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p4ca sESSION AT THE UN-Habitat asSembly

Monday May 27th from 13.15pm - 14.45pm (EAT)

During the opening day of the first UN-Habitat Assembly, Planners for Climate Action (P4CA) held a side-event to bring together urban and regional planners, as well as local government representatives, engaged in climate action, to reflect on the role of innovation in planning practices. The six key speakers presented strategic areas of climate action, followed by a very lively debate.

P4CA is an initiative enabling the collaboration of number of planning organizations and universities in order to advocate on the role of climate action in urban and regional planning practice, capacity-building and research.

Shipra Narang-Suri, coordinator of UN-Habitat’s Urban Planning and Design Branch opened the session with three messages summarizing what is currently needed and crucial: a shift in planning practice, in planning education as well as relevant research activities that have to be increasingly related to the most vulnerable. This will be possible through commitments from planning practitioners and their organizations to develop plans and policies that are climate-proof while addressing the urban poor. Moreover, every planning school should include climate action on its curricula. Confirming this statement, Bruce Stiftel, representing the Global Planning Education Associations Network (GPEAN), emphasized the need for more planners equipped with the right tools and knowledge to address climate action. Elizabeth Hamin, Professor of Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts Amherst, also pointed out the urgent need for innovation in order to measure the results of climate action on the ground. Azime Tezer, Professor at Istanbul Technical University, highlighted that climate change is still discussed in an abstract manner and that “people are not aware of the real face of climate change”. Understanding the real implication of globally changing climates, Xavier Crepin, Secretary General of the Association de Professionels Villes en Développement, explained that one of the key challenges faced by planners is that long-term plans are not often backed-up by decision-makers who are elected for short terms. Climate change requires long-term plans and visions. Didier Vancustem, Secretary General, ISOCARP, also highlighted the fact 180 million people need to be relocated due to sea-level rise risks before 2050, which is a challenge for the whole humanity. Discussing optimistically, Jeffrey Soule, representing the American Planning Association mentioned that green infrastructure is critical and a great opportunity to introduce urban regeneration. The panel recommended that innovative practices should include more visible climate proof policies, must have a long-term vision, be participatory and need strong political involvement. They also stressed the importance to avoid ‘silo plans’ and rather prioritize integrated climate action planning.

This discussion was followed by a moment of questions and remarks from the audience. Mr Mairura Omwenga, Chairman of Town and County Planners Association of Kenya emphasized the need for change in practice and education, with a focus on Africa. Through his association, they are trying to introduce the climate perspective into planning courses. In his opinion, UN-Habitat’s presence in Nairobi represents a great opportunity to strengthen this activity. The second intervention was from Giualia Sala, urban planner for CRAterre (NGO), asking how can we make local governments understand that their investments today will help prevent events that would cost them money in the future if no actions are taken, hence that climate action is profitable for them. Jeffrey Soule answered that this is where the role of community leaders is very crucial. Coming from different backgrounds, business for example and other fields, they can act as filters between the urban practitioners, communities and municipalities, bringing the message. Based on her experience, Elizabeth Hamin added that working with environmental justice community has proven to be very helpful too, especially to gain more political momentum.

Throughout the session, different examples from around the world were presented, from Istanbul to Paris, Uganda and Kenya, showing that innovation through green infrastructures, land use planning and climate proof technologies is a subject of great interest and relevance to sustainable development.

2019. It will bring together thousands of planners, planning commissioners, appointed and elected officials, and students to discuss fresh ideas and innovative planning. 

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