Committed to Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All

In Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC

New York Declaration

On Building Low-Carbon Cities In Response To Climate Change

date: ​April 8, 2011

The objectives of the Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS) are to Build Sustainable Human Settlements, to Promote the United Nations Habitat Agenda, and to Extend the Work of the United Nations. Now, by popularizing UN Agenda among the local governments and private sector, GFHS has provided a high-level platform for them to learn and benefit from one another, supplied opportunities in which they could work together and strive to improve the quality of human life.


We the participants from the world over have assembled at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the sixth session of the Global Forum on Human Settlements.


We are aware that rainstorms and snowstorms are abusing the world; strong earthquakes and tsunamis occur more frequently than ever before; extreme temperatures are becoming unbearable; deserts are expanding; glaciers are melting… climate change is like the Damocles’ Sword hanging over our heads. And whereas many of these disasters seem to be natural, yet in inception a great deal may also be induced and aggravated by human activity.


We are aware that many things have gone wrong in the pursuit of human progress. It is also likely that many of our goals that have been achieved at the expense of the natural world. We are the children of the earth, and we must not do harm to our mother earth, and neither can we be the grave diggers to our next generations.


We are aware that we must profoundly rethink our priorities. Our values and cultures are in urgent need of changing.


We are aware that we are one family, and we share the same fate. Time and tide wait for no man and we must seize every minute, for there is always a hidden opportunity in each crisis, as it is believed that weal and woe go side by side. In taking proactive measures to meet the challenges, we may save ourselves in the nick of time.


Cities now are home to more than 50% of the world population, and greenhouse gas emissions from cities take up more than 80% of the total emissions from human activities. Cities therefore are pivotal in managing the challenge of climate change. And building low carbon cities and developing low carbon economies have become imperatives for the future and well being of human kind. The world is ready for action.


"Better city, better life" is a wonderful concept on urban development that the Shanghai World Expo provides to us and it is a best practice that brings forth hope for a greener future; the Cancun Conference of Parties (COP16) saves climate negotiations on the verge of cul-de-sac, and takes us forward to a brighter future; the 2012 Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro will review the development course over the past 20 years, and we hope it will guide us to a green economy as a main focus. We are now full of expectations.


Therefore, we hereby propose:


In terms of building low-carbon cities, values are essential.

Development at all costs need not be our destination and material goods do not provide all we need. The inevitable road we have to take is the ecological civilization. Chinese ancient sages highlighted that “man is an integral part of nature”, while Lao Tze encouraged us to “follow the law of nature”. Be kind to nature, and achieve harmony with nature. Assume the responsibility, and start now.


In terms of building low-carbon cities, education must proceed as a first priority.


We must practice a low-carbon lifestyle and establish low-carbon economies before building low-carbon cities. Education leads to changes of people’s mind. To achieve this goal, we must train our children from the earliest childhood; to achieve this goal, we need to take their little hands to dutifully join with our big hands. We can choose to walk; we may choose to be vegetarians; we can conserve water and save electricity... We practice diligence and frugality... We walk our talk and make a little into a mickle.

In terms of building low-carbon cities, standards must be unified.


The international community must support unified standards and methods for measuring and inventorying greenhouse gas emissions and performance. Greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector account for one-third of total global emissions. It is an imminent task for us now also to support development of a common language for global energy saving and emission reduction.


In building low-carbon cities, we need guiding policies.


Governments must attach great importance to the building sector, as it has the most potential for greenhouse gas emission reductions, and it will undoubtedly provide guidance for cultivating low-carbon industry and low-carbon consumption. Clean development mechanisms need to be revised. Carbon credit and carbon finance policy system need to be readdressed. Carbon emissions of each building, each enterprise, and each person must be made measurable, tradable and let each thing and every person contribute to building a low-carbon future.


In terms of building low-carbon cities, innovation is the key link.


Innovative policies, innovative planning and designing, innovative science and technology, innovative patterns of production and consumption are indispensable. Innovation is the locomotive for the low-carbon revolution, and it will change everything; innovation will make cities better places in a real sense.


In terms of building low-carbon cities, leadership is a must.


Low-carbon revolution is a great opportunity, from governments to enterprises, from institutions to individuals, foresighted pioneers are needed to take the lead and shoulder social responsibilities, to set up best practices, to guide the way for the building sector as well as for the whole society.

Building low-carbon cities in response to climate change is a fundamental component to achieve a sustainable human future.


Let us take action together now.

2011 Sixth Global Forum on Human Settlements

New York, USA