COP15: protecting biodiversity includes cities

Valerie Plante, the first woman elected as the head of Montreal, the economic capital of Quebec, recalls the facts from the first minutes of her opening speech: “Cities and local governments are essential and important partners in what happens at the high level, at COP15 Biodiversity, at the big negotiating table. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, solutions must be applied in urban areas.”.

Hence the importance of 7e A summit of subnational governments and cities organized by the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). It brings together local politicians at COP15 biodiversity in Montreal to coordinate the response to the ecosystem crisis. Cities are the first level of governance, closest to individuals, and therefore logically the first to move due to the effects of environmental crises.

“We see it, we feel it and our communities tell us about it, certain pollinators responsible for a third of the world’s food are disappearing, erosion is eating away at our coasts, invasive species are multiplying.”The mayor of Montreal explains.

Big cities like San Francisco and Montreal are leading the fight against climate change and biodiversity conservation and are committed to stepping up their efforts. Some have already taken concrete measures, such as Medellin in Colombia and its extensive ecological corridors, or the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, which has halved its population’s water consumption and surrounded its city with a large green belt. And these are just two examples among many others.

Environmental planning

Montreal launched its Commitment just before COP15 with fifteen concrete proposals to be implemented in cities, as well as a pollinator protection plan.

“Outcomes are the power of cities and sub-national governments: action-reaction. What we have decided to do in Montreal is to focus our efforts on creating and protecting green spaces, buying budgets, developing green spaces, creating biodiversity corridors, banning pesticides, banning single-use plastic, protecting pollinators.”Valerie Plante said Sunday.

Cities have the option of imposing a moratorium on the destruction of existing green spaces and expanding them, (…) preferring vacant land over concrete in all new construction projects.

At the municipal level, cities around the world can immediately take action to benefit biodiversity. They have the option of placing a moratorium on the destruction of existing greenery and extending it, delaying the first spring cut of flowerbeds and laying thin autumn leaves on the ground to create a layer for microorganisms. concrete free land in any new construction project. Another challenge: avoiding urban sprawl by multiplying projects in height rather than length.

But a city like Montreal is linked to globalization with its status as an economic capital and its international influence. Although capitalism and biodiversity conservation are not mutually exclusive, but difficult to reconcile, how can urban centers integrate ecology and economy?

When asked, Marie-Andrée Mauger, manager of ecological transition and environment at the Montreal Executive Committee, doesn’t hesitate. For him, everything must be considered, and this requires a systematic consideration of the transition in decisions:

“The head of economic development is fully committed to the ecological transition. As soon as it receives funds for calls for projects, it will develop employment centers focused on the ecological transition and the circular economy. »

All initiatives accompanied and supported by the manager, financially supported by the city of Montreal, emphasize the local recycling of textiles, the reuse of construction materials or even food waste.

Nothing is impossible until cities plan. ICLEI says that planning construction, greening, socio-economic structure, in short, expectations are the main challenges for municipalities to prevent urban sprawl.

“Like, you can’t just say to yourself : I will plant a million trees. It really depends on the context and what you’re aiming for. Which tree to plant, how much, in which area ? Prefer native species, choose those that provide the most shade or those that produce fruit and nuts », Kobie Brand, Global Director of the Center for Urban Biodiversity at ICLEI advises.

The city of Montreal has so many questions to ask itself in the coming years: it plans to plant 500,000 trees by 2030, 50,000 per year.

Adjust management

Another challenge is persuading management levels to listen to what cities have to say. “When you do something specific in a city, it has an impact on a region and definitely a state, a state and the whole country”recalled Valerie Plante this Sunday.

The city of Montreal, for example, supported the suspension of the Ray-Mont Logistique logistics platform project in the Hochelaga district. The project envisages the transformation of 230,000 m² of industrial wasteland into a multimodal container platform, where nature nevertheless takes back its possibilities. rights. Residents demand the creation of a natural park, the City supported them and therefore blocked the construction permit… But the Quebec government decided and approved the start of work.

“It’s really a matter of negotiation, but also a matter of balance of power. Since the start of COP15, I have participated in panels with several mayors of rural municipalities in Quebec who share the same aspirations as Montreal. And here we can have a balance of power with governments”sighs Mayor-Andree Mauger.

In 2050, two out of three inhabitants will live in cities. Governments will sooner or later have to work with cities. Meanwhile, the municipalities hope to compensate for the lack of national consensus, which is about to be repeated for the eleventh time this COP15.

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