Man-made climate change has led the world to a watershed moment and the cities of tomorrow are being formed today.
A memorandum signed by several Nobel laureates on Saturday raised that point, with an appeal to cities to take the lead in mitigating climate change and promoting sustainable development.
The document came at the end of a Hong Kong symposium on global sustainability.
With tremendous global visibility, Hong Kong can play a key role in tackling sustainability challenges in Asia, said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who organized the forum.
Schellnhuber is the director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which co-hosted the event with the Asia Society and Hong Kong Center.
Christine Loh, Hong Kong’s undersecretary for the environment, said cities have begun talking to each other and can share more hands-on information.
She said communities should cooperate to find solutions and consensus.
Nine of the world’s 10 largest urban centers are in Asia and half of the fastest-growing urban economies are in China.
Organizers picked Hong Kong for the event, the first outside Europe, because of its strong focus on East Asia and the Pacific.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim warned in a video address that governments “must act now” to limit global warming by funding policies on sustainable development, or the impact will be “devastating”.
“Climate change is a fundamental threat to development in our lifetime,” he said.
A sustainable future requires “reducing the impact of urbanization on climate and ecosystems by respecting the limited resource capacity and restorative capability of the Earth”, the memorandum said.
“We urge cities to map the risks to which their citizens are most vulnerable, to reduce those risks where it is possible and build resilient social and physical structures where it is not.”
The memorandum also encourages weaving sustainable practices into the fabric of city life and advocates increasing the urban sustainability by moving toward economies that reuse resources in a continual cycle.
Unlike in Britain during the Industrial Revolution, “you have a choice” in today’s Asia, Schellnhuber said.
He said Asian governments should learn from past mistakes by nations that are now developed.
The Nobel laureates included Australia’s Brian Schmidt (physics, 2011), Britain’s James Mirrlees (economics, 1996), Japan’s Rioyi Noyori (chemistry, 2001), the United States’ William E. Moerner (chemistry, 2014) and George F. Smoot (physics, 2006), Mexico’s Mario Molina (chemistry, 1995), Israel’s Ada Yonath (chemistry, 2009), Peter Doherty (medicine, 1996) and Yuan T. Lee (chemistry, 1986).
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