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Urban Development

Unprecedented Global Alliance for Smart City Technology Launched to Counter Growing Tensions

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Fifteen of the world’s leading city networks and technology governance organizations announced today a new partnership to advance the responsible and ethical use of smart city technologies. The G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance will create global norms and policy standards for the use of connected devices in public spaces. It is the largest and most ambitious undertaking to advance the responsible and ethical use of smart city technologies on a global level.

Smart city technologies can help decrease traffic congestion, combat crime, improve resilience during natural disasters and reduce greenhouse emissions. Without proper governance, these technologies pose significant risk, notably to privacy and security. To ensure data collected in public places is used safely and ethically, the Global Smart Cities Alliance will develop, pilot and collectively implement new global policy standards.

“Our cities stand at a crossroads. Rapid urbanization – if not effectively managed – threatens to paralyse local economies and undermine recent advances in the quality of life,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of IoT, Robotics and Smart Cities at the World Economic Forum. “Smart city technologies offer huge promise, but they can be a Pandora’s box. Today’s announcement is a critical first step to accelerate global best practices, mitigate risks, and foster greater openness and public trust regarding the collection of data in public spaces.”

Established in June 2019 in conjunction with the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, the Alliance comprises fifteen of the world’s leading city networks and technology governance organizations. The partners represent more than 200,000 cities and local governments, leading companies, start-ups, research institutions, and civil society organizations. The World Economic Forum serves as the secretariat.

“The advancement of smart cities and communities is critical to realizing Japan’s vision for Society 5.0. It is also essential to addressing the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change and inclusive economic growth,” said Koichi Akaishi, Vice Minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation for the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan. “The Government of Japan is proud to have championed this initiative as part of our G20 presidency. We hope that cities will pledge support for the Alliance and participate in its activities to cooperate and form shared global principles in the future.”

Working together with municipal, regional and national governments, private-sector partners and city residents, the Global Smart Cities Alliance has committed to co-design and roll out a first-of-its-kind global policy framework on smart city technologies in advance of the 2020 G20 Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is currently accepting nominations from cities and private entities, interested in piloting and contributing to global policy standards. The first policy design workshops with city leaders will be held in November 2019 in conjunction with the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. For more information, please visit: http://www.GlobalSmartCitiesAlliance.org.

The Global Smart Cities Alliance’s founding set of institutional partners include: the presidents and host nations of the Group of 20 (G20) in 2019 and 2020; Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Smart City Mission of India; Cities for All; Cities Today Institute; Commonwealth Local Government Forum; Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Network; Connected Places Catapult; Digital Future Society; ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability; International Telecommunication Union; Open and Agile Smart Cities; Smart City Expo World Congress; United Cities and Local Governments; What Works Cities; World Economic Forum; and World Enabled.

What leaders are saying about the Global Smart Cities Alliance

“Inequality is no longer an option and needs to be addressed by all spheres of government to be at the centre of every tool we have,” said Emília Saiz, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). “We want to bring the voices of all local governments, big and small, to this alliance. When quality of life and humanity are at stake, local governments are the first respondents. Count on UCLG to be critical and committed.”

“The rapid growth and expansion of cities brings both enormous opportunities and significant challenges,” said Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary and Director of India’s Smart Cities Mission. “India is at the forefront of this urban transformation and is committed to ensuring that our cities develop in a way that is smart and sustainable. The Smart Cities Mission looks forward to working together with city leaders around the world to share best practices and forge new policy standards for the responsible and ethical use of smart technologies in our cities.”

“As urban populations grow, smart city technologies become more and more essential not only to improve the quality of life of citizens but also to simply keep our cities livable,” said Chizuru Suga, Head of the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Japan. “However, it would be difficult for cities to face the challenges of these technologies to balance economic development and innovation with the protection of the public, alone. We will commit to supporting these cities, through international cooperation and technology governance.”

“Cities are the solution makers and testbeds of the future,” said Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki, Finland. “Our ability to forward technological advancements and smart city solutions is directly related to the responsible and ethical use of data and technology. Only by creating a joint trust-based framework can we realize the full potential of smart city technologies for the benefit of all mankind in the future.”

“Our message has always been that one city is not a market. If we want a scalable, global market for Smart Cities, this can only happen when people come together to agree common ways of working, to build scalable, interoperable solutions centred around human needs”, said Nicola Yates, CEO of Connected Place Catapult. “That’s why the UK invested in leading the establishment of the first set of smart city standards in 2014 and we are pleased to be joining the Global Smart Cities Alliance partnering with the G20 and World Economic Forum to further this mission and the opportunities this can provide to stimulate growth and improve the lives of citizens around the world.”

