United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

UN-HABITAT on Climate Change

Statement by Brian Williams, Chief Energy and Transport Section, Nairobi, Kenya
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates;
The world is experiencing unprecedented levels of urbanization as the majority of people
now reside in urban areas. By 2030, three-quarters of the world?s population will be
urban, and the biggest cities will be found in the developing world. As climate change
threatens to change the face of the planet, mega-cities loom as giant potential flood or
other disaster traps, especially for billions of the world?s urban poor ? who are often in
slums ? and who are always the most exposed and the most vulnerable.
However, (and this is key) it is no coincidence that global climate change has become a
leading international development issue precisely at the same time and virtually at the
same rate as the world has become urbanized. This is because how we plan, manage,
operate and consume energy in our cities is, in fact, the key driver behind the
phenomenon of global warming. 75% of global energy consumption occurs in cities.
80% of Greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming come from cities. Roughly
half of this amount comes from burning fossil fuels in cities for urban transport; the other
half comes from energy in-use in buildings as well as for use in appliances; both
hallmarks of our built environment and our quality-of-life in urban places. Indeed, the
two (climate change and urbanization) are virtually inseparable.
Therefore it is crucial to recognize that cities and urban residents are not just seen as
victims of climate change in terms of sea-level rise but part of the problem of climate
change. And if cities are part of the problem, that means they are also inevitably part of
the solution.
While cities and local authorities must indeed ?adapt? to the impacts of climate change
within their boundaries, they remain in the driver?s seat in terms of continued efforts at
mitigation. For example, urban transport is the planet?s fastest growing source of GHG
emissions. But there is still time to reduce the overall impact of this ecological
catastrophe by more responsible planning and management of how, where and by what
mode of transport we move ourselves and the goods we produce and consume around
our urban areas. And this problem of transport is compounded by the fact that millions,
upon millions of our urban residents living in developing country cities have virtually no
access at all to any sort of motorized transport, much less a private automobile and so
pollute next to nothing now. But we need to pay closer attention to the coming
environmental implications when these same urban residents also demand mobility and
transport just like any other urban resident.
In order to successfully answer this challenge of cities and global climate change, UNHabitat
believes we need to encourage a number of measures to be taken, including
stricter energy efficiency standards in fuel consumption from transport; energy efficiency
in building construction and use; as well as improving global standards for appliance
manufacturing and importation applied across the board in developed and developing
country cities alike. After all, the majority of energy is consumed in cities. Therefore, it
is an urban issue. Best practices on climate-friendly can be shared between cities of both
north and south.
Large-scale primarily urban-based electricity utilities in developing countries and cities
have a strong economic incentives to regularize electricity provision to slum communities
and other urban low-income communities in order to reduce and avoid so much technical
energy loss. This idea is particularly important in countries and cities that rely on coalbased
electricity generation. Reducing the overall energy consumption footprint in this
manner will have strong positive global environmental benefits.
Lastly, improving transportation systems through pricing, investment, and particular
appropriate technological options such as encouraging bicycling as well as regulatory
measures to reduce urban traffic congestion are also key.
In conclusion, in the view of UN-Habitat, the time to act is now and the place to act (in
terms of both mitigation and adaptation) is in the cities of the world ? where the locus of
the problem and therefore the solution, most firmly rests.
Thanks you, Mr. Chairman.