For the first time ever, the United Nations has declared 31 October ''World Cities Day'', recognising and highlighting the critical role that cities and smart urban planning have to play in sustainable development.
Rural to urban migration is climbing; megacities are sprouting up across the world; and new, idealised models of sustainable urban living, such as Sustainia, are gaining huge traction: with more than 3.5 billion city dwellers on our planet, urbanisation is and will remain highly influential on our ability to adapt to the effects of climate change.
In recognition of this, United Nations Habitat has, for the first time, earmarked 31 October as World Cities Day. In an article written for the Guardian by UN under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Habitat, Dr. Joan Clos underscores the urgency of efficient, integrated city planning by outlining the way cities tip the environmental scale: up to 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originate from urban areas yet they comprise only four percent of the planet's land mass.
Two thirds of the world's population will reside in cities by 2030, according to a UN Habitat forecast. The explosive growth in urban populations, driven partially by industrialisation and employment prospects, has led to a global rise in megacities, urban areas that house more than 10 million inhabitants. This many people living in one area obviously puts a huge strain on local resources and adds to local air pollution hence the need for smart, all-encompassing plans to design the cities of tomorrow.
To coincide with World Cities Day, UN Habitat and the Guardian also put out a call for the best existing urban ideas, such as bike sharing, congestion management, and public transpport innovations, that could be adapted and implemented in other cities. Submissions are currently being evaluated and the best of the best will be published on the Guardian's website on World Cities Day.
For more information, visit UN Habitat's website.