Progress on the 2030 Agenda will be decided in cities
Latin America and the Caribbean is the most urbanized region of the developing world. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has said that "cities are where the battle against climate change will be won or lost". Cities are the engines of economic growth, but also the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and their dynamism is present in the midst of the great inequalities of our societies.
Likewise, the pattern of urban growth constitutes an enormous socio-environmental challenge. While urban areas expand beyond their population needs, without guaranteeing spatially integrated social housing, without taking advantage of the benefits of urban valorization to finance their needs and reinforcing long-distance travel in individual private vehicles. An example of this is the worrisome rate of increasing motorization in the region, which is associated with the loss of users and quality of public transportation; a trend with negative social, environmental and economic impacts.
The goals of the Paris Agreement impose structural changes to the development model and decarbonization of urban activities. If these changes are not made, the region's growth will be limited to 1.2% per year. It is urgent to adhere to a new paradigm based on the transformation of urban dynamics and their productive bases. Urban centers are an opportunity insofar as the change in trend can initially benefit 30% of the urban population concentrated in 54 cities with more than one million inhabitants.
ECLAC proposals and recommendations
Transformative recovery means a shift in the way cities produce, grow, move, are planned and managed. It is necessary to change the urban development model and look at our cities as a source of social and environmental opportunities and spaces for the realization of rights; as living entities that contribute to the fight against climate change.
ECLAC works with this orientation, supporting diagnoses and decisions by national and local governments on issues such as inclusive urban development, mobility, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and locally-based urban financing measures, among others. To this end, it makes available to governments its experience and strength with statistical data, its capacity to generate knowledge and analysis tools, resources that are publicly available on the Urban and Cities Platform. It contributes to the exchange of experiences and provides specific support in technical assistance missions, always from a regional perspective. ECLAC's position as technical co-secretary of MINURVI, a forum of the region's top housing and urban planning authorities, facilitates this task. Thus, ECLAC fosters transformative recovery by promoting informed and evidence-based public policy decisions and implementation experiences.
The CISI program - Inclusive, Sustainable and Smart Cities - supported by the German Cooperation, supports the generation of knowledge on the productive, environmental and social development opportunities offered by the transition to sustainable mobility. The program offers the cities of Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Bogota and Mexico City proposals for the coordination of public policy, regulation, investment and financing strategies to leverage the various co-benefits, including industrial ones, of the growing focus on sustainable mobility and the technological shift to electromobility. The technical assistance provides, among others, a comprehensive understanding of mobility, highlighting its status as a social policy, the urgency of its articulation with urban planning and financing opportunities, the financial sustainability of its operation, changes in technology, the circular economy and energy planning.
Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda
ECLAC also supports the understanding of land as a strategic asset for urban development, housing policies and economic resilience. The governments of Ecuador, Cuba and Costa Rica have received support in the formulation of public policy for land management and the implementation of related financing instruments. This is articulated with integrated or non-segregated social housing supply policies, especially in central areas of cities, and the opportunities of this value chain for the economy. Lima, Santo Domingo and Guayaquil received support to formulate economic reactivation programs and strengthen their urban resilience in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, ECLAC's participation in the planning and prioritization of climate action at the local level, an urgent but pending task in much of the region, is noteworthy. In partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), tools were developed to accelerate the implementation of climate action plans in cities, based on the cases of Mexico City, Quito and San José.
Cities are key to the fulfillment of the New Urban Agenda and the opportunities for sustainable development, and ECLAC thus contributes to making this transformative recovery a reality.