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Cities' climate change and inequality projects announced as finalists

Projects ranging from curbing transport emissions to urban agriculture and flood protection in slums have made the finals of the WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities’ Prize for Cities 2020-21.

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DistritoTec is applying a new approach to district-level urban design in Monterrey. Image courtesy DistritoTec/WRI
DistritoTec is applying a new approach to district-level urban design in Monterrey. Image courtesy DistritoTec/WRI

Projects from Argentina, India, Kenya, Mexico and the UK that address climate change and inequality have made the finals of the WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities’ Prize for Cities 2020-21.

 

This year’s Prize for Cities theme of climate and equity drew more than 260 applications from around the world. The finalists’ projects range from curbing transport emissions to urban agriculture and flood protection in slums.

 

Sustainable and productive cities

 

The WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities is a programme run by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research organisation that spans more than 60 countries. It said that the finalists show that cities can be more sustainable and productive for more residents through “empowering, participatory and climate-smart changes”. These types of innovations are more important than ever, as cities are a crucial building block in an inclusive, resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The finalists will be evaluated by an independent jury of urban thinkers and leaders from outside WRI who will determine the winner of the grand prize of $250,000. The four runners up will each receive $25,000.

“As cities seek new solutions to jumpstart their economies and become more resilient, these projects show how we can build cities that work better for people and the planet”

“In an extraordinarily challenging year, these projects show the resilience and creativity of cities – that partnership between community groups, government and business can lead to significant change with multiple co-benefits,” said Ani Dasgupta, global director, WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities. “As cities seek new solutions to jumpstart their economies and become more resilient, these projects show how we can build cities that work better for people and the planet.”

 

The five finalists are:

 

DistritoTec, Monterrey, Mexico: born out of a period of violence and social strife, DistritoTec is helping to bring Monterrey back together again through a new approach to district-level urban design that encourages compact, livable growth for a low-emissions future. “The transformation to a sustainable urban environment is best accomplished with a shared vision based on mutual responsibility between authorities, citizens and organisations,” said José Antonio Torre Medina, urbanism and sustainability director, Tecnológico de Monterrey. “It is time for a citizen-centered urbanism.

 

“In a city with so much movement, DistritoTec wants to build with discipline and long-term thinking, to be a model for a sustainable, responsible and thriving future. We want to demonstrate that urban regeneration in Mexico and Latin America is possible.”

 

Kibera Public Space Project (KPSP), Nairobi, Kenya: in one of the world’s largest slums, the KPSP is co-creating innovative spaces with residents that not only reduce flood risk but provide essential services, like water and sanitation, and new ways for businesses to thrive. Regina Opondo, community director, Kounkuey Design Initiative Nairobi Office, said: “The Kibera Public Space Project provides a model for sustainable development that addresses a range of objectives in a cohesive way: not only recreational public space, but also economic development and environmental remediation.

 

“With public spaces that provide access to safe and affordable water, sanitation, flood protection, and income generating opportunities for tens of thousands of Kibera residents, KPSP builds resilience to climate risks in the most vulnerable neighbourhoods.”

 

Sustainable Food Production for a Resilient Rosario, Argentina: initially launched in the wake of the Argentinian economic crisis of 2001, Rosario’s flagship urban agriculture programme has evolved to become a cornerstone of the city’s response to increased flooding and heat events. “Sustaining food production spaces within urban and peri-urban areas is a key strategy in our climate action plan,” said Rogelio Biazzi, general coordinator of the cabinet, City of Rosario. “Reducing emissions and improving the city’s capacity to adapt generates opportunities for social inclusion too.

“Sustaining food production spaces within urban and peri-urban areas is a key strategy in our climate action plan”

“Sustainable food production in Rosario not only generates employment opportunities, but social cohesion, an improved environment and better health for residents. All while we are conserving environmental services that are essential to face the increases in rainfall and temperature to which climate change exposes us.”

 

Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), London, UK: combined with complimentary policies on public transport and other mobility options, London’s ULEZ is helping to shift residents towards low-emissions travel and address long-standing inequities in exposure to air pollution. “Air pollution is a public health crisis and an issue of social justice, with people in the most deprived parts of London, who are least likely to own a car, suffering the worst effects of toxic air,” said Sadiq Khan, mayor of London.

 

He added: “The Ultra Low Emission Zone is the centrepiece of my measures to reduce harmful emissions and applies the toughest standards of any global city, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. I’m pleased to say it’s already showing real results with a 44 per cent reduction in roadside NO2 in central London and 44,100 fewer polluting vehicles in the zone every day pre-pandemic.”

 

Women’s Action Towards Climate Resilience for the Urban Poor, Ahmedabad, India: a long-standing development partner in Ahmedabad’s slums, the Mahila Housing Trust is empowering women with tools and training to become community climate leaders and address their communities’ unique climate risks. Bijal Brahmbhatt, director of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, explained that it developed a women-led model for building climate resilience in a systemic way that transformed poor settlements and contributed to reducing inequalities in multiple cities.

“The women came to be recognised not just as ‘beneficiaries’ but partners in devising and implementing climate solutions for their cities”

She added: “Equipped with scientific knowledge, poor women worked alongside community members, municipal officials, technologists and scientists in new and innovative ways. And they came to be recognised not just as ‘beneficiaries’ but partners in devising and implementing climate solutions for their cities.”

 

The Prize for Cities is supported by business leader and philanthropist Stephen Ross. The inaugural Prize for Cities was awarded in 2019 to the School Area Road Safety Assessments & Improvements (SARSAI) project by the non-profit, Amend. It is an easily replicable approach to creating safer journeys to school for children in Dar es Salaam and other African cities.

 

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