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Urban centers battlefield in climate change

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 11 – Urban centers are responsible for up to 70 percent of harmful gas emissions and are becoming the real battleground in the fight against climate change, a report commissioned by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) indicates.

While speaking during the opening session of the 23rd UN-HABITAT governing council on Monday, Executive Director Joan Clos noted that although cities only occupied two percent of the world’s land, they contribute most to environmental degradation.

He argued that it was imperative to understand urbanisation and its effects on the environment so as to counter climate change.

“But cities are also the places where the greatest efficiencies can be made. It is therefore important for us to understand this so that we can reduce our foot print,” he said.

Dr Clos added that understanding the contribution that each city made to climate change would help provide long term local solutions to the problem.

He further noted that efforts for mitigating climate change did not form part of the agenda for most countries, especially as they made plans for urban development.

“The lives and livelihoods of millions of urban residents will be affected by what is done or not done in terms of adapting to climate change over the next decade,” he argued.

According to the report dubbed ‘cities and climate change’ the world’s developed countries account for 46 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions although they only carry 20 percent of the world’s population.

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The report also indicates that transport contributes to 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 23 percent of total energy related greenhouse gas emissions.

A further 19 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with industrial activities while residential and commercial buildings contribute to eight percent of such emissions.

“There are approximately 1.2 billion passenger vehicles worldwide. This figure is projected to reach 2.6 billion by the year 2050 – a majority of these will be found in developing countries,” the report reads.

“As economies grow, transport activities increase and are expected to continue increasing in the decades ahead, especially with increasing levels of urbanisation,” warns the study.

President Mwai Kibaki, who officially opened the weeklong conference in Nairobi, called on the sustained provision of basic amenities, for citizens, in order to facilitate decent human habitation. He noted that many immigrants moved into urban areas in search of essential services such as water, thereby increasing the pressure on such amenities.

It is estimated that an additional 67 million people become urban dwellers every year.

“Kenya will continue implementing the Kenya slum upgrading programme. It aims at improving the lives of an estimated 5.4 million people living and working in informal settlements,” he said.

He also said that his government had approved various incentives to the housing sector to attract private sector participation. He argued that the move would help facilitate the provision of housing for those in low income groups.

“We have finalised the Planning and Building Bill, the Housing Bill and the Landlords and Tenants Bill. These bills will create a well coordinated housing and human settlements sector; they should attract investments for mass housing production,” he said.

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Dr Clos also commended Kenya for passing the new constitution saying it should act as a benchmark for the country’s efforts in fighting climate change.

“This is the first meeting of the governing council since the promulgation of the constitution. This is a huge advancement for the country and I think that this is the base of a bright future for this country,” he said.

Follow us on TWITTER@CapitalFM_Kenya and Sarah Wambui (the author)

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