5 Finalists For 2020–2021 Prize For Cities Show How To Tackle Climate Change & Inequality Together

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Originally published on WRI’s Resource Institute Blog.

Projects from Argentina, India, Kenya, Mexico, and the United Kingdom chosen for demonstrated impact on climate risk, resilience, and socioeconomic inequality

WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities announced five projects as finalists for the 2020-2021 WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities last month for showing how cities can address both climate change and inequality together.

This year’s Prize for Cities theme of climate and equity drew more than 260 applications from around the world. The five finalists are initiatives from Rosario, Argentina; Ahmedabad, India; Nairobi, Kenya; Monterrey Mexico; and London, UK. From curbing transport emissions to urban agriculture and flood protection in slums, each of the finalists takes a different approach. But they all show that cities can be more sustainable and more productive for more residents through empowering, participatory, and climate-smart changes. These types of innovations are more important than ever, as cities are a crucial building block in an inclusive, resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities is the premier global award celebrating and spotlighting transformative urban change. Through the Prize, WRI seeks to inspire urban change-makers across the globe by elevating trailblazing initiatives and telling impactful stories of sustainable urban transformation.

The finalists will now be evaluated by a distinguished and independent jury of urban thinkers and leaders from outside WRI who will determine the winner of the grand prize of $250,000. The four runners’ up will each receive $25,000.

“In an extraordinarily challenging year, these projects show the resilience and creativity of cities – that partnership between community groups, government and business can lead to significant change with multiple co-benefits,” said Ani Dasgupta, Global Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. “As cities seek new solutions to jumpstart their economies and become more resilient, these projects show how we can build cities that work better for people and the planet.”

The five finalists are:

DistritoTec, Monterrey, Mexico

Born out of a period of violence and social strife, DistritoTec is helping to bring Monterrey back together again through a new approach to district-level urban design that encourages compact, livable growth for a low-emissions future. Says José Antonio Torre Medina, Urbanism and Sustainability Director, Tecnológico de Monterrey: “The transformation to a sustainable urban environment is best accomplished with a shared vision based on mutual responsibility between authorities, citizens and organizations. It is time for a citizen-centered urbanism. At Tecnológico de Monterrey we are leading the implementation of a comprehensive transformation to improve the dynamics of our urban surroundings. By doing so we discover the need for an intellectual and social crusade to rethink the way we live in the city. In a city with so much movement, DistritoTec wants to build with discipline and long-term thinking, to be a model for a sustainable, responsible and thriving future. We want to demonstrate that urban regeneration in Mexico and Latin America is possible.”

Kibera Public Space Project, Nairobi, Kenya

In one of the world’s largest slums, the Kibera Public Space Project (KPSP) is co-creating innovative spaces with residents that not only reduce flood risk but provide essential services, like water and sanitation, and new ways for businesses to thrive. Says Regina Opondo, Community Director, Kounkuey Design Initiative Nairobi Office: “The Kibera Public Space Project provides a model for sustainable development that addresses a range of objectives in a cohesive way: not only recreational public space, but also economic development and environmental remediation. With public spaces that provide access to safe and affordable water, sanitation, flood protection, and income-generating opportunities for tens of thousands of Kibera residents, KPSP builds resilience to climate risks in the most vulnerable neighborhoods.”

Sustainable Food Production for a Resilient Rosario

Initially launched in the wake of the Argentinian economic crisis of 2001, Rosario’s flagship urban agriculture program has evolved to become a cornerstone of the city’s response to increased flooding and heat events. Says Rogelio Biazzi, General Coordinator of the Cabinet, City of Rosario: “Sustaining food production spaces within urban and peri-urban areas is a key strategy in our climate action plan. Reducing emissions and improving the city’s capacity to adapt generates opportunities for social inclusion too. Sustainable food production in Rosario not only generates employment opportunities, but social cohesion, an improved environment and better health for residents. All while we are conserving environmental services that are essential to face the increases in rainfall and temperature to which climate change exposes us.”

Ultra Low Emission Zone, London, United Kingdom

Combined with complementary policies on public transport and other mobility options, London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is helping to shift residents towards low-emissions travel and address longstanding inequities in exposure to air pollution. Says Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London: “Air pollution is a public health crisis and an issue of social justice, with people in the most deprived parts of London, who are least likely to own a car, suffering the worst effects of toxic air. The Ultra-Low Emission Zone is the centerpiece of my measures to reduce harmful emissions and applies the toughest standards of any global city, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. I’m pleased to say it’s already showing real results with a 44% reduction in roadside NO2 in central London and 44,100 fewer polluting vehicles in the zone every day pre-pandemic.”

Women’s Action Towards Climate Resilience for the Urban Poor, Ahmedabad, India

A longstanding development partner in Ahmedabad’s slums, the Mahila Housing Trust is empowering women with tools and training to become community climate leaders and address their communities’ unique climate risks. Says Bijal Brahmbhatt, Director of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust: “Mahila Housing Trust developed a women-led model for building climate resilience in a systemic way that transformed poor settlements and contributed to reducing inequalities in multiple cities. Equipped with scientific knowledge, poor women worked alongside community members, municipal officials, technologists and scientists in new and innovative ways. And they came to be recognized not just as ‘beneficiaries’ but partners in devising and implementing climate solutions for their cities.”

The Prize for Cities is supported by business leader and philanthropist Stephen M. Ross. The inaugural Prize for Cities was awarded in 2019 to SARSAI, by the nonprofit Amend, for its incisive, easily replicable and highly impactful approach to creating safer journeys to school for children in Dar es Salaam and other African cities.

Learn more at PrizeForCities.org.

Feature image courtesy of The Mayor of London.

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