YOKOHAMA, JAPAN, October 21, 2010 – World Bank Sustainable Development Vice President Inger Andersen today called on world urban leaders to “act now, act together, and act differently” as they confront the challenges of urbanization in the 21st century.
Speaking in Yokohama at the Eco2: Ecological Cities as Economic Cities conference, Andersen used the theme of the World Development Report 2010 on climate change and development to urge city officials and national decision-makers to “materialize sustainable development and to build low carbon economies and societies.”
“What we do today shapes the climate, ecological systems, and habitats of tomorrow, as well as the options available to future generations,” said Andersen. “New and innovative approaches are required to enable a sustainable future in a changing world.”
Andersen added that “in the next few decades, the world’s cities and energy and resource management systems must be rapidly transformed so that global emissions drop, resource waste is reduced drastically, and infrastructure is built to improve resilience to our changing climate. We must do nothing less than go through a revolution in thinking, in approaches, in implementation, and in impact.”
In her remarks, Andersen noted that urbanization is a defining feature of the 21st century. “Over 90% of all urban growth, worldwide, is taking place in developing countries. By the middle of this century, within the lifespan of many in this room, Asia alone will host 63 per cent of the world’s urban population, an astonishing 3.3 billion people. “
“Urbanization has enabled economic growth across all regions and liberated millions of people from poverty,” she continued. “Urban areas currently account for three quarters of global economic production. Urban areas are the engine of growth in most countries of the world. “
For this reason, she said, each city has a particular responsibility “to chart its own unique action plan, its own sustainable city pathway. This will encompass policy reforms, investments in strategic or catalytic projects, and capacity building within organizational structures.”
“The good news is that innovative cities around the world have demonstrated that, with an appropriate strategic approach, they can greatly enhance their energy and resource efficiency while simultaneously decreasing pollution and waste. By doing so, they have improved the quality of life for their citizens, enhanced their economic competitiveness and resilience, strengthened their fiscal capacity, and created a lasting culture of sustainability. “
Andersen pointed to cities such as Stockholm, Stockholm and Malmo in Europe, but also Curitiba, Singapore, and Ahmadabad, as well as several Japanese cities, including Yokohama, as examples of what good sustainable city planning and implementation can achieve
Andersen said “the Japanese experience in urban development is relevant to many cities in developing countries also experiencing rapid urbanization in difficult climatic and geographic conditions. The world can also learn from Japan’s private sector which has developed highly energy and resource efficient manufacturing and industrial systems, along with state-of-the-art pollution control technologies. As a result, Japan’s CO2 emissions per capita are the lowest of the G-7 countries.”
As an integral part of the World Bank’s new Urban and Local Government strategy, the World Bank is undertaking an Eco2: Ecological Cities as Economic Cities Initiative, intended to help cities in developing countries achieve economic and ecological sustainability as well as social equity. Pilot Eco2 projects are being developed in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
While in Yokohama for the Eco2 Cities conference, Andersen was scheduled to sign two Memorandums of Understanding between the World Bank and Yokohama City University/International Academic Consortium for Sustainable Cities, and between the World Bank and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization to promote sustainable urban development and low carbon economies and societies.
The World Bank Vice President was also scheduled to meet the Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi and to tour the city’s renovated waterfront area.