CALGARY, Canada – Latin America, along with the rest of the world, is becoming more urbanized every day.
That’s what Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), said during a presentation on the Sustainable Emerging Cities Platform during the organization’s 52nd annual meeting in Calgary, Canada.
Moreno said despite the fact that cities like Cairo, Egypt; Mumbai, India; São Paulo, Brazil; and Mexico City receive the bulk of the media’s attention, most of the world’s urban centers are small or medium-sized cities.
Moreno also pointed out there are more than 3,500 medium-sized cities worldwide, each having between 100,000 to two million residents. More than 80% of these cities are in developing countries, and about 500 are in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the IDB.
“Only 143 of these cities are growing at a rapid rate – these are referred to as ‘emerging cities,’” Moreno said, adding that more than half of the world’s population resides in urban centers.
Moreno said these cities are growing because they offer jobs and economic opportunities, given their location close to agricultural, mining and manufacturing centers, or highly attractive tourist destinations. These cities also are connected with the rest of the world, even if they are geographically isolated, Moreno added.
“In Latin America and the Caribbean, almost all of the emerging cities have 100% mobile phone presence in their territories, and more than 40% of their inhabitants have access to the Internet,” he said.
The populations of the region’s emerging cities are growing at a rate two or three times faster than that of Latin America’s largest metropolises, such as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, according to the IDB.
“A large proportion of urban growth over the next 20 years will take place in emerging cities,” Moreno said. “In order to keep up with this growth, municipal governments will have to spend trillions of dollars on new infrastructure projects, housing and public works. In addition, they will have to find vast new sources of water, electricity and fuel.”
What happens in these areas over the next 20 years will have a significant impact on the planet, given that cities are responsible for about 75% of all of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, Moreno said.
“In Latin America, emerging cities have a role to play in climate change or they could become victims of that change,” Moreno said.
Moreno said emerging cities can achieve sustainable development if they can maximize their limited resources.
The IDB has launched the Sustainable Emerging Cities Platform to help these communities flourish.
The first phase of the platform will focus on the sustainability of urban centers.
The IDB will assist cities in identifying fundamental aspects of sustainable development, such as land use, housing quality, energy efficiency, public transportation, traffic congestion and safety.
The next stage will focus on environmental sustainability, and the project’s final phase will concentrate on fiscal sustainability and governance.
“We will seek new ways to increase revenue and obtain a greater impact with the investments that are being made,” he said. “We will help governments ensure that planning and budgetary decisions are transparent and that the return on public investments can be measured.”
Moreno added the IDB will help the cities participating in the initiative to prepare an action plan that features concrete steps, as well as short-, medium- and long-term priorities.
The projects – the majority of which will be financed by the IDB – will include solutions that have been successfully implemented in other cities.
Examples of these solutions are the non-polluting public transportation systems the IDB helped develop in several Latin American countries and Brazil’s garbage collection system, which uses trash to generate electricity and methane gas.