World Habitat Day: promoting resilient urban economies to drive sustainable growth

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In 1985, the United Nations (UN) proclaimed the first Monday of October each year as the first Monday of the month of October. World Habitat Day with the objective of analyzing the state of towns and cities and to highlight the value of the basic right of every human being to adequate housing. This year 2023, under the motto “Resilient urban economies. Cities as engines of growth and recovery“The aim is to reflect on the role of cities as drivers of sustainable economic growth.

Currently, urban areas are home to slightly more than half of the world’s 7 billion people.
areas are home to just over half of the world’s 7 billion people, and by 2050 that number is expected to increase by another 3 billion people.
and by 2050 that number is expected to increase by another 3 billion people. This means that cities have great potential as drivers of economic growth and that the future of many countries depends, to a large extent, on the productivity of their urban areas.

The 2022 World Cities Report, prepared by UN-Habitat, stresses that cities must find ways to position their economies for the maximum benefit of all their inhabitants. At the same time, urban areas must follow development models that improve the quality of life of their residents and protect the environment, bearing in mind that cities are the source of most greenhouse gas emissions. In this sense, according to the aforementioned document, promoting sustainable and well-planned and managed urbanization contributes to building resilient urban economies adapted to the effects of climate change. It also emphasizes that nature-based solutions must be part of inclusive planning processes for sustainable urban futures.

In this line, vegetation is one of the best solutions to combat the effects of climate change in urban areas. Green spaces can cool the air in cities by up to 12°C and provide shade and humidity, which helps regulate the climate. They also help to purify the air, prevent soil erosion and reduce damage in the event of flooding.

Therefore, green areas also function as “climatic refuges” in cities, becoming spaces with more favorable environmental conditions and contributing to the protection of urban biodiversity. Trees constitute a habitat and a place of refuge, food and rest for animals and plants, and a large tree can harbor up to 500 different species. Likewise, green areas and urban forests have very positive effects on human health at the cardiovascular and respiratory levels, and can be associated with a reduction in mortality; they provide a sense of well-being and contribute to reducing stress levels.