World Habitat Day celebrated today is an opportunity to focus on the state of the world's towns and cities, which will be home to two-thirds of the global population by 2050, and the role of urban development in climate action.
Cities consume over two-thirds of the world's energy and account for more than 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Moreover, according to UN Habitat, 90% of urban growth will take place in less developed regions such as East Asia, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In such areas, urbanization is largely unplanned, fueling the continuous growth of mostly poor informal settlements.
Currently home to some 1 billion people, informal settlements are where the impact of climate change is most acute.
But urban density can also create the possibility for a better quality of life and a lower carbon footprint, for example through improved standards in house building and more efficient infrastructure and planning.
Countries under the UN and Non-Party Stakeholders Are Looking for Practical Solutions
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has recognized the crucial role of cities in tackling the climate crisis.
In a speech last October at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen, he said that cities were "where the climate battle will largely be won or lost." Mr. Guterres said the choices that will be made on urban infrastructure in the coming decades - on construction, housing, energy efficiency, power generation and transport - will have a "tremendous influence on the emissions curve."
To underpin these efforts as governments prepare to submit their new or updated national climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the UN Climate Change secretariat has organized a series of meetings on improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
As the sector with the most potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the objective of the meetings is to build a community that drives and implements an ambitious vision for the sector: zero carbon buildings by 2050.
In August, four UN regional technical expert meetings took place remotely that showcased climate-friendly technology solutions for cooling systems in buildings and demonstrated innovative, on-the-ground actions. Further virtual global meetings are taking place in the course of this month to share low emission housing and building solutions.
Meanwhile, around the world, initiatives such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group are making a significant difference in improving the scale and speed of climate action. Created and led by cities, C40 is focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health and economic opportunities of urban citizens.
This week sees the world's largest online gathering on climate change for urban leaders, convened by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. The event called Daring Citieswill be attended by the UN's top climate change official Patricia Espinosa.
And 452 cities have joined the "Race to Zero" campaign - an international campaign for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery and led by the UNFCCC High-Level Climate Champions for Climate Action, Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz. Race to Zero will run up to the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow next year.