Quito, Ecuador – The 193 countries of the United Nations, joined by over 30,000 delegates, today adopted a milestone new approach to sustainable urban development, with prominent assistance from the United Arab Emirates. Cities now represent around 80% of global GDP, and by 2050 are expected to grow in population from 3.9 billion in 2014 to 6.3 billion in 2050, making them a priority focus for the international community. 

“The UAE has experienced over 300% population growth in our cities in the last 15 years, and we know firsthand how critical it is to put sustainability at the heart of development blueprints,” said HE Mohammed Al Awadi, the UAE’s head of delegation and ambassador to Peru and non-resident ambassador to Ecuador and Costa Rica. “We are honored to have contributed to this new international normative reference for the future of cities.”

Billed as “Habitat III,” the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development consolidates several years of preparatory work into the “New Urban Agenda,” the summit’s political declaration, which sets out detailed guidance on economic, environmental, and social policy and planning in urban areas. Habitat summits are held only once every 20 years.

“The UAE has led an enormous shift in our region to prioritize smarter urban planning and management, and we believe that Habitat III represents a unique opportunity to adapt international norms on sustainable development to the local level, where the bulk of implementation must take place,” said HE Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN. “Our own development experience has especially shown that cutting red tape, empowering women, and reducing environmental impacts can turn cities into engines for national growth and innovation, and those are the messages that we have tried to embed in the New Urban Agenda.”

The UAE served as one of 10 countries in the Bureau that prepared the summit, and supported work to integrate renewable energy, gender equality, long-term integrated planning, and humanitarian support into the Agenda. HE Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, notably hosted the Summit’s preparatory meeting on sustainable energy during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January 2016.

As part of the summit on 18 October, the UAE, in partnership with Ecuador, Germany, and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), will also host the high-level day on renewable energy “RE-energising Cities,” showcasing new technology, policy, and financing approaches from mayors, ministers, and companies around the globe. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will present the world record lows on solar cost achieved in Dubai and Abu Dhabi earlier this year, as well as new initiatives on electric vehicles and rooftop solar power, such as Dubai Ports’ programme of 88,000 installations, the largest in the history of the Middle East.

“The UAE breakthrough on solar energy cost shows that renewable energy can now be a competitive supply option for a huge number of cities globally, not just an environmental preference,” said HE Ali Al Shafar, acting Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA. “Financial viability of renewables is a key message as the international community embarks simultaneously on pledges to achieve universal access to energy and address climate change.”

The next Habitat summit will be held in 2036. The New Urban Agenda will include continued reporting on the UAE’s urban development by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development to the United Nations, for discussion at the biennial World Urban Forum and at the annual High-Level Political Forum in New York.