“We’ve seen how data and technology can radically transform how cities design and deliver services to residents,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities. “They enable us to identify the most pressing needs that residents have and provide tailored solutions to address them. They are among the best tools we have to advance economic mobility, and we are excited to partner with the World Economic Forum to advance this effort.”

“The G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance will be critical to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of rapid urbanization,” said Victor Pineda, President of World Enabled and Co-Founder of Cities for All. “Cities for All and our partners will help ensure that the Alliance can develop new global norms related to access and inclusion. Networks like this can help ensure that we align and can reach the promise of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.”

“Smart City Expo World Congress is thrilled to join forces with the World Economic Forum and the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance in this major challenge of advancing together towards a more sustainable and inclusive urban future,” said Ugo Valenti, Director of Smart City Expo World Congress. “As the world’s leading event for cities, we are committed to help accelerate and implement smart solutions that empower people and make cities a better place to live in.”

“The rapid development of technology is transforming physical and social infrastructure,” said Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. “Smart cities look at the big picture, supporting resource efficiency and technological progress while considering rising challenges like cybersecurity, job loss and privacy. We’re excited to support the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance in joint pursuit of people-focused smart solutions in cities that lead to a safe, inclusive and sustainable future.”

“I would like to extend my sincere congratulations on the establishment of the Global Smart Cities Alliance,” said Kizo Hisamoto, Mayor of Kobe, Japan. “The City of Kobe has been actively promoting smart city initiatives, including personal health records and autonomous vehicles, but in order to accelerate these efforts even further, last month we launched a new public-private collaboration project, called “Be Smart KOBE”. We believe that establishing standards for data utilization will stimulate the growth of smart cities, and we are looking forward to working together on solving global issues.”

“The Cities Today Institute is excited to join the World Economic Forum’s effort to help cities move quickly from understanding the benefits of digitalization to implementing solutions that will define the citizen experience in a 21st Century Community,” said Bob Bennett, Chair of the Cities Today Institute.

“Open and Agile Smart Cities is proud to be a founding partner of the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance,” said Martin Brynskov, Chair of Open and Agile Smart Cities, an international smart cities network. “A global framework based on common, open, and minimal mechanisms is needed to de-risk investment and scale up smart city solutions that help tackle the challenges cities are facing in the 21st century – on the individual city’s terms and conditions.”

“Digital Future Society is delighted to join this global alliance led by the World Economic Forum to ensure that cities drive our digital future toward a good common framework,” said Esteban Redolfi, Director of Digital Future Society. “For years, cities have acted as testing grounds for massive technology deployments; now is the moment for cities to lead by sharing learnings and creating guidelines that reinforce a more conscious use of technology. We are committed to analysing, sharing and building on those cases where cities have developed a sustainable and effective path toward a more inclusive and equitable digital future.”

“When we consider smart cities in Asia, fundamental urban challenges such as water and waste disposal, energy efficiency, and low-carbon transport systems are of exceeding importance,” said Fumiko Hayashi, Mayor of Yokohama City, Japan. “In addition to this kind of infrastructure, we also need an integrated discussion on the impact that new technologies such as AI will have on our cities. Here in Yokohama, we are engaged in a pilot public-private collaborative project to support the development of communities centered on the city’s residents. We are working to foster innovative ideas, create networking opportunities, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

I hope those involved in smart city development in Asia, including the private sector, international organizations, academia, experts, and businesses in Yokohama, will all take advantage of this initiative.”

“Building an inclusive society is a vital mission, and Eisai Co. is excited to partner with the World Economic Forum to achieve it,” said Keisuke Naito, Chief Digital Officer of Eisai and Member of the Global Internet of Things Council. “We look forward to sharing knowledge and experience through the Global Smart City Alliance, which we believe will become an invaluable forum for enhancing the governance for the benefit of all, regardless of functional impairments or disabilities.”

“NEC is proud to celebrate today’s first step for the G20 Global Smart City Alliance. We are confident that this alliance will become an innovative platform for providing ever-increasing social value to all communities by means of cross-border, open collaboration of people and cities aiming for globally shared goals,” said Nobuhiro Endo, Board Chair of NEC Corporation. “NEC is committed to social value creation in support of safety, security, efficiency and equality, and will continue to contribute to the promotion of globally agreeable technology governance in partnership with the World Economic Forum.”

