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Urban Development

Industry 4.0 for smart sustainable cities in Latin America

MD Staff

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Innovative policies and regulatory frameworks are key to harnessing the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to revolutionize urban infrastructures and improve the quality of life of people in Latin America. This was a key conclusion of the over 250 participants in the 1st Forum on AI and IoT in Smart Sustainable Cities in Latin America held from 29-30 May.

Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Argentina’s Ministry of Modernization, together with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and other organizations, the Forum explored the role of new technologies – including high-speed, resilient, low-latency connectivity and technologies such as distributed computing, the IoT, machine learning and AI – in addressing urban challenges and shaping smarter and more sustainable cities.

“The transition to Smart Sustainable Cities is crucial to sustainable development. Rates of urbanization show no signs of slowing. This urbanization gives rise to significant challenges for city leaders,” said Chaesub Lee, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, during his opening remarks. “New technologies, however, present us with new opportunities to meet these challenges.

“Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are everywhere – and that means data is being generated everywhere. We have too much data for humans to analyze. We need smarter ways to make sense of this data – here we see the value of AI.”

Cities consume the most resources of the world, cause massive greenhouse gas emissions, but are only a fraction of earth’s landmass. In Latin America, cities are home to nearly 80 per cent of the region’s population, a number likely to increase in the future. This makes it one of the most urbanized regions in the world.

“The way cities have been governed and developed in the past cannot continue in the future, and smart solutions for reducing the environmental footprint and urban poverty, as well as for addressing increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change, will be pivotal to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, Director of UNIDO’s Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation.

“Industry 4.0 technologies, especially AI-enhanced urban transportation, smart grids, renewable energy, waste and water management, and urban farming, will not only reduce CO2 emissions, but may also improve energy, water and food security, and effectively address climate change and environmental issues.”

In the Forum’s outcome document – the Buenos Aires Declaration – the participants made a call for action, including the need to raise awareness of the role of AI and IoT in smart city development; to revamp public policies to prepare for an AI future; to promote the production and supply of smart technologies; to encourage public-private collaboration and partnership; to leverage the potential of AI in securing the IoT; to build a platform for sharing best practices and data; and to incorporate AI into public services.

“Without taking actions and making cities smart and sustainable in developing countries, we will fall short of achieving the SDGs. UNIDO remains committed to foster the smart sustainable city approach in developing countries,” Calzadilla-Sarmiento said.

The Forum brought together leading specialists in the field, from city planners to engineers, designers, policymakers, government officials, regulators, academia, industry and standards experts.

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Urban Development

Cities rally against hate, discrimination, racism and violent extremism

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Local governments are and should continue to be key global actors and “co-shapers of a global framework for action” to address current worldwide challenges related to social transformations, together with national governments, international and regional institutions, and civil society. In this context, the Global Steering Committee of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR adopted the “Nancy Declaration” at its meeting in Nancy (France), on 10 December 2018, in parallel with the City’s celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Led by Mayor Laurent Hénart of Nancy, Mayor Erias Lukwago of Kampala (Uganda) and Benedetto Zacchiroli (President of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism –  ECCAR), mayors and other local officials representing regional and national coalitions charted and adopted this new roadmap for action for ICCAR member cities. The Nancy Declaration calls for renewed commitment to “develop effective responses to the rise of hate, bigotry and violent extremism, growing worldwide phenomena that accentuate racism, intolerance and discrimination, by implementing local and collective advocacy efforts to raise awareness, developing guidelines and tools in response to these threats, and conducting capacity-building and education-related initiatives”.

Ângela Melo, Director of Policies and Programmes of UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Programme, affirmed in her opening remarks that there is an urgent need to rethink the role of cities, to provide them with the means to promote inclusion and respect for diversity, and to ensure that they become green, inclusive and smart. A human rights-based approach should be the foundation of preventing and fighting discrimination through promoting inclusion and diversity framed on the 2030 international agenda of the sustainable development goals.  

Held at the same time as the Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for Migration (Morocco, 10-11 December 2018), the ICCAR meeting, organized by UNESCO and the City of Nancy, with the support of ECCAR, served as the “common voice” of its member cities. It concurred to “take action in line with the UN Global Compacts on migration and refugees to eliminate prejudice by highlighting the positive and multiple contributions of these groups to all spheres of life in receiving, transition and origin countries.”

The International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR was launched by UNESCO in 2004. Represented by seven regional and national coalitions, ICCAR is a 500-plus member network of cities across continents. They advocate for global solidarity and collaboration to promote inclusive urban development free from all forms of discrimination. Over the years, the recognition of ICCAR has increased as a global reference for city-to-city cooperation in the pursuit of inclusion and diversity in the urban space.

