On World Habitat Day, Let’s Pledge To Make Our Cities & Towns Carbon-Free

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World Habitat Day 2021, to be observed on the first Monday of October like every year, offers an opportunity to reflect on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, and also how we can make human settlements more resilient and ensure low carbon in future.

Let’s talk about the opportunities available to put climate action, clean energy and sustainable development at the heart of our cities. That’s why this year’s World Habitat Day theme ‘Accelerating Urban Action for a Carbon Free World’.

Interestingly, urban areas are now home to 55% of the global population while they account for about 70 per cent of carbon emissions.

The climate crisis is widely recognized as the top threat facing the world today. And it is the cities and towns which are responsible for much of the climate change, which is resulting in devastating floods, droughts and violent storms. Unless actions are taken urgently, greenhouse gases produced by ever-expanding urban centres will continue to push up global air temperatures.

Despite being the major contributor of carbon emissions, cities are at the forefront of climate change solutions because the climate crisis will be won or lost in cities and towns only. So the future of our planet depends on the actions of urban residents. Without urgent action to halt climate change and deal with its impacts, we won’t be able to achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals including SDG 11.

The future of our planet depends on national, regional and local governments as well as organizations, communities, academic institutions, the private sector and all stakeholders working together to create sustainable, carbon-neutral inclusive cities and towns.

World Habitat Day will amplify the global Race to Zero Campaign and UN-Habitat’s ClimateAction4Cities, and encourage local governments to develop actionable zero-carbon plans in the run-up to the international climate change summit COP26 in November.

Governments need to reshape policies, strategies and legislations to ensure diverse urban solutions for all and respect, protect and fulfil human rights for all in cities. Sustainable Development Goal 11 aims for resilient, inclusive, safe, diverse cities by 2030 and one of the targets is access to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services for all by 2030 and the upgrade of slum.

The pandemic offers new opportunities for all.

Despite the odds, we can and will recover, and use our experience to build better and sustainable cities, towns, communities to deal with future pandemics because we have knowledge, skills and innovation. But decision-makers of cities, towns, communities must overcome egos. They often put their personal dreams over larger aspirations.

Climate change presents the single biggest threat to sustainable development and has a disproportionate impact on the poorest and most vulnerable.

Odisha — a state with one of the slowest urbanisation processes and whose cities and towns are presently home to 70 lakh people — has the opportunity to revisit urban policies to accommodate another 70 lakh people.

World Habitat Day is indeed an opportunity for the state to reflect on our towns and cities, and on the basic right to adequate shelter. It is also an opportunity to remind the local government that we all have the power and responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.

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