(CN) — Political leaders, activists and community leaders are all in attendance at the Ninth Summit of the Americas from June 6 through June 10 in Los Angeles with a number of panel discussions on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient and Equitable Future.” One of the main panels on the first day was about building sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities.
The panelists represented a range of different countries, communities and organizations. All the panelists agreed that the future will be urban and that climate change will be a major factor driving people into cities across the region and mayors, groups and communities need to come together to begin solving the issue of designing communities to be more resilient.
Angel Cardenas, director of infrastructure projects for the south region for CAF, hosted the panel and said leaders from communities across North and South America need to come together to find practical solutions to the issues they are facing.
One of the takeaways from the event was Kristin Miller, executive director of Ecocity Builders, and Kevin de Cuba, board member of Americas Sustainable Development Foundation, talking about the need to move behind a linear economic model and instead look at developing networks for a circular economic model.
Miller pointed out that a circular economy has a positive impact on communities and takes into account the communities needs and priorities. She said it is important to develop a way to reshore factories, use open source software to create development plans by people in the community and create a carbon reward policy that rewards communities who take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
“A circular economy will not only build a resilient economy it will also improve biodiversity, improve health and is a way to take into account the views of people living at the local level,” said Miller.
De Cuba emphasized that we are currently locked into a linear economic model which we inherited from the Industrial Revolution and that we extract resources we need from the ground to create a number of products.
“We need to look at the technology we have and the reasons why we need to extract certain chemicals and minerals from the ground,” said de Cuba. “My goal is that we create a more sustainable city and create buildings that can reintegrate themselves back into nature so that they can become something else and to close the material loop.”
None of the panelists advocated major policy changes by national governments, instead the panelists advocated that communities work together through the C40 Cities initiative, which includes mayors from 96 large cities around the world working together on implementing the Paris Climate Accords and originally started with 40 cities, including Los Angeles.
Lauren Fabor O’Connor, chief sustainability officer for the city of Los Angeles, said working together with other cities around the world has helped to foster international collaboration and find solutions to the problems large cities are all facing.
“Our goal is to develop a prosperous future that is equitable and inclusive to the most disadvantaged, young and members of indigenous groups by soliciting their input,” said O’Connor.
This comes as California is experiencing an historic multi-year drought with many communities working on finding solutions to meet the needs of their residents. O’Connor said the goal is to build a community that is both resilient and equitable.
Manuel Olivera, former city director for Bogota, Colombia, emphasized that mayors of communities around the world are at the front lines of addressing climate change, while also building resilient and equitable communities.
“We don’t want to be wiped out like the dinosaurs,” said Olivera. “Mayors have the experience of addressing the needs of their constituents to get the job done on building resilient communities and addressing the needs of climate change.”
He highlighted the importance of investment in clean energy vehicles in Latin America, noting that there are 4,000 electric buses operating in Latin America; but that more investment is needed to reach the goal of zero emission vehicles. He said the region could save $64 billion if it transitioned to all electric public transit buses, but noted many communities and governments in Latin America do not have the resources after COVID to make such investments.
“Mayors are finding ways to address the migration that is being caused by climate change,” said Olivera. “They are working on helping people who have left their homes and are now settling in cities.”
One notable leader absent from the Summit of the Americas is Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who said he would not attend the conference due to Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guatemala not being invited to the summit. President Joe Biden is expected to attend the event, along with Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.