Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world
On World Habitat Day, in this crucial Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, I call for heightened efforts to promote the partnerships, pro-poor policies, and regulations needed to improve housing in cities. As we strive to overcome the pandemic, address the fragilities and inequalities it has exposed, and combat climate change, now is the time to harness the transformative potential of urbanisation for the benefit of people and the planet.António Guterres
UN Secretary General
World Habitat Day is observed on the first Monday of October every year. Established in 1985 by the UN and was first celebrated in 1986. Led by the UN, world nations reflect on the state of habitats and ensuring the fundamental right of all to adequate shelter. The observation reminds the world that everyone has the responsibility and opportunity to shape the future of towns and cities. It is also a time to contemplate the problems arising from rapid urbanisation and its impact on the environment and its disparities. The future of our planet depends on societies, organisations, governments have an essential role to play. Communities, academic institutions, and stakeholders need to create sustainable, carbon-neutral, inclusive cities and towns. World Habitat Day aims to focus on the global Race to Zero Campaign and UN-Habitat’s ClimateAction4Cities. Carbon Dioxide levels are increasing in the atmosphere and human beings and their lifestyles are responsible for the same. Cities are responsible for more than 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Transport, buildings, energy and managing the waste accounting for the bulk of the urban greenhouse gas emissions. The theme for this year’s observation, “Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world”, appropriately addresses this issue and reminds the world about the need to take urgent actions to ensure the environment is carbon-free.
Cities are engines of growth and the driving force enabling growth. Many people from rural areas globally migrate to cities to realise their dreams for a better life. Unplanned and uncontrolled growth of the urban areas is also becoming places where marginalisation, poverty, inequality is seen. The observation of World Habitat Day is to address the problems of rapid urbanisation and its impact on the environment and human poverty. It is also a reminder of the collective responsibility towards ensuring the future and sustainability of the Human Habitat. Another significant issue is the vulnerability to the risks posed by natural disasters. The havoc created by the natural disasters in the countries like Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and Bolivia has been very significant and resulted in a chaotic situation and enormous loss of life.
The process of making urban areas into futuristic cities are impacting the ecosystem of the planet. In the pursuit of achieving success and enhancing the quality of life, humans have forgotten to think about the world they live in. The UN recognised the day to reflect on the state or condition of towns and cities and promote the fundamental right to adequate shelter or housing for all. High population density and poor building techniques result in a chaotic situation and enormous loss of lives.
UN-Habitat is emerging as a significant global entity, a centre of excellence and innovation and finding a niche position as the “thought leader” and the go-to programme for addressing the habitat issues. UN-Habitat’s present Scroll of Honour awards every year for the initiatives that have made outstanding contributions in human settlements enhanced the quality of life in urban areas, and leave no one behind. The 2021 UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour winners are New Urban Communities Authority, Egypt; Shining Hope for Communities, Kenya; Baoji City, China; Let’s do it World, Estonia; Ciudad Emergente (CEM), Chile. In recognition of their contributions in providing safe, affordable social housing projects, community-led change to eradicate extreme poverty in urban slums, tackling the global waste crisis and reducing carbon emissions and innovative approach of shared streets concept.
Habitat is a species-specific term. Wikipedia refers to Habitat as an array of resources, physical and biotic factors present in an area, such as supporting the survival and reproduction of a particular species. Humankind is struggling to ensure its Habitat is liveable with all its intelligence and ability and think that it belongs only to them. Rapid urbanisation and overexploitation of earth’s resources, impacting the lives of many species. World Habitat Day aims to remind people that they have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of its Habitat. Not only to the human beings but to all the inhabitants of the mother earth.