Cities and Climate Change: World Habitat Day 2011- UCLG calls for strategy beyond environmental approach


The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day with the intention to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

This year’s theme “Cities and Climate Change” reminds us that local governments are at the forefront in the fight against climate change.  On this World Habitat day, UCLG and its members would like to highlight that Climate Change and Sustainability are not only environmental issues and that the fight that Cities, local and regional authorities are carrying out every day in towns, cities and territories, big and small, is about governance accountability and sound service delivery. This will also be the key messages of the World Organization before Rio +20 meetings and COP 17 in Durban.


1. Contributing to international governance in sustainable development field

Local governments will advocate for a new institutional framework for sustainable development, one of the two main themes identified for the discussions in the framework of Rio+20 process.  Local and regional governments believe that building on the Agenda 21 and its successful implementation at local level, the outcome document from Rio+20 Summit should entail a specific chapter devoted to local and regional authorities.

The importance of good governance mechanisms, based on transparency, participation and accountability is to be put before the international community. Greater sustainability is achieved through bottom-up approaches, which help to set priorities and resources allocation. National strategies for sustainable development should take into account the local realities and trends with the active assistance of local governments.


2. Making Culture as fourth pillar of development

Local and regional leaders will make the case for Culture as fourth pillar of development.  Based on a growing understanding that the world is not only facing economic, social, or environmental challenges – the three pillars currently acknowledged as the components of sustainable development – but that creativity, knowledge, diversity, and beauty are the unavoidable bases for dialogue for peace and progress as these values are intrinsically connected to human development and freedoms, UCLG Executive Bureau adopted in November 2010 the policy statement on “culture as fourth pillar of development”.


3. Tackling climate change

Climate Change has great social impacts that are felt throughout the world. Local governments, particularly in developing countries where Climate Change is making itself most drastically felt, are witnessing first-hand the need to address both climate mitigation and adaptation via pressing development challenges that they cannot afford to ignore.

After years of advocacy of local governments and their networks, it is widely recognized that well-designed and well-governed cities can lead the way in lowering national emissions and that local governments should be recognised as key players in the implementation of climate strategies, including mitigation and adaptation efforts.

In this regard, the Cancun agreements, adopted in December 2010, recognise local governments as governmental stakeholders and open access to international financing mechanisms for cities. We now have to ensure effective involvement of local and subnational governments in national climate action plans and access to financial support


4.  Making cities resilient

Local governments across the world will finally make the case for making cities resilient.  We are convinced that a preventive action coordinated in advance, regardless of investment costs, would enable to reduce drastically the human and financial costs. And that capacity building and training programmes are needed at the local level in order to support them in integrating urban risk in the local strategies and guarantying safe land and infrastructure to the poor populations. Disasters risks reduction strategies have to be considered at national and local levels as an investment not as a cost.