Bonner Cohen: UN Habitat III Pushes ‘Compact Cities’
In a world repeatedly described as under threat from innumerable challenges, including income inequality, inadequate urban infrastructure, discrimination against minorities of every stripe, and climate change, participants at the UN’s Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador were told that comprehensive planning aimed at densely concentrating people in urban areas offered the best way forward to a “sustainable” future.
Addressing Habitat III on the conference’s first day, Serge Salat, director of the Urban Morphology Lab in France, said compact cities with residents living as close as possible to public transportation should be the goal of urban planners. He noted that ready access to public transportation would mean residents would no longer need cars to take them to work and recreation. This, he added, would make forward-looking cities leaders in the fight against climate change. Salat’s panel at Habitat III discussed green solutions to climate change and other urban problems. Salat, it should be noted is an adviser to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (IPCC_.
Creating Open Spaces and Wild Areas
According to Salat, the city all should embrace as a role model is Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm, he noted, has created open space “buffer zones” – essentially parkland – running all through it. Just beyond the open space are areas set aside for wildlife, what he termed “wilderness corridors.” With few exceptions, the only place where residential and commercial property is available is in Stockholm proper.
In other words, by making land off limits for people to live and work, they will have little choice but to settle in densely populated urban areas. If parents prefer raising a family in a suburban environment, they will have to think again. Under this scheme, central planners will stack the deck in favor of compact cities.
The New Urban Agenda and the World’s Poor
Welcome to Habitat III’s “New Urban Agenda.” UN functionaries, green NGOs, and their allies in national governments want to see this top-down, globalized agenda imposed around the world.
During an opening of the Habitat III plenary session, speakers constantly said that the world’s poor are “the most vulnerable.” They’re right. But what they refuse to see is that their schemes will put the poor at even greater risk. Limiting the amount of land that is available for homes drives up the cost of housing. Promoting unreliable and unaffordable renewable energy drives up the cost of electricity. In both cases, it’s the poor who end up on the short end of the stick.