Smarter urban growth needed for more sustainable cities in Mexico
Cities are responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change; but more importantly, they are also the key to solving this same challenge.
Over 50% of the world’s population already lives in cities, and cities are expected to add 1.4 billion people in the next 20 years. Cities are also responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of GDP. As they grow, it will become even more important for cities to understand and implement sustainable transport and development practices that advance both climate action with economic development.
We have been witnessing ineffective urban planning in many cities worldwide that follow a “3D” urban growth model: distant, disperse, and disconnected. Among other costs, this growth model leads to high infrastructure and development costs. In the United States alone, sprawl costs US$ 400 billion dollars each year.
The need for smarter growth in Mexican cities
EMBARQ Mexico is working with city leaders and decision makers to help Mexican cities grow sustainably. As part of this effort, EMBARQ Mexico Director Adriana Lobo recently participated in an expert panel on the release of the Better Growth, Better Climate report, the flagship publication of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Lobo discussed how the urban transport sector provides a great opportunity for mitigating greenhouse has emissions.
Mexico is the world’s twelfth largest greenhouse gas emitting country in the world. EMBARQ Mexico is working to help the country meet its goal of reducing emissions by 30% by 2020 compared to business as usual, and is advancing national policies that successfully shift the country towards a green economy. On the panel, Lobo promoted the implementation of more and higher quality mass transport systems. She also emphasized the importance of compact cities, as Mexico’s population doubled over the last 30 years while the urbanized area increased six-fold. In Mexico City, for example, sprawl has resulted in areas – such as the Santa Fe district – being disconnected from transport systems.
This growth pattern generates social, economic and environmental costs. In Mexico, one in four homes financed in recent years by the National Workers Housing Fund Institute (INFONAVIT) – the country’s largest builder of social housing – is uninhabited because of the distance between homes and city centers. This has created “bedroom communities” where some poor families must allocate up to 25% of their income to transport just to get to work and access basic goods and services.
Joining Lobo on the panel was Felipe Calderón, former president of Mexico and current Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Also on the panel was Francisco Barnes, Coordinator of the Environmental Commission of Megalopolis; Helen Mountford, Global Program Director of the New Climate Economy and Director of Economics at the World Resources Institute; and María Amparo Martinez Arroyo, Director General of the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change.
The purpose of the report is to inform economic decision makers in the public and private sectors about the risks of climate change, and how climate action can go hand in hand with economic growth. The report gives ten key recommendations in a Global Plan of Action, including: accelerating transformation to a low carbon economy; signing a firm, durable, and equitable international climate agreement; and making connected, compact, and coordinated cities the new paradigm of urban development.
EMBARQ Mexico tackles these issues from several directions. EMBARQ Mexico’s team of experts are supporting integrated transport systems in several Mexican cities and are implementing new bus rapid transit (BRT) systems while expanding others. EMBARQ Mexico also works alongside local and federal governments to create better regulatory mechanisms and advance sustainable urban development. Finally, EMBARQ Mexico works to reduce the negative side effects of current mobility patterns through projects related to air quality, road safety, and climate change. Through sustainable urban mobility and urban development, Mexican cities can enjoy economic growth and reduce emissions simultaneously.