UN Habitat presentation at COP22

I report first on the session concerning urban planning and its role in addressing factors associated with climate instability 

Climate Smart Options for Urban Planning

November 17, 2016

UN Habitat presentation at COP22

I report first on the session concerning urban planning and its role in addressing factors associated with climate instability.

Gerald TorresGerald Torres, Cornell Law School, is a member of Cornell's COP22 delegation (watch his video)

My initial observation is that they should have had more mayors on the panel. They had one: the former mayor of Winnipeg. While he is now the environmental minister for Ontario, almost all of his observations came from his tenure as mayor. The quick way to summarize his views is to say that local policy and design decisions have got to be made with an eye toward making it easier for urban residents to make climate smart choices.

The extent to which urban planners and leaders reduce the number of inefficient alternatives is the extent to which climate smart action is normalized into everyday life. The mayor of Winnipeg gave concrete examples tied to recycling, transportation, taxation, and priority for density. For example, he urged the adoption of the single tax on property which taxes land at a high rate and improvements at a lower rate (or not at all). This would encourage efficient use of urban land and permit the recapture of value added by public improvements or investment.

Similarly, if we want more people out of cars we have to make alternatives preferable. His examples were extremely helpful, while the observations from 30,000 feet made by most of the other panelists did little to suggest how we might start acting now or even where research priorities should lie. Yet, despite these reservations, the session was well worth the time.