From COP21 to the new urban agenda.

Author:Clos, Joan
Position:2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France

We are just a few days away from the opening of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21). A new climate agreement is an important stepping stone for the implementation of the global sustainable development agenda. Besides achieving an ambitious climate agreement, addressing climate financing and galvanizing action by all relevant stakeholders are further crucial elements of a successful COP21. This is a prime opportunity to move forward on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to pave the way for a more sustainable future.


We are at a critical juncture for the future of urbanization. The majority of the world population already lives in urban areas: 55 per cent of the total population. Predictions for the next 30 years suggest that it will rise to 70 per cent. Cities will need to host 3 billion additional inhabitants by 2050. Urbanization is a defining trend for the coming decades and we have a major opportunity to shape the way we live through good urban planning and design, good rules and regulations, and sound financial planning. Well-planned urbanization is a driving force and a source of development, which has the power to improve and change the lives of billions of people. If managed well, cities are engines of national economic growth, social prosperity and environmental sustainability.

While urbanization creates opportunities, it also exacerbates risks, and the speed at which it is unfolding challenges our capacity to plan and adapt. Inadequate urban planning and ineffective governance can result in significant economic, social and environmental costs, threatening the sustainability of urban development. Hence, urban institutional, policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks need to be reviewed in order to address the challenges posed by rapid urbanization, population growth, climate change and disaster risks. Ensuring engagement of all relevant stakeholders is crucial to foster broad-based support for implementation of policies. This should take place within the broader context of sustainable urban development.

Cities contribute up to 70 per cent of the world's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and over 75 per cent of total global energy generated is consumed in cities. Urban residents are already exposed to the negative effects of climate change and many of the most vulnerable populations reside in cities. However, the...

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