Scientists must have a say in the future of cities

More urban areas will be built in the next 30 years than ever before. Growing settlements will increase demand for infrastructure, food, energy, water and housing. Simply meeting the projected urban expansion will breach the warming limit set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

This week, the United Nations’ third major global cities conference, Habitat III, convenes in Quito, Ecuador. Held every 20 years, this multilateral meeting will adopt a global framework for making cities more sustainable — the New Urban Agenda (NUA). Sadly, science was largely absent from the drafting process of the NUA. By contrast, expert evidence guided the Paris climate deal, the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

One reason is that the scientific community was unprepared for Habitat III. The few scientists invited to participate accepted a consultative role, nested among other public voices. Then, in late July, negotiators dropped the proposed multistakeholder panel, which would have formally embedded scientists and other non-state representatives in the implementation process. European Union members and other rich countries were concerned that the panel would be expensive. The final draft of the NUA1brokered in New York last month failed to reverse this. It is thus necessary to argue the case once again for the importance of urban science and of establishing a science–policy interface for the NUA. Read more…