January 22, 2022 6:37 pm

With planning, Latin American cities can cut their resource consumption in half by 2050

The cities of Latin America and the Caribbean will consume in 2050 between two and four times more resources than is sustainable if they do not opt ​​for planning comprehensive and increase the efficiency of their systems and circularity, warns a recent study prepared by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Latin America and the Caribbean is predominantly urban, and the trend indicates that it will be even more in the middle of the 21st century, with around 90% of its total population living in some city. The need to move towards more efficient and sustainable cities in the region is and will remain a priority in the future next.

The report The weight of cities in Latin America and the Caribbean: future resource requirements and potential routes of action, developed in conjunction with the International Resource Panel and published in December, it indicates that the lack of circularity implies serious degradation of vital ecosystems, which has a catastrophic impact not only on nature, but on people’s livelihoods and health and well-being.

UNICEF / Giacomo Pirozzi

Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Greenhouse gases

The text explains that metropolises of the world generate up to three quarters of emissions of greenhouse gases and suggests that resource efficiency could decrease the demand for virgin materials by between 15% and 25%, resulting in a reduction in emissions from the industrial sector of up to 30%.

According to the report, the cities of Latin America and the Caribbean consumed annually between 12.5 and 14.4 tons per capita of resources in 2015. More than half of the accumulation of urban material in the region was found in the cities of Brazil (38.1%) and Mexico (21.1%).

With a projected regional population of 680 million people by 2050, urban domestic material consumption could rise to 25 tons per capita, well above the range of 6-8 tons per capita that is considered sustainable.

The UNEP regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean noted that many of the region’s inhabitants today suffer the effects of unsustainable use of resources in the form of environmental degradation, lack of access to services and prospects for a bleak future.

Mexico City

View of Mexico City

Mexico City

Planning is vital

“Planning a sustainable transformation is crucial if we aspire to live in a cleaner region, in harmony with nature and without leaving anyone behind. Now that a sustainable recovery from COVID-19 is urgent, this report lights the way in the right direction, “added Jacqueline Álvarez.

The study asserts that, if they promote a sustainable transformation, the cities of Latin America and the Caribbean can halve your consumption of resources such as fossil fuels, minerals and food, while fighting poverty and inequality.

For this, it proposes a package of measures in four axes –sustainable transport and mobility, efficient and sustainable buildings, waste, and water and sanitation– in order to reduce resource consumption, waste, environmental damage and greenhouse gas emissions.

These provisions seek to increase resource efficiency through the circularity, connectivity and ecosystem restorations, among other measures.

According to the authors of the report, the region must increase the density of population, jobs and services in a set of urban centers connected by a efficient and affordable public transportation.

In addition, it requires more sustainable buildings, promote circularity, take advantage of organic waste and water management that includes the treatment and reuse of water, as well as the restoration of associated ecosystems.

Chapultec Lake in Mexico City


Chapultec Lake in Mexico City

The outlook can be improved

The text ensures that if these measures are implemented, Latin American and Caribbean cities could reduce their annual material consumption to between six and seven tons per capita by 2050.

It also highlights the actions that are already being taken Along these lines, such as the improvements to public transportation in Fortaleza, Brazil, which included more space for bicycles and pedestrians; the “harvest” of rainwater in Mexico City; and the district heating project in Temuco, Chile.

The report points out that the region’s built space grew 99% in 40 years, almost at the same rate as the increase in the urban population in that period, which reached 95%. Due to the inability of most cities to absorb growth, they exacerbated social inequity and environmental injustice.

Faced with this scenario, he argues that the inequality gap will imply solve the precariousness faced by the most vulnerable populationsFor example, the remoteness of urban services, poor infrastructure, conditions of violence, and pollution.

For the study authors, the best way to address these challenges is with a sustainable transformation, which requires dedicating greater efforts to intermediate cities, which grow faster than average. They also urge the promotion of greater cooperation and stronger alliances at the subnational, subregional and regional levels.


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