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New initiative will support cities to become more sustainable

A new initiative will help cities across the world transform into green spaces that address climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. 

The UrbanShift initiative which is being led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility will aim to avoid more than 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of one year’s worth of emissions from 32 coal-fired power stations. 

Cities currently account for around 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions, but in order to keep global temperature rise under 1.5 °C, they must all become carbon neutral by 2050.

The UbranShift initiative will support 23 cities in Argentina, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Rwanda and Sierra Leone to achieve this by adopting integrated approaches to urban development. 

The initiative will also work to improve the management and restoration of approximately one million hectares of land. 

green grass field in front of high-rise buildings during daytime

UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said: ‘Cities are at the frontline of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.

‘However, our cities also have the power to address these challenges while increasing the resilience of their citizens and their infrastructure.

‘As we focus on the pressing issues of climate change this week, we must turn the ingenuity and industriousness we showed in building our cities in the first place to rethinking how they work. UrbanShift will be a key tool to help urban leaders do just that.’

The programme will engage mayors, the private sector, city networks, UN agencies, multilateral development banks and many other partners to support national and city governments.

It will also build a knowledge and learning platform to connect cities with global expertise and cutting-edge research, as well as offering a space to share experiences and forge partnerships.

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and Chairperson of the Glocal Environment Facility added: ‘In an increasingly encroaching urban world, investing in our cities is one of the best ways we can achieve global environmental benefits across sectors – from conserving biodiversity, to reducing carbon emissions and increasing resilience to shocks like climate events and pandemics.’

Photo by Dwayne Hills

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