“Salesforce believes that business is the greatest platform for change and is excited to work toward this goal in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Shinichi Koide, Chairman and CEO Salesforce.com. “Driving social change and sustainable growth is the core of smart city development and we are looking forward to seeing the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance lead cities to a sustainable world by leveraging the advanced technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

“We believe smart cities are crucial to building a future-proof and people-centric society, and Hitachi is proud to work with the World Economic Forum to achieve it,” said Norihiro Suzuki, Vice President and Executive Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and General Manager of the Research & Development Group, Hitachi. “We look forward to contributing our knowledge and experience to the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance.”

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Urban Development

36 Pioneer Cities Chart a Course Towards a More Ethical and Responsible Future

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The World Economic Forum announced today that 36 cities across 22 countries and six continents have agreed to pioneer a new roadmap for safely adopting new technology as part of the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance.

Cities are facing urgent challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and other major disruptions, which are expected to culminate in a budget crisis that could reach $1 trillion in the United States alone. They need data and innovation to become more resilient, responsive and efficient. Yet there is no global framework for how cities should use these technologies, or the data they collect, in a way that protects the public interest.

This is set to change with the launch of a new global policy roadmap by the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance, designed to give cities the procedures, laws and regulations they need to use new technology responsibly. The secretariat of the alliance is hosted at the World Economic Forum.

“This roadmap is not about theoretical ideas and pipe dreams, it is built on practical, real-world policies from leading cities around the globe,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of the Internet of Things and Urban Transformation, World Economic Forum. “City governments are on the frontline of a global crisis and need to be able to act quickly and decisively to curtail this pandemic and set course for their economic recovery. Technology is an essential tool in this fight but governments cannot risk falling into the usual traps related to privacy, security and vendor lock-in. That’s where the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance can help.”

To kickstart adoption of the roadmap, the alliance has recruited a group of 36 “pioneer cities” that will collaborate with global experts to enhance their city policies, in areas ranging from privacy protection and cyber security to better services for disabled people and better broadband coverage.

The pioneer cities are launching their activities today at a global event broadcast by Smart City Expo World Congress, the world’s premier smart cities event.

List of pioneer cities (in alphabetical order):

  • Apeldoorn, Netherlands
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Belfast, United Kingdom
  • Bengaluru, India
  • Bilbao, Spain
  • Bogotá, Colombia
  • Brasilia, Brazil
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Chattanooga, United States
  • Cordoba, Argentina
  • Daegu, South Korea
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • eThekwini (Durban), South Africa
  • Faridabad, India
  • Gaziantep, Turkey
  • Hamamatsu, Japan
  • Hyderabad, India
  • Indore, India
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Kaga, Japan
  • Kakogawa, Japan
  • Kampala, Uganda
  • Karlsruhe, Germany
  • Leeds, United Kingdom
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Maebashi, Japan
  • Manila, Philippines
  • Medellín, Colombia
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Milan, Italy
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Newcastle, Australia
  • San José, United States
  • Toronto, Canada

“This initiative originated in Japan last year from our Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a fact I’m very proud of,” said Koichi Akaishi, Vice Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation for the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan. “I hope to see more cities participating in the Alliance following the model set by these first pioneer cities.”

Leaders of organizations participating in the programme:

Miguel Eiras Antunes, Global Smart Cities Leader, Deloitte Global, said “The transformation from a traditional city to a ‘smart city’ does not just happen overnight. Success depends on the quality of the decisions that are made and the way those decisions are executed. Deloitte is committed to working closely together with the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance to co-design policy frameworks that will empower governments to accelerate smart cities initiatives for sustainable developments.”

“Being a pioneer city in the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance is an excellent opportunity for us to promote the innovative work that is taking place in Leeds right now, but also facilitates the opening of doors where we can learn from other leading cities around the world and implement best practice in our city,” said Stephen Blackburn, Head of Smart Cities, Leeds.

London’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, said “We need to work together to realize the potential of data to solve city challenges by putting it in the hands of those who can make a difference. But we also need to do it in a way that is safe, ethical and responsible. London is proud to join this global initiative as a pioneer city to promote the adoption of ethical smart city policies.”

Will Cavendish, Digital Services Leader at Arup said “COVID-19 has driven a step-change in the use of digital services in cities, and many of these changes will only accelerate beyond the pandemic. The policies developed by the G20 Smart Cities Alliance will be fundamental in ensuring that the enabling digital connectivity and data infrastructures, along with the rapidly-emerging technology-enabled services, are deployed in an inclusive, transparent and mutually beneficial manner.”

