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CITIES2030: The Transition Towards Sustainable Cities

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Recently we spoke about Smart Cities and considered the new smart cities models where urbanism, combined with major innovations, returns the people to the core. In this article, we will focus on the cities of the future and discuss the importance of the transformation toward climate-neutral metropolis as the challenge of the communities of tomorrow.

In the current context,  promoting more sustainable and climate-neutral cities  is being requested on both the European and national levels. As a result of this paradigm, the European Commission has the green transformation of urban environments among its commitment priorities, which it has sponsored the Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030 Mission. This project came to Spain thanks to CITIES 2030, an initiative promoted by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, which already includes eight affiliated cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, Soria, Valladolid, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and Saragossa) and aspires to become the main leverage of the financial and social transformation that the European cities should address to achieve the ecological transition.

What are sustainable cities?

The planet’s cities occupy only 3% of global territory but represent 75% of carbon emissions. Add accelerated urbanization to this climate risk, which creates many issues, such as the lack of infrastructure and uncontrolled urban growth, putting pressure on freshwater supply, residual water, living environment, and public health.

Given that they are one of the most active issues with air pollution, cities have a fundamental role in the battle against climate change whereby they could become leaders in the energy transition towards a low carbon development based on efficient and renewable energy.

This is where the role of what we know as sustainable cities appears. A sustainable city can integrate green space in an urban environment and reduce CO<81>2</81> emissions to improve air quality while promoting renewable energy and successfully implementing sustainable mobility, efficiently using public transportation, and promoting the circular economy among its people. In summary, sustainable cities provide a high quality of life without jeopardizing resources since they ensure the well-being of future generations.

Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities

Since 2016, 90% of city dwellers were breathing air that did not meet safety standards established by the World Health Organization (WHO), which consequently caused a total of 4.2 million deaths due to air pollution. More than half the world’s urban population was exposed to 2.5 times higher air contamination levels than the safety standard.

As a result of this situation, the 2015 United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an action plan to support people, the planet, and prosperity. This 2030 Agenda established 17 Goals with 169 integrated and indivisible targets that included economic, social, and environmental sectors. Among the 17 goals, we find number 11: make cities more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Moreover, among its targets, it also aims to achieve access to adequate housing and essential services to everyone, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems and improve traffic safety, increase inclusive and sustainable urbanization, reduce the per capita negative environmental impact of cities by paying particular attention to air quality and municipal waste management and, provide universal access to inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces.

2030 Sustainable Cities

As we mentioned, cities are the epicenter of the significant challenges and solutions to global sustainability issues. As part of this paradigm, Forética has launched a second edition of the 2030 Sustainable Cities initiative, whereby 23 companies and entities participate in as well as MAPFRE. The intent is to promote business contribution toward climate-neutral cities transformation by focusing on sustainable mobility and public-private collaboration as a critical sprinboard to support this transition.

Cities, as the major epicenter producing greenhouse effect gas emissions—nearly 80% of direct and indirect emissions—and energy and resource consumption—about 75% at a global level—have become one of the essential places to deal with the global climate crisis,” explained Ana Herrero, Forética’s Projects and Services Director.

In this situation, the private sector plays an important role when it provides sustainable solutions and aligns them with the commitments and the necessities of the local public administrations, so they may continue advancing in the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and specifically SDG 11 to promote business contributions in the development of a resilient, safe, inclusive and sustainable city model. Therefore, the initiative seeks to advance the business’ comprehension and integration of the focus and strategic actions linked to the sustainability of the cities from the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) perspective. The acronym ESG refers to making business decisions by following the Environmental, Social, and Governance criteria.

Collaboration by partnering with everyone involved

“To promote decarbonization of cities, creating partnerships with diverse interest groups present in urban environments and the collaboration of the public-private sector is essential in resolving the challenges linked to sustainability. So, as part of the initiative, we encourage spaces of dialog between municipal representatives, businesses, and participating organizations to discuss the challenges and opportunities for climate neutrality in the cities and the collaboration mechanisms,” stated Julia Moreno Forética’s 2030 Sustainable Cities Project Manager.

“Moreover, in this second edition, we will delve into the most prominent trends on the issue of sustainable mobility, from different approaches, as a fundamental instrument to support the battle against climate change in the cities,” she concluded.

As partners, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), National Environmental Congress (CONAMA), New North Madrid Project (Proyecto Madrid Nuevo Norte), and Madrid World Capital of Construction, Engineering and Architecture Association participate in the initiative at a global, national, and local level. Additionally, Forética maintains a strategic partnership with conferences of international relevance in this field such as Smart City Expo World Congress or Cities Forum, in their different editions.

The business conference organized within the 2030 Sustainable Cities initiative framework has enabled businesses to discuss the ambition of the cities concerning climate issues, challenges, and opportunities to meet these commitments and the critical role of the private sector in progress towards decarbonization of the cities.

Faced with the transition challenge towards more sustainable cities, we must seek solutions and new urban planning models that place citizens in the core to foster greener cities, stop climate change and simultaneously improve the people’s quality of life. Therefore, it is imperative to improve urban management, so these spaces can be safer, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable, just as required in Goal 11 of the 2030 Agenda.