Global Environment Forum Recap: Commit to Copenhagen and Build Green Cities or Face Planetary Disaster

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Hotel Chin Shuai in Taiwan folds into the Pacific during Typhoon Morakot flooding

Last week's Global Environment Forum, organized by the city of Incheon, South Korea, featured United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon. He exhorted the gathering's 1,000 global government, academic, business and civil society organization leaders that they must gain political support for the United Nations COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, this December.

The consequence of not getting politcal support?: global devastation beyond calculation, which the Secretary General detailed.

While Secretary General Ban's message and that of some other speakers were loaded with the impending risks posed by global climate change--stonger typhoons, hurricanes, floods, severe drought, massive human health problems, species depletion--the theme of the conference was in "Low-Carbon High Growth" solutions.

Ironically, as Ban spoke, the remnants of Typhone Morakot deluged the streets outside the convention center. The intensity of this tropical Pacific storm, which claimed more than 500 lives in Taiwan a few days earlier, is being attributed to global climate change by Taiwanese leadership after it dumped more than six feet of rain in two days in a mountainous region.

I was attending the Forum as a representative of Common Current, addressing the conference as part of a panel on Climate Change and Urban Sustainability. My presentation, along with those of many others, focused on sustainable urban solutions.

The upshot of my message was that both existing and new cities will need to scale up profitable ways to plan, measure, manage (using best management practices and the latest IT), finance, build and retrofit sustainability. My case studies focused on LEED-ND, Portland's Brewery Blocks, low carbon or carbon neutral developments, Green and Connected Cities, and large-scaled technological and financial "development ecosystems" such as Masdar City, United Arab Emirates..

Other solutions presented ranged from "low-carbon cities" to preservation or restoration of ecosystem services such as coastal mangrove buffer zones in the face of climate change impacts.

Besides Secretary General Ban, speakers included Ashok Khosla, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature; Yann Athus-Betrand, Charman of; environmental or energy/climate ministers from South Korea, the UK, Japan and Tanzania; the head of the European Commission Delegation to Korea; representatives from corporations (Cisco, Philips) and an executive from the development firm that is building the new Korean "Green City" in which the conference was located, Songdo.

Songdo is being built as a section of Incheon that is designed as the world's first ubiquitious IT city. It is also demonstrating significant sustainability attributes (see previous post).

Secretary General Ban praised Songdo as a model for global planning and development: "If we combat climate change with a sustainable, low-emissions approach, just like we see around us in Songdo, we can change the way countries develop," he said. 

The bottom line on Copenhagen: developing nations will need to provide financing and technical assistance to developing nations, particularly China and India. I showed a slide demonstrating that in 1975 there were a handful of "Megacites" cities over 10 million in population: by 2030 that number will inrease to almost 500, with most expected to be in China and India.

As Secretary General Ban said, "(Songdo-like development)" will allow developing countries to pursue their mitigation efforts as part of their sustainable green growth strategies and to adapt to accelerating climate impacts. Significant resources will be needed from both public and private sources. Developing countries, especially the most vulnerable, will collectively need billions of dollars in public financing for (climate change) adaptation."

Or, as Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) director Lorents Lorentson put it at the Global Environment Forum, "Copenhagen won't go through unless there's cash on the table for China and India."

And that means there must be new ways of simultaneously planning and financing the new cities of China and India.


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About the Author

    Warren Karlenzig
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (lead co-author United Nations Shanghai Manual: A Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century, 2011); United Nations Center for Regional Development (training of mayors from 13 Asian nations on city sustainable economic development and technology); provinces of Guizhou and Guangdong, China (urban sustainability master planning and green city standards); the United States White House and Environmental Protection Agency (Eco-Industrial Park planning and Industrial Ecology primer); the nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics"); The European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative"); the State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans"); major cities; and the world's largest corporations developing policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities for 20 years.

Present and recent clients include the Guangzhou Planning Agency; the Global Forum on Human Settlements; the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bureau; the US Department of State; the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders; a major mixed-use real estate development corporation; an educational sustainability non-profit; and global corporations. Read more here.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Warren Karlenzig published on August 21, 2009 8:46 AM.

A Visit to Incheon, South Korea's New Songdo City: Green City of the Future? was the previous entry in this blog.

Asian City Growth: "Elephant in the Room" for Climate Change, Environmental Devastation is the next entry in this blog.

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