“Technology and knowledge are two strategic assets to build inclusive, data-driven, and sustainable smart cities capable of tackling new and emerging challenges,” said Roberta Cocco, Deputy Mayor for Digital Transformation and Services to Citizens, Milan. “That is why Milan is joining the G20 Global Smart City Alliance, as this initiative will allow us to share best practices with innovative cities around the world. Today more than ever, in fact, we need to collaborate with each other to identify the most effective tools to face global threats like COVID-19. It is only by joining our forces that we can beat this common enemy that is threatening the health, the economy, and the future of our citizens.”

Dr. Julia Glidden, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation, said “Accessibility and privacy policies are critical to making cities more inclusive and transparent. Microsoft congratulates the Forum and G20 for creating model policies that aid cities in serving all citizens.”

“We will adopt a transparent and participatory philosophy of local governance in the city of Istanbul,” said Ekrem İmamoğlu, Mayor of Istanbul. “Our aim is to empathize with all segments of society, and value the participation of everyone, ensuring that the majority of the people are represented – not the few.”

Eduard Lysenko, Minister of the Moscow Government, Head of the Moscow Department of Information Technologies, said “Digitalization of urban infrastructure and entire spectrum of social services belongs to the Moscow Government’s prioritized policies. Moscow has developed and widely employs digital platforms that increase the availability of electronic services and improve the quality of life and safety of its citizens. Those platforms allowed by the way to promptly provide the Muscovites with the maximum level of protection in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Today we are ready to share experiences and coordinate efforts within the pioneer city programme for the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance. We develop technologies not for the sake of technologies, but for the sake of people.”

Gilvan Maximo, Secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation, Brazil, said “The G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance will provide us with a global partnership to accelerate the adoption of technologies in a responsible manner and for the benefit of the citizen, debating complex issues and seeking joint solutions. Therefore, Brasilia is eager to participate in this joint work.”

“This opportunity to collaborate as a G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance pioneer city on a new roadmap for safely adopting new technology is very welcome indeed as we work to develop a Belfast Smart District and to weave digital innovation into every part of our economy,” said Alderman Frank McCoubrey,Lord Mayor of Belfast.We’ll be exploiting new technologies and data to tackle city challenges in areas such as health and mobility to improve our citizens’ quality of life – and we must ensure this is done ethically and in a way that prioritizes transparency, privacy, equity and inclusion. Being part of the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance means that each of the partner cities will benefit from expert, tailored insights and policy tools and this collaborative approach will allow us all to make progress in how we govern technology more swiftly and effectively, for the benefit of all our citizens.”

Dr. Frank Mentrup, Mayor of Karlsruhe, said “The G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance offers a unique opportunity to develop common ethical standards, foster digital sovereignty and therefore create and build a new resilient ‘trust infrastructure for cities and citizens’, as trust is going to become one of the most important and most vulnerable resources of our future.”

We believe that technology is a key enabler that can transform our cities in to smart cities leading to delivery of improved services to citizens and businesses”, said K.T. Rama Rao, Minister of Municipal Administration and Urban Development, Industries and Information Technology, Electronics and Communication, Government of Telangana, India. “We are keen to collaborate with G20 cities in formulating policy frameworks to improve quality of life of our citizens using emerging technologies.”

“Transforming our cities into smart cities is a great tool to improve people’s life quality,” said Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, Mayor of Buenos Aires. “That is why we are committed to continue incorporating technology, developing innovative public policies, and to work together with the G20 cities to build a modern and efficient state that makes life easier for everyone who lives, works, studies or visits us in Buenos Aires.”

“The pandemic presents an opportunity to reshape our future, with renewed digital rights and tools that should allow access for all and people-centred government. Local and regional governments will need to lead this shift to ensure the application of technology promotes human rights through equitable public service provision; putting our communities and planet first,” said Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of the United Cities and Local Governments. “The G20 Smart Cities Alliance is an important mechanism to help facilitate this transformation, bringing together a critical network of partners to collectively address and mitigate future crises”

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Urban Development

Renewable Energy Solutions for Climate-Safe Cities

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Renewable energy solutions can be the backbone of urban decarbonization efforts, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Climate Initiative (IKI) on the Rise of renewables in cities: Energy solutions for the urban future finds. Responsible for over 70% of total energy-related CO2 emissions, cities are increasingly relevant in addressing climate change, building a climate-resilient urban infrastructure on renewable energy. Home to 55% of the global population today, cities are also the planet’s economic engines, representing 80% of the global GDP. According to the UN estimates, cities will have to accommodate two-thirds of global population in a livable, low-carbon environment by 2050.

