World Habitat Day – 4 October 2021

World Habitat Day is marked on the first Monday of October each year and is recognised by the United Nations to reflect on the state of towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter.

The day is also intended to remind the world that everyone has the power and the responsibility to shape the future of towns and cities. World Habitat Day was first celebrated in 1986 in Nairobi, Kenya, and the theme chosen for that year was “Shelter is My Right”.

The day is celebrated in many countries around the world and various activities are organised to examine the problems of rapid urbanisation and its impact on the environment and human poverty.

The theme for this year’s World Habitat Day is “Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world”.

Today, cities account for about 75% of the world’s energy consumption and are responsible for over 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The way cities are planned, built, and managed, is key to reducing carbon emissions and keeping global warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

This is important as cities and towns are projected to add a further 2.5 billion people in the next 30 years according to United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, raising the proportion of people in urban areas from 55% today, to nearly 70% in 2050. Urbanisation is taking place most rapidly in the less developed regions of the world. Currently, three times as many urban dwellers live in the less developed regions than in the more developed regions, and 90% of new urban residents will live in Africa and Asia.

Most cities in developing Africa and Asia are still to be built, and the World Economic Forum projects two-thirds of the investments in urban infrastructure in Africa needed by 2050 have yet to be made.

There is a window of opportunity to shape these cities in a way that reduces overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The increasing population growth and migration to cities, in many cases caused by climate stress, create challenges in providing basic services to urban residents, particularly the poor. Ensuring that growing cities are compact, and that expansion takes place in a planned manner to accommodate the growing number of residents helps reduce their carbon footprint. Compact cities also make the provision of basic services such as waste management, transport, energy and water and sanitation more resource-efficient and financially viable. UN-Habitat therefore promotes a strategy that combines compact city planning together with good governance and equitable provision of basic services.

Avoiding urban sprawl also reduces stress on ecosystems, promoting a balanced coexistence between human settlements and nature, and contributes to the prevention of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.

The future of the planet depends on national, regional, and local governments and organisations, communities, academic institutions, the private sector, and all relevant stakeholders working together to create sustainable, carbon-neutral, inclusive cities and towns.

World Habitat Day PosterWorld Habitat Day Poster (990 KB)

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