• Lead-organizer: Sweden
  • 15:00 - 16:30
  • Date: 21 Jun 2012
  • Room: P3-A

SymbioCity - the role of cities in realizing the Rio+20 agenda

Organizing partners

Organized by the Government of Sweden. Organizing partners: UN-Habitat, the United Arab Emirates and China (China t.b.c.)


The world is urbanizing fast. As a consequence the development in cities will be of fundamental importance for almost any sustainability issue. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 Sweden launched the SymbioCity-initiative for sustainable cities in partnership with China, building on our experience of innovative, holistic eco-city projects. Since then, the work for sustainable and inclusive urban development has been further intensified in cooperation with China, UAE and other countries and stakeholders who are also spearheading urban sustainability. This side event will engage national and local politicians, front runner cities in Sweden, China, UAE and other countries, industry, urban experts, UN-agencies and stakeholder groups for presentations and discussions on the current thinking, best practices and new commitments for integrated, inclusive and sustainable urban development and the role of cities in realizing the Rio+20 agenda.

Detailed programme

We are entering the urban millennium. Already now more than 50% of mankind lives in cities, towns and other urban settlements. By 2050 this ratio is expected to have passed two-thirds. Cities are also becoming increasingly important as centers for economic activity, development and innovation. In addition, the global challenges are often most severely felt in cities. Climate change is a poignant example. How cities develop and are managed will therefore be of fundamental importance for almost any sustainability issue. But cities are also the places where we can change, innovate and provide leadership to deal with the challenges. In cities, we more readily focus on all three dimensions of sustainable development since they are part of our daily integrated lives and decisions. And the density of cities can provide opportunities for efficient solutions. Sustainable and inclusive urban development can therefore be one important answer to how we can convert to a green economy and achieve significantly better living conditions for all, including for the urban poor.
Sweden has a long history of working with sustainable development. Municipalities and industry have been instrumental in developing many innovative solutions like bio-fuelled district heating, waste management systems, smart grids and transport solutions. Several innovative eco-city districts have been developed by applying an integrated, holistic perspective on urban development. This is an on-going effort, and the government has recently established a new program to facilitate even higher ambitions. Sweden also puts much emphasis and effort on increased international co-operation and trade for sustainable urban development. The Swedish experiences of sustainable cities, clean tech and the potential for holistic, integrated urban development is presented through the SymbioCity-concept, which was initially launched together with China as a partnership initiative at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.
Significant initiatives and efforts in sustainable city development are also being developed in several other countries, including i.a. China, India, Brazil and the UAE, and sustainable urban development is in the process of being established at a strategic level on the agendas of several influential organizations, including in the UN-system. The increasing international ambitions and the growing body of knowledge and experiences related to sustainable cities makes the case for an exciting discussion of cities and development in relation to sustainability and green economy.

This side event will invite different stakeholders to highlight the latest findings and discuss how sustainable urban development can make significant contributions to the Rio+20agenda . It will explore topics such as:
- What is the current thinking and best practices on integrated, inclusive and sustainable urban development?
- What are the best ways to achieved better cooperation across sectors and between different levels of administration?
- How can increased co-operation for sustainable cities contribute to developing a green and inclusive economy and to better living conditions for millions of urban poor?
- How can further commitments for sustainable city development contribute to realizing the Rio+20 agenda?

There will be a strong international perspective, with high level speakers and examples from for China, UAE, Sweden and UN-Habitat. A key point is the learning and exchange of experiences that is needed to take development forward. Experiences from new modes of cooperation and knowledge transfer between the cities of Malmö in Sweden and Tangshan and Hong Kong in China will be highlighted as well as recent developments at the innovative Masdar City in the UAE.
Concrete commitments to the Rio+20 agenda is presented through the joint ventures and sustainable city initiatives facilitated by existing and new cooperation agreements on sustainable urban development.

Invited speakers at the event include
Lena Ek, Minister for the Environment, Sweden
Juan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat (t.b.c.)
Ilmar Reepalu, Mayor, City of Malmö, Sweden
Representatives of the cities of Tangshan, China, Masdar City, UAE and Stockholm , Sweden (t.b.c)
Professor Ulf Ranhagen, Sweco and the Royal Institute of Technology (t.b.c)
Volvo AB (t.b.c .)
ICLEI (t.b.c.)
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