19 Feb 2020 Story Climate change

New toolkit to help countries switch to climate-smart urbanization

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  secretariat, and the Commonwealth Secretariat, in collaboration with several United Nations entities, have developed a law and climate change toolkit to promote climate-smart urbanization.

Global heating has been described as the “defining issue of our time”. An effective response to climate change requires deliberate and sustained action from both state and non-state actors that is anchored in nationally determined contributions. Implementing these contributions requires supportive regulatory and institutional frameworks and a regular assessment of their adequacy and effectiveness.

UN-Habitat—in partnership with UNEP, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat, and the Commonwealth Secretariat—held a panel discussion at the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi on 12 February 2020 to showcase how the law and climate change toolkit works.

“The toolkit is an innovative online database designed to help countries establish legal frameworks necessary for effective domestic implementation of the Paris Agreement and their nationally determined contributions,” says María Socorro Manguiat, Senior Legal Officer in UNEP’s Law Division.

“Urban law defines urban forms, where land, infrastructure, housing and basic services can be built; lays out rules for planning and decision-making; and sets the context within which urban authorities, local governments and communities are expected to fulfil their mandate and react to emerging challenges.”

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Panelists from left to right: Honourable Justice Zione Ntaba, Judge of the High Court of Malawi; David Simon, Professor of Development Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London; Sharon Gil, Programme Management Officer, Cities Unit, Economy Division, United Nations Environment Programme; Maria Veronica C. Hitosis, Deputy Director for Policy, Programs, and Projects, League of Cities of the Philippines; Robert Lewis-Lettington, Chief, Land, Housing and Shelter Section, UN-Habitat; Gianluca Crispi, Programme Management Officer, Policy, Legislation and Governance Section, UN-Habitat. Photo by Natalia Mroz

UN-Habitat has led the development of the urban law module of the toolkit, which was developed in recognition of the close nexus between urbanization and climate change. 

“The urban law module aims to demonstrate, in very concrete terms, how important urban planning laws and regulations are in achieving climate mitigation and adaptation objectives, and what laws and regulations you should have to make them ‘climate-smart’,” says Gianluca Crispi, Programme Management Officer, Policy, Legislation and Governance Section, UN-Habitat.

During the Forum, UNEP presented strategies and approaches to improve urban planning and management. These included a microsimulation modelling tool to support data gathering, and air quality monitoring to make informed decisions.

UNEP provides technical assistance to countries in the review and development of their national legislation, drawing on examples and best practice from around the world and in collaboration with other entities such as UN-Habitat.

“Urban legal frameworks play an important role in climate change mitigation and adaptation,” says Sharon Gil from UNEP’s Cities Unit. “The toolkit is an innovative and a very useful instrument to help countries review their domestic legislation.”

For more information, please contact Maria Socorro Manguiat: maria.manguiat@un.org