January 25, 2022 6:11 pm

A UN report highlights Barcelona’s green axes as an example to follow

The climate crisis threatens to raise the temperature of cities almost 4.5 degrees on average before the end of the century and turn these places into epicenters of climatic extremes. This is the bleak future outlined in a new report by the United Nations Environment Program on what the metropolises of 2100 will be like if the global warming progresses and, ultimately, if the Glasgow Climate Summit fails. Beyond these catastrophic projections, the UN analysis points to a handful of initiatives from around the world that they are managing, against all odds, to reduce the impact of the climate crisis on cities; Among these, the example of the superblocks and the green axes of Barcelona.

The global overview of cities that are “role models” on sustainability issues designed by the United Nations describes the Barcelona project with special optimism. The ‘superilles’, the report points out, are the first step in an urban transformation project that aims to “recover for citizens part of the space that until now was occupied by cars“and create a” greener, fairer and safer public space. “The studio also celebrates the green axes initiative, which between 2022 and 2032 plans to convert dozens of avenues into green areas. In the Eixample neighborhood, for example, it is estimated that one out of every three streets will leave the asphalt behind and become a pedestrian space full of vegetation.

The UN analysis of Barcelona’s green projects highlights two key points about the impact of these projects in a world immersed in an unprecedented climate crisis. In the first place, the fact that these initiatives take space away from polluting vehicles already represents, in itself, a tipping point to reduce air pollution in the city. Second, the report welcomes that the design of these projects is intended to “provide a strategic shade“.

As the analysis highlights, in fact, the use of permeable pavements and, above all, the green expansion it could cushion the impact of the global rise in temperatures (which in the best of cases could be limited to 1.5 global average or, if the Glasgow Climate Summit fails, could add up to 3 degrees to the thermometers). Similar initiatives carried out in other parts of the world, the study notes, have achieved lower thermometers up to four degrees in areas with urban green corridors.

The example of Barcelona is one of the four European projects highlighted by the United Nations report, which also applauds the community initiatives of Ljubljana (Slovenia), Paris (France), Munich (Germany). The global radiography of exemplary urban projects also highlights the case of Seoul (South Korea), Medellín (Colombia), Toronto (Canada) and Guangzhou (China); cities that have been transformed to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.

Extreme heat metropolis

The advance of global warming could radically transform the world as we know it. As this latest United Nations global analysis highlights, in 2050 the urban populationA exposed to extreme temperatures will increase by 800% until reaching the 1.6 billion of citizens around the world. In just three decades, then, 20% of the world’s population could live in cities where thermometers are above 35 degrees more and more often (and for longer and longer).

We still have time to avoid this catastrophic future. As stated in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC), published last August, It is urgent to stop the emission of greenhouse gases and apply mitigation and adaptation policies across the globe. And that is where, according to the recent United Nations analysis, we can and should take as a reference the case of cities that have begun to transform to face the ecological crisis.

Examples to follow

On SeoulFor example, the city has reclaimed the Cheonggyecheon Stream by eliminating nearly six kilometers of highway and, in doing so, has achieved lower the temperature more than five degrees in that area. At the other end of the globe, in Medellin, the expansion of the green corridors through the arteries of the metropolis has also managed to lower the thermometers by about four degrees. “Nature-based solutions are some of the most powerful tools in cities to reduce cooling demand and improve outdoor thermal comfort “, summarizes the report, which also highlights the”benefits for physical and mental health“of these spaces.

The UN report also notes examples focused on technical solutions. The case of Paris, for example, stands out as “the first and largest refrigeration system in Europe”. For years the city has deployed a cooling system in which water from the Seine River itself is even used to acclimatize all kinds of buildings. Along the same lines, the Canadian city of Toronto boasts the world’s largest cooling system thanks to the icy waters of Lake Ontario. In the Guangzhou Chinese metropolis, the deployment of a centralized refrigeration system has managed to lower the thermometers between two and three degrees.

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Gap between neighborhoods

The global x-ray of green urban initiatives concludes with a warning: applying these projects only in the noble areas of the city could increase, even more, social inequalities. According to the United Nations analysis, poor neighborhoods stand out as “hot spots” due to the lack of green spaces, the location of industrial activities and the lack of resources that prevents its inhabitants from affording adequate refrigeration. “These communities are usually the most vulnerable to heat, disproportionately bearing the negative impacts of excessive warming of cities, “the report emphasizes.


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