Celebrating 10 Years of Work in Brazil with the Mayors’ Summit and Cities & Transport International Congress
Celebrating 10 years of EMBARQ Brasil, city leaders, planners and professionals from around the world convened in Rio de Janeiro for the Mayors’ Summit on September 9, 2015 and the Cities & Transport International Congress September 10 - 11. Over these three momentous and inspiring days, participants heard from mayors and experts about how cities are the key to tackling climate change and unlocking economic growth at the same time. A global challenge to leaders, the events in Rio demonstrated that the opportunity is now for creating sustainable cities.
The Mayors’ Summit: Pushing for Equitable Cities and Bold Leadership
“Something is happening in cities. Everyday, 1.4 million people are added to the global urban population.”
With these words, Andrew Steer kicked off the Mayors’ Summit on Wednesday, September 9th. Bringing together city leaders from around the world, the Summit challenged mayors to demonstrate bold leadership and share best practices. Former mayors Ken Livingstone (London), Enrique Peñalosa (Bogota), Mary Jane Ortega (San Fernando), Sam Adams (Portland), and Jaime Lerner (Curitiba) joined one another on stage and together showed how acting on a strong vision is critical for ensuring that cities work for people.
The mayors first addressed the issue of equity in urban areas. Sam Adams noted in his opening remarks that, “In the US as a whole, and Portland, [we’re] still too separated between the well-off and the not so well-off.” For cities to overcome this problem, the mayors recommended three ideas:
Investing in basic urban services. Mary Jane Ortega talked about her experience as mayor prioritizing basic services, like waste management, education, recreation, health, infrastructure, and housing.
Fostering safe and reliable urban transport. Enrique Peñalosa described mobility as an “equity issue,” and stressed the importance of effective public transport, like bus rapid transit (BRT).
Prioritizing people over cars. The city leaders explained that private vehicles are only affordable to select groups, pollute local air, and result in congestion.
However, in order to achieve these goals, cities need strong mayoral leadership. The city leaders urged other decision makers to create bold visions for their cities and to incorporate the ideas of the citizens. And when executing these plans, “mayors can’t be afraid of the political costs of action,” Peñalosa said--they have to take the necessary steps even when they aren’t popular.
EMBARQ Brasil becomes WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities
After 10 years of work with strong partnerships making Brazilian cities more sustainable, EMBARQ Brasil is now WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities. Andrew Steer first announced the change at the Mayors’ Summit, and a session at the Congress reviewed the team’s history, while pointing toward the future. Building on our expertise in urban transport, this change reflects our growing work to create transformative change in cities across Brazil with a high-quality team of experts.
EMBARQ Brasil has helped improve urban mobility quality of life in cities across Brazil. The team of over 30 local and international experts has provided high-level technical assistance for cities implementing urban transport systems, such as high-capacity buses in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. Because of this work, 1.5 million more people benefit from high-quality, efficient transport every day.
The team has produced manuals, tools, and reports that are helping cities develop and implement sustainable mobility plans. They have also built bridges with partners such as Brazil’s national Ministry of Cities.
The team has always focused on creating projects with real impact on the ground. Their approach has always centered on creating more sustainable cities. Urban areas are already home to 85 percent of the world’s population—a reality that presents unprecedented challenges and opportunities for sustainable and inclusive growth. The transition to WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities reflects the expanding scope of our work to help create sustainable cities.
The Brazil team’s challenge now goes beyond transport and urban development. The goal is facilitate change in 200 cities by 2019, focusing on urban development, mobility, water, health, road safety, energy, buildings and governance.
The Cities & Transport International Congress: Cities Leading “the Revolution”
On September 10th and 11th, more than 130 speakers gathered at the Cities & International Congress to share their experiences and ideas on how to forge sustainable cities. Over a thousand individuals attended the event to hear and engage in dialogues with city leaders and experts, with many others watching the event’s online broadcast.
“Cities are a wonderful invention of humanity but we are growing them wrong,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO of WRI at the grand opening of the Congress. “Current urbanization patterns hurt families, children.”
Too many cities worldwide have developed around personal cars, causing worrisome health issues–such as air pollution, poor walkability, and traffic crashes–to be the new normal in urban areas. Representatives at the Congress urged cities to move away from car-centered development and adopt multi-modal public transport. “Forget the car,” Jaime Lerner said. “We need...good public transport.” Local leaders noted that because national governments often lack the ability to act quickly and efficiently, cities must step forward on sustainability. Indeed, they have started “the revolution,” Andrew Steer said.
Key to this revolution is a low-carbon economy. In his keynote address, Ani Dasgupta urged cities to use the framework of the New Climate Economy (NCE), developed by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, to achieve both economic growth and sustainability simultaneously. This vision, backed by years of research, outlines how cities can boost their economies by moving toward a low-carbon future. "A one billion [dollar] public investment can unleash fifteen to twenty billion in private investment,” Dasgupta said.
However, a central question facing city leaders at the Congress was how to create cities that are responsive to the needs of all citizens. As Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá noted, new transport modes mean little to people if they can’t access or afford them. Holding panels on social responsibility and accessibility, experts recommended that cities include accessibility in planning decisions; not only will this influence design, but it will permit cities to budget appropriately for amenities like wheelchair ramps and proper signage. City leaders advised using transit-oriented development (TOD) to ensure the availability of affordable housing and accessible public transport.
To learn more about the 10th anniversary events, click here.