Cities and their citizens must be at the forefront of delivering a safer climate by the middle of this century to avert catastrophic climate and future pandemics. Mayors and government officials have now the opportunity to lead the urgent ecological transition so much needed and transform the cities. Now more than ever, our cities need a bold vision that is backed by action.
Today, more than half of the world’s population – 4.2 billion inhabitants – live in cities. This trend won’t stop anytime soon: by 2050, it is expected that nearly 7 of 10 people will live in cities. Cities are also responsible for 70% of CO2 emissions globally.
Cities are at the frontline of combating climate change and the spread of epidemics. They are also hubs, where people from different walks of life cross their paths, and together, they can generate new ideas to make their cities a better place. While some cities are already stepping up, what we do in the next ten years will be vital to prevent the worst effects of the climate and health crises from happening. We need to acknowledge the urgency of the challenge ahead and start taking action.
Tackling climate change while greening public spaces. Parks, squares, rooftops, streets can contribute to climate mitigation if they become green spaces. If a single healthy tree can have the cooling power of more than ten air-conditioning units, let’s rewild our public space and cool down our planet. No urban planning business should come before the expansion, conservation and promotion of green areas.
Increasing green areas is caring for citizens’ health. The basic need of people for open spaces in the Covid era is a wake-up call for all political authorities. Outdoor spaces not only allow us to move more safely during the pandemic but are also linked to our well-being. Green urban areas facilitate physical activity, relaxation, recreation and social interaction.
Restoring public spaces for stronger social connections. Let’s make less space for cars and more for people. Greening public spaces helps fight inequality, promotes community inclusion, and makes cities safer and more resilient. Public spaces create a sense of belonging that helps everyone, from students to families, friends, lovers, local merchants, and farmers, connect and interact with each other. Today more than ever, the expansion of public space is an urgent need for cities but must be equally distributed and open for all, near everyone and not just in city centres.