United Nations Human Settlements Programme UNHabitat

Some say that the battle for and against climate change will be won or lost in the cities of the world. Doje Cering, the former Chinese minister of civil affairs, stated that in the coming two decades 'about 12 million people from China's rural areas will move to urban areas annually. Therefore, 20 new cities need to be set up (Cering, 2000).' China estimates that within a decade in China, urbanites will outnumber peasants. It is worth noting that in 1990, only 14 per cent of the world's population lived in cities. Now it is over 50 per cent, and as populations grow, the proportion based in cities will increase. This will lead to an increased impact upon the climate, particularly if new cities are not built as very low-carbon cities.

According to the C40 Initiative (a grouping of key cities around the world to tackle climate change), cities consume around 80 per cent of the world's energy and cause around 75 per cent of CO2 emissions.

As the main United Nations body dealing with human settlements, UN-Habitat has developed the Cities in Climate Change Initiative (CCCI) as part of its global Sustainable Urban Development Network (SUD-Net). This initiative by UN-Habitat promotes dialogue between different levels of government, linking local action plans with national action plans within the framework of international agreements on climate change. This learning network is critical to addressing the challenges that cities face, both in the areas of mitigation and adaptation.

As the CCCI process starts to develop a common understanding of the issues and challenges on cities and climate change, it will need the support of governments. Governments can support their cities by enacting policy changes and activities that bridge the research and practice divide, and do so quickly.

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