FAO launches Green Cities Initiative to help transform agri-food systems, end hunger & improve nutrition
Turning the recovery from COVID-19 into an opportunity for cities to become more sustainable, resilient, & provide access to healthy foods for all
18 September 2020, Rome/New York – FAO unveiled today its new Green Cities Initiative & Action Plan to help transform agri-food systems, end hunger & improve nutrition in & around the cities in a post COVID-19 era. The launch took place at a high-level virtual event entitled “Green Cities to Build Back Better for SDGs – A New Powerful Venture” hosted by FAO during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.
Highlighting the vast potential of cities in reducing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s health & food security & contributing to climate change mitigation, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu encouraged all partners to appreciate the essential role of cities in building back better & the urgency of innovative, comprehensive & coordinated actions.
“For cities to become much greener, more resilient & regenerative, we need to rethink the way urban & peri-urban areas are designed & managed”, he said in his opening remarks at the event. “With only ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, QU added, “we need a fundamental change of mindset & remodelling our business approaches”.
A new way of thinking
FAO Green Cities Initiative aims to improve the livelihoods & well-being of urban & peri-urban populations in at least 100 cities (15 metropolitan, 40 intermediary & 45 small cities) around the world in the next three years, looking to have 1000 cities join by 2030.
In particular, the initiative is focused on improving the urban environment, strengthening urban-rural linkages & the resilience of urban systems, services & populations to external shocks. Ensuring access to a healthy environment & healthy diets from sustainable food systems, it will also contribute to climate change mitigation & adaptation & sustainable resource management.
The new initiative also includes the creation of a “Green Cities Network”, where cities of all sizes – from megapolis to medium to small – will exchange experiences on best practices, successes & lessons, as well as build city-to-city cooperation opportunities.
FAO will enhance its work with local & national authorities, city councils, mayors, the private sector, academic institutions & international organizations, & engage with urban communities – especially with women & young people.
“The initiative we are launching today is a product of a new way of thinking. I hope that you are inspired to join us & support it by your innovative way of implementation!”, the FAO Director-General concluded.
Why is urban greening important?
The world is becoming more & more urbanized. By 2050, almost 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities, with 90 percent of the increase occurring in Africa & Asia. About 70 percent of all food supplies are consumed by urban dwellers – a number that is steadily on the rise.
Population growth & rapid urbanization imply dietary shifts & an increasing demand for basic goods & services, as well as growing competition for natural resources to ensure access to healthy diets for all. Local administrations are finding it more & more difficult to meet the needs of urban & peri-urban populations & the COVID-19 pandemic has added new challenges, such as food systems disruptions, loss of jobs & food insecurity, worsening conditions especially for the most vulnerable.
As a result, many urban & peri-urban communities are now more than ever exposed to food & nutrition insecurity combined with diet-related non-communicable diseases as well as increasing rates of overweight & obesity.
Today cities consume almost 80 percent of the total energy produced in the world. They are responsible for 70 percent of global waste & account for about 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Maintaining sustainable food systems & having more green spaces, including urban & peri-urban agriculture & forests are essential for cities, making them more resilient in dealing with the impacts of climate change & COVID-19, ensuring that health-related issues do not disrupt urban food supply & distribution.
About the event
In addition to the FAO Green Cities Initiative, today’s event also highlighted initiatives & programmes that are scaling up innovation & accelerating action, including Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, the New Urban Agenda, World Sustainable Urban Food Centre of Valencia, Hand-in-Hand Initiative & other strategic partnerships.
The high-level event saw the participation of Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat); LI Yong, Director-General of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); Jürgen Rigterink, Acting President of European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD); Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer, Global Environment Facility (GEF); Rémy Rioux, Chief Executive Officer, Agence Française de Développement (a message was delivered on his behalf); Javier Manzanares, Deputy executive secretary of the Green Climate Fund, among others.
The event also featured testimonials from the following city leaders around the globe that are in line with the FAO Green Cities Initiative: Daniel Quintero, Mayor of Medellin, Colombia; Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan, Italy (via video message); Manuel de Araujo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique; Wen Guohui, Mayor of Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China (via video message); Souad Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis, Tunisia; Bruno Covas, Mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil (via video message) & a message from the office of the Mayor of New York.