König Jerlmyr, Mayor, Stockholm, Sweden, C40 Vice Chair, said Stockholm demonstrates that a healthy environment is essential for long-term prosperity, reporting a 60% reduction in emissions since 1990 while simultaneously increasing population by 300,000 and doubling GDP.

Anna König Jerlmyr, Mayor of Stockholm, Sweden, and C40 Vice Chair

Anna König Jerlmyr, Mayor, Stockholm, Sweden, and C40 Vice Chair

Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP, and UN Under Secretary-General, spoke of the need to normalize positive examples of solutions through multilevel governance and investing in nature's infrastructure.

Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, and UN Under Secretary-General

Otto closed the summit, announcing that the outcome document will be made available widely and reported to the resumed fifth session of UNEA on 2 March.

IISD's Summary: A summary report of this event will be available on this site on Friday, 25 February 2022.

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