Skyline
 

Multilateral Environment Agreements

and the Urban Arena

Implications for Global Environmental Processes
One of the key outputs of the 1992 Rio Summit was to highlight and focus attention on the environment, spawning as a result a host of conventions, conferences and other activities related to different environmental issues (collectively called the 'Rio Agreements'). These activities have generated a number of multilateral environment agreements (MEAs), the most recent of them being the Paris Agreement on climate change promulgated in 2015.

Each of these MEAs require that countries develop specific implementation mechanisms and fulfill obligations involving reporting, training, public education, and other activities. The MEA themes, in fact, lie at the heart of global environmental issues such as CO2 reduction, eco-efficiency, land degradation, energy systems, technology innovation, etc. Incentive structures - fiscal systems, trade systems and liability systems - have also been proposed as a means of realizing the goals of these MEAs.

Many MEAs are specifically directed at cities, including Local Agenda 21 and Habitat Agenda, and other MEAs have clear implications on the way cities function and are managed. There are two sets of questions: how do cities contribute to the conditions and problems addressed by these MEAs? And on the reverse flow, how do these MEAs affect the natural, built-up and social environments of cities? In relation to the above two questions, what are the overlaps, commonalities, inherent relationships and mutual dependencies between these MEAs, within the perspectives of cities and urban stakeholders?

These questions are central to the GDRC project on "Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) and the Urban Arena."


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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org

Climate Change and cities

CITIES ARE GROWING
- Cities are growing much faster than overall population growth
- This means more people are moving to cities - more than half in most countries
- The density of urban neighbourhoods are also increasing
- Different people with different access to assets now live together - including the very poor

CITIES ARE BECOMING DIVERSE ...
- The diversity of cities stem from its residents - especially social and cultural.
- Urban diversity is social, but economic as well, including the presence of the informal sector, and physical - people living in different kinds of communities, including slums
- As the diversity of cities increases, the need for different resources also increases

CITIES ARE DEMANDING MORE ...
- Increasing urban populations mean that more resources are needed - whether to build their homes and workplaces, or to commute.
- Demand for urban goods and services are increasing
- Production and consumption points are becoming further separated

CITIES ARE DEGRADING ...
- Urban production and consumption not only need resources, they also produce different kinds of gaseous, liquid and solid wastes
- GHG emissions are increasing as a result
- The impact on urban quality of life is negative
- These emissions and wastes are a problem on their own, but also increase urban risks.

CITIES ARE BECOMING RISKIER ...
- Urban processes are creating a number of risks for its residents, and exacerbating other risks (including climate-related)
- Capacities to manage and mitigate these risks are low or simply not there
- People are living in areas that would have been considered 'risky'
- Risks are increasing, but people are becoming risk-averse: everyday problems take priority over a problem that may not occur!

CITIES NEED TO BE RESTORED ...
- Cities can diminish the human causes of climate change (by taking mitigation and adaptation
- Restoring cities to their full potential will depend on making them socially vibrant, economically viable and environmentally sustainable

CITIES WILL FIND SOLUTIONS ...
- The concentration of decision-making power and financial resources in cities will make it easier to find solutions
- Solutions will be found in: GOVERNANCE - appropriate sets of policies and strategies, backed by laws, rules and regulations; EDUCATION - better understanding and awareness of the consequences of daily lives; TECHNOLOGY - solutions that include capacities and skills to use tech; and FINANCE - a diverse set of economic and financial instruments for different purposes

CITIES ...
... are both a problem,
and a solution!