December 15, 2016 | Liz Austin

The United Nations works toward sustainable and eco-friendly cities for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.

In late October, at a United Nations conference known as Habitat III, world leaders began to rethink the future development of cities around the globe. The event, which took place in Quito, Ecuador, brought together local and regional governing entities, as well as civil and urban planners, for a grand total of 36,000 attendees from more than 160 countries. A new framework was put into place to set the pace for more sustainable development in cities around the world.

Upcoming Challenges

Leading up to the conference, the UN released its 2016 World Cities Report, which provided new information to conference participants regarding the future of the Earth’s urban population and the new challenges that are beginning to arise on a global level.

The report focused in particular on the growing division between wealthy and low-income classes, stating that more than two-thirds of the world’s population lives in cities that have become more wealth imbalanced than they were in 1980. While global poverty was reduced by 50% between 1990 and 2010, inequality continues to rise regardless. However, the report did offer one silver lining: the number of urban dwellers living in slums recently fell to less than 30%.

Goals For The Future

The topics covered during the conference have yielded the New Urban Agenda, also being referenced as the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All. The wide-reaching document is intended to act as an extension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was accepted by the UN in late 2015. The agenda features 17 goals for sustainable development, with a focus on urban centers of living, which the UN says will hold about 70% of the world’s population by the year 2050.

Two of the agenda’s key points include combating air pollution and addressing pervasive wealth inequality within urban environments. The agenda lays out action points for leaders to reduce air pollution while simultaneously increasing the use of renewable energy and eco-friendly public transport. The agenda stresses that all urban dwellers should have access to these eco-friendly options, cleaner cities and green public spaces, regardless of citizenship, race or social status.

While the agenda does not require any of the conference participants to meet specific benchmark goals, it does ask them to hold themselves accountable, and can be considered as more of a shared vision than any sort of legislative action. When UN members sign the declaration, they are informally committing to increased sustainable development over the next two decades.

Goals Already Met, Right in St. Louis

Some urban developers around the globe, such as Green Street, are already implementing strong environmental standards to combat the issues that the Habitat III conference addressed. With the highest rated LEED-certified buildings in St. Louis among our recent projects, Green Street works to bring smart sustainable practices, such as renewable energy, to our developments. Equally important, we promote new growth in some of St. Louis’ most unequal neighborhoods, doing our part to close the wealth gap in our corner of the globe.

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