Building Sustainable Cities in the Americas

Posted by Emma Kelsey
November 5, 2010
Brazilian Child Stands at His House Entrance

About the Author: Emma Kelsey serves as an intern in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Did you know that today over half the world's population lives in cities? With an estimated one billion people living in slums, innovative solutions are needed to provide sustainable urban housing for the poor. This problem is exacerbated in Latin America, where according to UN Habitat, over 80 percent of the region's population now live in urban areas. To that end, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs is co-sponsoring an initiative with the Government of Brazil that focuses on sustainable development for the urban poor across the Americas.

Under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), an international conference entitled "Sustainable Urban Planning and Energy Efficiency Construction for Low-income Areas of the Americas," will take place November 4-5 in Rio de Janeiro. This conference will bring together governments and urban planners to communicate best practices for sustainable, energy-efficient development, and provide technical assistance to Latin American and Caribbean communities.

Identifying new strategies to address the issues of sustainability and energy efficiency will not only unleash economic opportunities for the urban poor, but also create more resilient, livable communities for millions worldwide. Among these strategies, practitioners and urban planners will focus on green buildings, energy efficient housing for the poor, sustainable public transport, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste.

This has major implications not only for the region's energy security and climate, but also for persistent issues such as citizens' security and social and financial inclusion. Given the high rate of urbanization, support for this initiative offers the potential to spark a significant long term reduction of the carbon footprint of cities.

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John N.
November 5, 2010

John N. in Canada writes:

Good summary, Emma! Strategies are tough, and some of the BIGGEST challenges are in United States itself, as so many cities were developing along with freeways, cheap energy and "limitless space" for suburbs. For sustainability, Curitiba will be a model for some, and for those of us who live in Cascadia region of North America (British Columbia south, Oregon, Washington State), our models tend to be local - parts of Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, Victoria. However so much to do! Very glad that Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs is hosting the conference.


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