Integrating renewables into local energy systems has become part of the transformative action in many cities around the world. Still, their full potential remains untapped. While some 671 cities have set a renewable target and over half of them aim for 100% renewables, most of the cities with targets are in Europe and North America. However, an additional 2.5 billion people are expected to become urban dwellers in the next three decades, 90% of them in Asia and Africa. Yet, cities in these regions are falling behind in renewable target setting, the new report shows, even more so as their energy demand is expected to grow.

Furthermore, the majority of large and mega cities that have set renewable energy targets have pursued only a modest share of renewables in their energy mix. Only the megacity of Los Angeles with 10 million inhabitants has a 100% renewable target set for 2045. Other megacities show much lower levels of ambition, with all but São Paolo and Shenzhen targeting renewable shares below 30%. Only 4 cities in the population range of 5 to 10 million (Atlanta, Barcelona, Madrid and Toronto) and 33 cities in the population range of 1 to 5 million had targets for 100% renewables.

Hydropower, bioenergy and waste-to-energy already play a significant role in urban decarbonization strategies. And the use of solar and geothermal energy in cities is rising while the ability to harness wind power within cities is progressing but remains marginal. In view of the growing cooling demand in Africa and Asia, solar thermal energy in particular has the potential for gradually extending into the cooling sector, tripling from 2 000 to 6 000 terawatt hours by 2050.

The new report highlights the importance of urban planning and developing “smart” grids through innovation and the adoption of enabling technologies such as electric vehicles, energy storage systems and intelligent energy management systems to facilitate the integration of renewables. This also means coupling the power, buildings, transport, heating and industry sectors to achieve higher system efficiency and enhance climate resilience.

For more information, see the Rise of renewables in cities report.

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Eco cities: Lessons from Nepal and Colombia

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Cities have always had to conform to their natural surroundings. Traditional Moroccan housing was designed with open air courtyards to help with ventilation in the dry and hot climate. While in Iceland, turf houses covered in grass— the original “green buildings”— offered superior insulation in cold weather compared to those made only of wood or stone.

Nature-based solutions have been central to urban design for centuries, but rapid urbanization is stretching cities’ limits. Currently, nearly a third of city inhabitants live in slums and informal settlements, often without access to proper housing and basic services

The United Nations estimates that close to 68 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050 – nearly an additional 2.4 billion people – with most of this shift occurring in developing countries. Rapid urbanization will also have negative impacts on biodiversity and climate.

To address this issue, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has produced guidelines for governments and policymakers on approaches to sustainable neighbourhoods that meet community needs. 

“Sustainable cities and communities start with sustainable neighbourhoods,” said Martina Otto, Head of UNEP’s Cities unit. “By emphasising the importance of local context, design and integration, we aim to inspire all stakeholders involved in urban planning to think sustainably about the daily needs of people in their neighbourhoods.”

An eco-city in Nepal

One of the cities that UNEP is working with is Lalitpur, in Nepal’s Kathmandu valley. When it was built about 1720 years ago, city planners ensured that open spaces, water availability and ground water recharge were inclusive.

But urbanization and growth have deteriorated the quality of life in new neighbourhoods. Today, Lalitpur is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, with many residents lacking basic facilities, like water supply and sanitation, and with few green spaces.

UNEP is working with the city government to reinstate Lalitpur as an eco-city. Starting with three neighbourhoods, the consort will construct seven parks, install smart, solar lights; reduce waste to landfill; cut down open burning; and give residents access to health facilities in their neighbourhoods, among other benefits.

“Lalitpur is building on its history and local knowledge to create neighbourhoods and a city that is designed for people and with nature,” said Lalitpur Metropolitan City mayor, Chiri Babu Maharjan. “We have already built 4.7 km of bicycle lanes to link the northern and southern parts of the city and installed bicycle stands in public spaces. Thanks to this, air pollution in the city center has greatly improved, and with that, the health and well-being of our citizens.”

On the move in Medellin

Medellin in Colombia is another city where UNEP is working on greening. In the 1960s, millions of internally displaced Colombians set up homes in Moravia, a bustling neighbourhood of Medellin, which at the time held the municipal landfill site. The living conditions were dangerous and many residents suffered serious health consequences from the toxic fumes.

While the neighbourhood has made many advances in sanitation and urban planning since then, city authorities are determined to do more. Medellin is establishing “habitat and mobility corridors” that will simultaneously address mobility issues while creating green spaces and biodiversity. The corridors will be pathways for cyclists and pedestrians to access recreational places such as the local soccer field and cultural centres, but also provide habitats for native animals and plants. They should also have a positive impact on the microclimate by reducing heat and creating shade.

UN Environment

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