UNESCO

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Urban Development

How South-South and Triangular cooperation can promote green growth and sustainable cities

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As part of the Global South-South Development Expo 2018, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) convened a thematic solution forum on sustainable urban-industrial development along the Belt and Road.

The forum, building on the outcomes of UNIDO’s flagship BRIDGE for Cities event, focused on how green growth and sustainable cities can be promoted through South-South and Triangular cooperation. It was attended by a high-level audience consisting of representatives from Member States, UN agencies, development finance institutions and the private sector, as well as from civil society and academia.

The moderator of the forum, GONG Weixi, who is Senior Coordinator for South-South and Triangular Industrial Cooperation at UNIDO, introduced the theme by referring to the fact that more than 50 per cent of the world’s population currently lives in cities. He suggested that dealing with urban issues will have a direct impact on poverty reduction and on ensuring quality of life around the world.

The panellists, who included Carlo Fortuna from the Central European Initiative; Sabine Ohler, Director of International Business at the Vienna Business Agency;  Rohey Malick Lowe, Major of Banjul, Gambia; and Mohammad Mustafizur Rahman from Bangladesh’s  Ministry of Information Communications Technologies Division; remarked that while the GSSD Expo makes an extremely valuable contribution to linkage and learning, it is up to developing countries themselves to leverage the success stories and lessons learnt, and that they should take ownership of their development strategies.

There was also agreement that while foreign investments and technology transfer are essential in the development process, South-South cooperation is a process that cannot be forced. It should deliver mutual benefits for all parties, while respecting their national sovereignty.

Gong said, “As the key take-away for this session, the ‘catch-up’ strategy for developing countries to develop through their own efforts is ‘3L’ – linkage, learning, and leverage. The forum today provides us with a platform to link with and learn from all development stakeholders. Ultimately, it is the engagement and ownership of developing countries themselves that can ensure development results.”

The Global South-South Development Expo is the only Expo offered by the United Nations system solely for the Global South. It provides a platform for all development actors and stakeholders to showcase Southern development solutions, celebrate South-South and triangular cooperation successes, share knowledge and lessons learned, explore new avenues for collaboration, and initiate new partnership efforts.

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Urban Development

ADB Report Shares Best Practices in Chinese Cities to Combat Climate Change

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Cities in developing Asia and the Pacific are growing fast, but this surge in urbanization has led to increasing pollution and environmental concerns, threatening to impact the quality of people’s lives. Innovative climate solutions in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), however, are demonstrating that it is possible for cities to pursue growth in a low-carbon and climate-resilient manner, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

The report, 50 Climate Solutions from Cities in the People’s Republic of China: Best Practices from Cities Taking Action on Climate Change, highlights case studies where cities in the PRC have embraced means of ensuring more sustainable and climate-resilient growth. Some of these solutions include reducing energy consumption, improving waste management, promoting green spaces, as well as introducing clean-fuel vehicles and public transport.

“Climate change could severely impact developing Asia and the Pacific’s economic growth in the decades to come if no action is taken,” said ADB Deputy Director General for East Asia Ms. M. Teresa Kho at the launch of the report in Beijing. “Actions taken in many cities in the PRC show that it is certainly possible to start to turn the wheel around on climate change and its impacts. Other countries could well find useful lessons from the PRC’s experience.”

The city of Hohhot in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, for example, is taking advantage of the area’s abundant wind resources to use renewable energy sources for district heating. The project, supported by a $150 million ADB loan and a technical assistance grant, has helped the residents enjoy cleaner air, while reduce health hazards due to toxic air pollutants due to the city’s previous reliance on coal.

About 50 hectares of old landfills in the city of Wuhan in central PRC, meanwhile, have been transformed into gardens for residents to enjoy, lessening health risks and environmental hazards from the untreated sites.

Other climate action efforts mentioned in the report include a market-based emissions trading scheme in Shanghai, which has seen 100% compliance since its launch in 2013, and the rollout of electric taxis in the city of Taiyuan in Shanxi province, which will help reduce 222,000 tons of carbon emissions per year once the full fleet of traditional taxis is replaced.

The report, which includes details of projects supported by ADB and others, is part of ADB’s aim to support the PRC government’s efforts to address climate change and showcase its innovations in low-carbon city development. ADB is committing $80 billion from 2019 to 2030 to combat climate change in the Asia and Pacific region, while ensuring that at least 75% of its committed operations support climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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