The debate was coordinated by  by Emmanuelle Bastide, journaliste at RFI. The conference was introduced by Anne Paugam, CEO of Agence Française de Développement.

The speakers were  Julien Damon, Sociologist, associate professor for the Master’s in Urban Planning at Sciences Po Paris and member of France’s National Committee for Policies in the Fight against Poverty and Social Exclusion (CNLE); Olivier Decherf, CEO of EnviroconsultAnne Odic, in charge of the issue of emerging cities and climate at Agence Française de Développement; Dominique Voynet, Mayor of Montreuil; Víctor Hugo Arredondo Juárez, Director General for the Environment for the City of Tlalnepantla de Baz

 

In a global context of galloping urban growth, the climate issue is central to the political challenges of today and tomorrow. Indeed, “climate change concerns first and foremost cities, which are both victims of it (adaptation issues) and responsible for it (mitigation issues)” (A. Paugam). Urban phenomena with significant negative externalities do not only hamper economic development. They are also detrimental to the quality of the daily lives of populations. Consequently, it is essential to go beyond the dichotomy of the environmental issue versus the social issue. This involves reconciling these two issues, which must be considered together within an integrated approach to the various social, environmental and economic components of urban development. It is to this end that AFD conducts its programs, such as in Vietnam and South Africa (A. Odic).

 

Address social and ecological issues with the same level of requirement

However, in reality, vulnerable communities give priority to social issues in the North and South alike. They will always feel more concerned about the construction of latrines and access to water than about the reduction of emissions (J. Damon). The climate change debate is too abstract to mobilize communities: “Investing in order to prepare the future does not necessarily make sense for people in extremely precarious situations” (D. Voynet). Yet the fact remains that cities and slums cannot ignore the climate issue. In situations where there are strong social demands, it is therefore necessary to devise modest communication on a human scale, and communities must be assured that “their elected officials address social and ecological issues with the same level of requirement” (D. Voynet). In addition, a balance must be struck between long-term projects, which are difficult for communities to grasp, and projects with immediate visibility.

 

Obstacles to integrated urban planning projects

Certain obstacles are cultural in nature, as demonstrated by “the difficulty to impose a sharing of spaces and their uses” (D.Voynet). Lobbies also hinder the implementation of a crosscutting climate plan. This is the case in Brazil (Minas Gérais), “where the industrial lobby seeks to limit the scope of regulations imposing a carbon footprint on industry and a climate plan on local authorities” (O. Decherf). Finally, vision and planning do not always go together with consultation. It can be “very difficult to gather actors to invite them to work together on a climate strategy mainstreamed into urban planning” (O. Decherf).

 

Solutions: consultation, fight against energy poverty and carbon finance

In Mexico, in Tlalnepantla de Baz, citizen participation committees provide the link with the municipal authorities. This makes it possible, via a Municipal Climate Action Plan (Pacmun), “to implement projects that benefit communities”, within which children play a key role as “environmental monitors” (H. Arredondo Juárez). However, it is necessary to ensure that we go beyond a development catechism that would only reach children. Another solution lies in action that focuses on the crux of energy poverty, which is at “at the intersection of social, climate and environmental issues” (J. Damon). Finally, it is essential to reinvigorate carbon finance in order to fund climate plans, as “we cannot expect donors to do everything” (O. Decherf).

 

Favorable prospects

African countries are willing to address climate issues” (O. Decherf). In September 2013, the Ecocity Summit in Nantes demonstrated this, as a number of African mayors from rural areas attended. In addition, an increasing number of elected officials understand that tomorrow’s challenge lies in lower consumption and lower expenditure.

However, local climate strategies must take account of everyone’s right to access energy, and therefore to emit, both at the level of deprived neighborhoods and of emerging countries experiencing rapid economic development. “Does this not mean that efforts to reduce emissions should focus on the more affluent and least vulnerable neighborhoods?” (A. Odic).

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