On Thursday at the 2nd Intersessional Meeting of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Mayor Michael Bloomberg headlined a side event attended by the Human Impacts Institute entitledSustainable and Just Cities: New Priorities for theRio+20 Conference.
Other speakers included Luis Urbinas, President of the Ford Foundation, Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Moderator Cecilia Martinez, Director of the New York Office of UN-HABITAT.
The main theme of the event was the role our world’s cities should and have taken at the cutting edge of sustainable development implementation. Hizzoner Bloomberg cited several: Lagos, for its new plan to compost and recycle 300,000 tons of solid waste a year, Sao Paulo for its reuse of methane as fuel, Buenos Aires, Chicago, and Johannasburg for their traffic congestion solutions, London and Paris for their bike sharing programs, Hong Kong for its reduction of the use of coal as a fuel, and Berlin and Seoul for their requirement of energy-conserving building retrofits. He noted that New York City has been at the forefront of this progress as well, having implemented versions of many of those programs and more, including the planting of more than half a million trees.
His main message to the 2nd Rio+20 Intersessional was this: that work must be done to “ensure that the leadership role that cities can play is recognized at Rio+20… [because] cities are now what they have always been, a place [sic] where the future of the world happens first.” He urged nations to include mayors and city leaders in their official delegations, noting that they’re among those rare politicians who can’t get by with only lofty words and no action.
So a question remains. Since the Mayor specifically noted in his speech the need for mayors to have a seat at the table at Rio+20, will he go himself? Stay tuned.
By Alex White, Human Impacts Institute Director of Outreach and Advocacy