In World Cup Spotlight, Rio Scores Goals on Urban Environment & Sustainability

With the World Cup now underway, all eyes are on the cities of Brazil playing host to the epic, international football competition. But there’s more to celebrate, according to C40 Chair, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. His city recently took the opportunity to mark World Environment Day, with trademark exuberance. Engaging citizens, businesses, NGOs and governmental actors, Rio held a series of events, exhibitions and activities to celebrate Rio’s achievements in the environmental and sustainability sectors, but also to confront the challenges it – and all global cities -- face.

A daylong seminar held by the Federal-level Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development featured Rodrigo Rosa, Special Advisor to the C40 Chair. Speaking on the topic of rapid urbanization in developing countries, he argued that this issue is at the heart of the challenge of promoting sustainable development. Citing the 1 billion people worldwide currently living in favelas, he asked: how can cities provide the infrastructure and services necessary to ensure the quality of life of their growing populations?

To address this issue, Rosa noted, Mayor Paes joined the campaign for inclusion of sustainable urbanism as a new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to be adopted by the UN from 2015. At the C40 Mayors Summit, Paes presented a letter, endorsed by 40 other C40 cities, calling for an urban SDG that reinforces the concept of the SDGs as a global (rather than just a “developing world”) agenda.

On a local level, Rio is taking a number of concrete actions. On the climate adaptation and resilience front, Rio’s Morar Carioca project, winner of a 2013 C40 & Siemens City Climate Leadership Award, represents a significant step in the city government’s aims to formalise all of the City’s favelas by 2020. Moreover, Rio’s state-of-the-art Operations Center integrates the data and monitoring functions of approximately 30 municipal and state agencies and corresponding utilities, helping the city to respond proactively to emergency situations.

On the greenhouse gas emissions reductions front, Rio has, despite having one of the lowest per capita emissions in the world (3.6 tCO2), integrated the mitigation of climate change into its strategic planning. With 41% of emissions coming from the transport and waste sectors, Rio has closed its Gramacho landfill and launched a new centre for waste treatment at Seropedica that harnesses modern technology and carbon credits to turn biogas to energy. In the transport sector, it has ushered a paradigm shift with the opening of high capacity BRT lines that have increased the proportion of the population using mass transport from 18% in 2009 to a projected 63% in 2016. The city has also extended bicycle lanes (450km by 2016) and a forthcoming tram system is underway.

Through both global and local initiatives, Rio, under the leadership of Mayor Paes, is showing that cities are forging the way in providing solutions to climate change and sustainability challenges.

To learn more about Mayor Paes’ vision for C40 and the role of cities in addressing global climate change, click here.