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"Responsible cities, breathable cities".

By Cinta Lomba and Marta Iturriza, researchers of department of Industrial Organization of Tecnun-University of Navarra

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Marta Iturriza and Cinta Lomba. PHOTO: Courtesy
05/06/19 15:21 Communication Service


Today is World Environment Day and we reproduce below the article opinion that the researchers of department of Industrial Organization of Tecnun, Cinta Lomba and Marta Iturriza, have published in El Diario Vaco, El Correo and El Diario Montañés:

"Today is World Environment Day. This year's edition is dedicated to the fight against air pollution, a topic of great importance given that, according to the UN, 92% of the planet's inhabitants do not breathe clean air. This fact has a direct effect on people's health and translates into a very significant economic and social cost.

This year's World Environment Day is perhaps even more relevant following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) special report report , "Global warming of 1.5ºC", which warns of the need to limit the increase in the planet's temperature average to 1.5ºC by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45%. The fact goal is that climate change is a scientifically proven reality and that its impact is already visible on our planet. This impact is manifested, above all, in the form of an increase in temperature average, a fact that has direct consequences on natural and urban systems, as well as on people's lives.  

Climate change is largely due to human action. The way in which we have been producing and consuming in recent decades is incompatible with the goal to reduce emissions and limit the increase in temperatures. It has been scientifically proven that humans are responsible for a large part of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are causing the climate change we are already experiencing.

The lecture of the United Nations on Climate Change COP21 held in Paris in 2015, led to the adoption of the agreement of Paris which establishes the framework global to fight climate change from 2020. In that agreement, the signatory countries committed, among other things, to meet emission reduction targets. In the European Union, this goal translates into a 45% reduction in emissions in 2030, compared to 2005 values.

The Paris agreement is therefore a starting point for participating countries to have a common goal and a roadmap to combat climate change. Starting from a strategic level, the objectives set out in the agreement have been introduced into national, regional and local plans and strategies. A significant milestone was reached in 2008: for the first time in history, more than half of the world's population resided in urban areas, and projections indicate that by 2050, urban centers will account for more than 68% of the world's population. Therefore, at the local level, cities have begun to take measures to improve the quality of life of their inhabitants while combating the effects of climate change. Initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors for the Climate were created to make these measures a reality. In the Basque Country, a GHG inventory has been carried out since 2002, and numerous actions are coordinated through the Basque sustainable municipalities network Udalsarea 2030.

In Europe, the benchmark cities are Copenhagen in Denmark and Stockholm in Sweden. Among other actions, Copenhagen has activated a plan to become the first emission-neutral city by 2025. To this end, it has focused on reducing emissions from the energy sector by 70% by investing in energy efficiency technology and renewables. It has also achieved a 45% daily bicycle commute and a preference for public transport or zero-emission vehicles. Stockholm, proclaimed the first "European Green Capital" in 2010, focuses its success on raising public awareness. Eight out of ten locals argue that adopting environmentally friendly habits should be the natural way of interacting with the city.

Days like today's bring to the forefront of discussion the urgency to adopt strategies and actions similar to those carried out in Copenhagen or Stockholm, which are effective in combating climate change and the deterioration of the natural environment. Cities are no longer only seeking to mitigate climate change, but to adapt to it by adopting sustainable and adapted solutions in nature. These local strategies, inspired by the Paris Pact, translate into a transformation of the urban ecosystem, moving towards resilient cities and territories.

The positive aspect is that the environment has moved out of the narrow sphere of specialised scientists and dedicated organisations to become more generalised and permeate a society that is increasingly aware and active. A society that is demanding commitment and real action from the leaders of their countries and international organisations, while adopting more sustainable consumption habits. The "Fridays for the future" phenomenon is a clear example of this. Preserving the environment is everyone's business. It is in our hands to ensure that the environment around us remains habitable. Let's be responsible.

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