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World Habitat Day Focuses on Cities and Climate Change

3 October 2011: The 2011 edition of World Habitat Day has organized around the theme "Cities and Climate Change," emphasizing that climate change is a critical development challenge of the 21st century, and highlighting the role of cities in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In his statement to mark the Day, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Joan Clos highlighted that scientists estimate that, by 2050, there could be 200 million environmental refugees worldwide, forced from their homes by rising sea levels and increased flooding or drought. He stressed that better urban planning, building codes, and protection for the poor against disaster and reduction of ecological footprints will be required to prevent climate disasters. He also underscored the potential of urbanization to deliver on mitigation and adaptation strategies to address climate change, noting that many towns and cities, particularly in developing countries, are still struggling to access international financing for climate change.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also marked the Day, noting that 60 million people already live within one meter of sea level and that this number will rise to 130 million by the end of the century. He underlined that cities are "part of the problem," as major sources of emissions that contribute to climate change, and "part of the solution" as they can harness green technologies.

During a World Habitat Day Ceremony held in Aguascalientes, Mexico, UN-HABITAT announced the winners of the 2011 Habitat Scroll of Honour Awards, including a Cuban Centre developing eco-friendly building materials using low energy and local inputs; the Yakutsk City Administration in Russia for implementing a new cold climate development plan; and the Austin Energy Green Building in the US for leading the way in sustainable building practices. In addition, the following were recognized as good practices under the Scroll of Honour Award: a project promoting cycling network in Mexico City; and the Chiang Rai municipality in Thailand for its holistic approach know as urban-biodiversity to promote sustainable city and climate resilience.

The Ceremony also featured presentations and discussions with experts on the "Global Report on Human Settlements 2011: Cities and Climate Change," which was released in March 2011. The UN has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. [UN Secretary-General Message][UN HABITAT Executive Director Statement] [2011 Scroll of Honour Award Winners] [World Habitat Day 2011 Website] [Climate Change Policy & Practice Story on the Release of the Global Report on Human Settlements 2011]