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World’s cities shift focus to climate action as experts’ review habitat

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
04 October 2021   |   3:08 am
To achieve sustainable urbanisation that offers opportunities for better living conditions without adversely affecting the natural environment, the global community will this morning

UN-Habitat Chief, Sharif

To achieve sustainable urbanisation that offers opportunities for better living conditions without adversely affecting the natural environment, the global community will this morning mark World Habitat Day (WHD) 2021.

WHD is observed on the first Monday of October every year. This year, it is being observed on October 4 across the world. The day is recognised by the United Nations and observed to reflect on the state or condition of towns and cities and promote the basic right to adequate shelter or housing for all.

According to the UN, cities are responsible for around 70 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions with transport, buildings, energy and waste management accounting for the large bulk of urban greenhouse gas emissions. This day will amplify the global race to zero campaign and UN-Habitat’s ClimateAction4Cities and motivate local governments to develop actionable zero-carbon plans in the run-up to the international climate change summit COP26 in November this year.

In Nigeria, urban city experts and environmentalists will be meeting to examine the theme, Accelerating Urban Action for a Carbon Free World, and forge an alliance to ensure green transition benefits everyone, especially the most vulnerable, and creates new jobs.

In his statement to mark the day, the UN-Habitat Executive Director, Ms Maimunah Mohd Sharif said: “The climate crisis is widely recognised as the number one threat facing the world today. And it is our cities and towns, which are responsible for much of the climate change, resulting in devastating floods, droughts and violent storms.

According to her, “unless we take urgent action, the greenhouse gases produced by ever-expanding urban centres, will continue to push global air temperatures higher.

“And this year, in the run-up to the international climate change summit COP 26, we need immediate action in developing and implementing zero carbon plans. The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for the world’s cities, to put climate action on top of their agenda.

She said: “We need clean, resource-efficient energy, to replace fossil fuels. We need energy-efficient infrastructure to encourage walking and cycling,” she added.

The President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde said: “Creating that carbon-neutral, livable and sustainable future relies on our ability as stakeholders to collaborate and make the right actions happen through responsible living.

“We must go back to the basics of planning. Livability and sustainability rest on the principles of planning. The physical planning of our human settlements will make solving problems in the built environment easier.”

Ayinde called on governments to become alive to their responsibility for planning while making use of the knowledge, wisdom and skills of town planners to help them in transforming various visions, policies and plans into blueprints as master plans, sector plans, district plans, and action plans that will deliver settlements that are conducive for a living if the plans are implemented.

The professor of Urban Planning and Lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Mustapha Zubairu, said the emerging global consensus is that “there must be deliberate effort to embark on low-carbon development that will, ultimately, result in the decarbonisation of our economies.

Zubairu, who is also the Project Manager, Niger State Urban Support Programme, urged the government to embark on gradual decarbonisation of the urban economy through the planning of new towns and cities and transforming existing ones, with a focus on the adoption of the green master planning system that reduces the use of cars; promotes social and economic harmony; provides a basis for developing livable, walkable, compact and efficient city; preservation of the natural environment; and incorporating natural ecosystems into urban areas, to host local wildlife.

He also called for the design of new buildings based on biophilic and bioclimatic architecture and zero and passive energy design concepts to incorporate natural lighting, ventilation and natural landscape features, and prioritising energy efficiency and low-carbon development;

A town planner, Mr. Moses Ogunleye said cities are becoming carbon-heavy. He urged the government to provide greens areas by planting trees and creating more gardens.

“There should be strict enforcement of tree felling regulations. Let the public transport system be improved. The reduction of private vehicles on the roads will curb emission,” he added.