Green Cities: a plan to rethink cities
FAO’s “Green Cities” initiative is an ambitious project to improve the well-being of urban and peri-urban populations.
According to current estimates, in just 30 years two thirds of the planet’s population will be living in cities. If we do not change our course, this will involve a huge number of people who, simultaneously, carry out similar activities: they move from one place to another, consume water, shop, or eat … while sharing the same physical space: a big city. But will our urban environments be able to hold up with this situation? How will we feed ourselves? Where will the water come from for these overcrowded environments?
For cities to become more friendly, accessible and healthy places for those who occupy them, FAO presented the “Green Cities Initiative” last September, an ambitious project that, over the next three years, seeks to improve the livelihoods and well-being of urban and peri-urban populations in at least 100 cities (15 large cities, 40 medium-sized cities and 45 small cities). Although that is only the beginning, the objective is to incorporate 1,000 cities by 2030.
To reach this goal, the cities involved will use their public policies to improve the urban environment, guaranteeing access to a healthy life and diet through sustainable food systems. FAO knows that it is not only about feeding millions of people, but also that they need to have access to a diet based on fresh and nutritious products obtained in a sustainable way.
Vicente Domingo, Director of the World Sustainable Urban Food Centre of València (CEMAS), explained during the launch of the “Green Cities Initiative” that cities have sufficient resources, technology and knowledge to achieve a model that allows all its inhabitants to eat properly. This creativity has been demonstrated by the hundreds of urban gardens built in unexpected places, in the incorporation of pollination stations on the roofs of bus stops and, in general, in initiatives undertaken by citizens willing to incorporate more environmentally friendly habits. Empowering and channelling all this energy could mean a radical change for everyone.
The “Green Cities Initiative” aims to address multiple challenges that are closely related to each other. One of the most important challenges is to improve the link between the urban and rural world, since they are areas that are not connected right now. Another challenge involves providing greater resilience to urban systems, trying to reduce their vulnerability to incidents. And one more recent challenge is to address the health and economic crisis derived from COVID-19. Those who were already vulnerable before the pandemic are now having even more trouble accessing a healthy diet and, therefore, are at a higher risk of suffering from diseases.
FAO’s proposal also takes into account the long term by analysing the most obvious errors in food systems and draw up a plan from there that allows cities to develop better. Right now, ten years after the historic milestone of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN Agenda 2030, “we need a profound change in mindset and we must reshape our institutional approaches,” said Mr. Qu, Director General of FAO.
An opportunity to build back better
This change in mentality includes a better coordination of all the actors involved that allows regional and national entities, municipalities, the private sector, academic institutions, international organisations and communities to move forward together. Collaborative work, cooperation and a space to share knowledge and experiences between cities is becoming more important than ever. This is one of the fundamental reasons for the creation of the Green Cities Initiative, because its existence will promote the exchange of good practices, success stories and opportunities for improvement.
As the Director General of FAO also indicates, this initiative is the product of a new way of thinking. He encourages cities to join FAO’s proposal and support the initiative with an innovative delivery method.
The initiative has been launched. Surely very soon we will begin to report interesting and viable proposals from different parts of the world in this Magazine.