Golden Gateway
to Green Cities

UNEP has selected the City of San Francisco to host the main celebrations of World Environment Day 2005. The event will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the birth of the United Nations in the Californian city. Mayors from around the world will meet to celebrate green cities and create a plan for a sustainable urban future.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
explains how protecting the environment and economic growth can go hand in hand

United Nations World Environment Day is one of the most important events on the international environmental calendar. California and San Francisco are honored to be the first hosts in the United States for World Environment Day.

The environment is an essential part of the California experience. The state’s stunning beauty lies in its diverse natural wonders and resources. I am passionately committed to defending California’s environment, and providing real leadership to protect our precious land, air, and water.

Here in California, we have rejected the notion that we must choose between protecting the environment, and protecting jobs and economic growth. We know that if our beaches are soiled by oil spills, tourists will not experience the wonders of our magnificent coastline. If we log our forests irresponsibly, streambeds will be destroyed and our fishing industry will suffer.

But, California is not alone in facing this challenge. If we are going to leave a better planet for generations to come, we must work within a global effort to ensure the economy and the environment never become competing interests. United Nations World Environment Day will help us focus on these critical issues, but there is an added significance to the event coming to San Francisco.

Sixty years ago, the United Nations was born in the City by the Bay. Representatives from fifty-one countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security founded the United Nations at the 1945 Charter Convention in San Francisco.

Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the United Nations. Together, members work to maintain international peace, develop friendly relations, cooperate in solving international problems, and promote respect for human rights.

As the nations of the world meet this week in San Francisco, we can add another great principle to the list: working together to build a sustainable future and a healthy respect for our planet.

San Franciso Mayor Gavin Newsom
welcomes delegates from around the world on World Environment Day

San Francisco is honored to host United Nations World Environment Day 2005. We are delighted to work with the United Nations Environment Programme to make sure that World Environment Day in San Francisco leaves a legacy that will advance environmental wellbeing here at home and around the world.

Green cities
The theme for World Environment Day 2005 is ‘Green Cities’. This is particularly fitting since the 21st century is the first time that most of the world’s population will live in cities. As urban populations grow, it becomes more and more vital to balance the needs of the environment, the economy, and social equity if we are going to develop a way of living that can sustain our planet and our people into future generations.

The population shift from rural areas to the cities will have a dramatic impact on the planet’s resources. It will also result in significant political changes where city government will become directly responsible for solving critical environmental issues.

Environmental justice
Every city in the world depends on rural territories many times its size to provide food and water for its citizens, to say nothing of the resources required to produce consumer goods. But to date little attention has been paid to developing the tools cities will need to solve these environmental challenges.

Environmental accords
World Environment Day 2005 will feature a series of special events focusing on urban environmental issues such as recycling, renewable energy, resource conservation, environmental justice and public health. Mayors from the world’s largest cities will share ideas and experiences, establish goals for urban environmental improvement, and identify the means to attain these goals. This will all be compiled into a document called the San Francisco Urban Environmental Accords, a first-ever set of environmental agreements made between municipal government These accords will help all of us to act locally, while thinking globally.

Jared Blumenfeld
describes a pioneering series of accords for sustainable cities

For the first time in history, the majority of the planet’s population will soon live in cities. By 2025, 60 per cent of humanity will do so. One million people move to them each week in a massive, continuing demographic migration.

Our new urban planet has already created common environmental challenges and opportunities. Mayors can shape the destiny of the planet by developing truly sustainable urban centers.

The accords key legacy of World Environment Day 2005, celebrated in San Francisco, will be the Urban Environmental Accords. Drafted by mayors, NGOs, universities, and UN agencies, they focus on 21 actions that all cities can take – and will be signed on the 60th Anniversary of the UN Charter, itself signed in this city in 1945.

The Accords are a series of environmental actions that have been implemented by at least one city. They take into account the fact that mayors of large cities share many common responsibilities: providing energy, clean water, recycling, public transportation, parks, and urban planning. Clear and achievable, the entire accords document takes up only two pages. The accords include:

  • Adopting and implementing a policy to increase the use of renewable energy to 10 per cent of the city’s peak load within seven years.

  • Implementing “user-friendly” recycling and and composting programs to provide alternative disposal options, with the goal of reducing per capita solid waste disposal to landfill and inceneration by per cent in seven years.

  • Adopting a policy that mandates a green building rating system standard that applies to all new municipal buildings.

The broad selection of accords actions allows flexibility while maintaining accountability. By agreeing to them, mayors enter an action-step process, beginning with passing a local law and subsequently monitoring progress towards the target goals.

Like World Environment Day, the accords offer an opportunity to reinforce the importance of the United Nations in helping to resolve global challenges – environmental and otherwise. They signify a new kind of international cooperation: forging a framework among cities rather than nations. Although there are more than 400 international treaties, agendas, and conventions on record, there is often a gap between these international political commitments and their fulfilment where they matter most – in our cities.

By signing the accords, the mayors commit to moving vital environmental issues to the top of their agendas. Citizens of the signatory cities will also be responsible for keeping their mayors accountable to their commitments.

Providing common-sense solutions to common problems, the Accords are a living and dynamic process that set the stones upon which each of us will walk on the path to a sustainable future

Jared Blumenfeld is Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

PHOTOGRAPH: Markus Dlouhy/Still Pictures

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Challenges and Opportunity | Bridging the Water Gap | Golden Gateway to Green Cities | The Spirit of “Mottai Nai” | Cities without Slums | People | Rapid Progress | At a glance: Greening Cities | Charging into the Future | Star profile: Tokiko Kato | The Female Factor | Unlocking People Energy | Think Local | High Achievements | Life at the Top | Books and products | Focus On Your World | Black Sea, Green City?

Complementary issues:
Margot Wallström: World Environment Day (Freshwater) 2003
Xie Zhenhua: Saving the common land (Mountains and Ecotourism) 2002