POLICY ENGAGEMENT: Ecological Landscapes in Cities at the World Urban Forum

February 15, 2018

How can connections between the built environment, natural ecosystems, and urban metabolism be leveraged in cities to advance both local and global sustainability targets? That is the question that Anu Ramaswami, director of the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network and professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, was tasked with helping to answer as a speaker at UN Habitat’s plenary session on Ecological Landscapes in Cities at the 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Speakers for the Ecological Landscapes in Cities plenary session at UN Habitat’s 9th World Urban Forum. Photo Credit: UN Habitat

Ramaswami joined speakers from the Word Bank, UN Habitat, UN Environment, the Government of Malaysia, the Mayor of Quito and civil society and youth representatives to discuss the role of landscapes as mediators between urban built environments and natural landscapes.

Panelists discussed the need to simplify urban metabolism models as a way to engage youth champions in the cause of sustainability, the role that green and blue spaces in cities will play in addressing challenges of climate change adaptation, and the general benefits to biodiversity and resilience that ecosystem services in cities are able to offer residents.

Ramaswami presented leading edge research from the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network quantifying the impact of urban infrastructure sectors and food supply on regional land and water resources, their contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions, and their role in broadly shaping human health and wellbeing, in turn affecting almost all of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. She also spoke of how the work is informing a new urban systems research frontier in which scientists are able to model comprehensive sustainability scenarios across multiple infrastructure sectors in individual cities, ultimately connecting those results to higher-level models that look at the impact of all urban areas in a country or region.

The plenary session highlighted the importance of ongoing research and policy engagement to promote resource efficient cities. The panel was hosted by UN Habitat’s Greener Cities Partnership, a collaboration between UN Habitat and UN Environment. More from UN Habitat and the Greener Cities Partnership can be found here. More from UN Environment on resource efficient cities can be found here.