Resource-efficient Cities key for Sustainable Lifestyles – WRF LAC Concludes

Adriana Zacarias, UNEP, resource-efficient cities, WRF
Adriana Zacarias, UNEP

San Jose, 20 May 2016 Some 380 participants, coming from 30 countries, wrapped up their discussions on resource-efficient cities, sustainable lifestyles and green building in Latin America and the Caribbean yesterday. “There will not be sustainable cities without sustainable lifestyles and vice-versa”, said UNEP’s Adriana Zacarias Farah, who presented the draft chairman’s summary in the closing session. Cities are important centers for economic-social development, as well as for interaction & innovation, and have a great potential for transformation, she continued. The cities footprint is immense, they make up 3% of the land, while consuming 75% of natural resources. Trends show that this will even accelerate.

Steve Aronson demain resource-efficient
Natural parks can teach visitors sustainable lifestyles says Steve Aronson, Demain Foundation

The conference was held in conjunction with the International Sustainable Building Congress, organised by the Green Building Council Costa Rica, the secretariat of the World Resources Forum and UNEP (the Panama based Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Paris based Secretariat of the International Resource Panel).

Mauricio Chacón presents various projects for sustainable cities resource-efficient WRF
Mauricio Chacón @BCIE_Org presents various projects for sustainable cities

Different approaches to increase resource-efficiency in cities were discussed, including life cycle thinking, decoupling and eco and social innovation. Gains in resource-efficiency will yield less use of materials, energy, water and land resources with better economic and social output. Governments need to work on policy frameworks to reorient investment and behavior, providing the enabling conditions (software and hardware) for sustainable choices by business and citizens.

Investments need to be resilient, with a vision of long-term costs, also addressing sustainable, resource-efficient, social and affordable housing. Procurement strategies and transparency mechanisms were seen as powerful tools for achieving these goals. Increasing public-private partnerships and participation of civil society was mentioned as well. Public transport needs to be more resource-efficient, convenient and rapid for citizens to change their car dependence. Food security in urban areas need to be improved, among other means by urban food production. Other key sectors to look at are: water, food, waste, ICT, and finance.

Sonia Valdivia, WRF, resource-efficient cities
Sonia Valdivia, Scientific Co-chair, WRF

System thinking necessary

System thinking was considered necessary to look at the complexity of lifestyles in cities and find innovative and integrated solutions. Capacity building, long-life learning and awareness raising as well as cultural aspects and identity are central in this change. Participants considered it highly timely to combine ideas and visions with concrete actions at the local level. People “should trust in our human creativity to find more solutions” and restore the social cohesion, solidarity and traditions. Forums like the WRF, GBC, UNEP and others were considered necessary for dialogue, exchange of knowledge and to enhance the development of roadmaps.

The co-organizers intend to bring the conclusions of the conference to major international and regional forums, in particular the upcoming Habitat III, to be held in Quito, October 17 – 20, 2016.

Kari Herlevi, SITRA, world circular economy forum, resource-efficient
World Circular Economy Forum, Helsinki, June 5-6, 2017, presented by SITRA’s Kari Herlevi

Kari Herlevi, representing the Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA, announced the organisation of the World Circular Economy Forum, to be held in Helsinki, June 5-6, 2017, co-organised with the World Resources Forum and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The Costa Rica meeting was the first regional resources forum of its kind in Latin America and the Caribbean, organised as a follow up to the World Resources Forum, held in Arequipa, Peru in 2014. Participants engaged in plenary sessions, 22 workshops and 28 scientific presentations. Key topics were:

  • Sustainable business and financing
  • Bio economy – priority resources for cities
  • Sustainable lifestyles and education
  • Resource efficiency policies for sustainable cities and lifestyles
  • Sustainable and inclusive cities and buildings

The draft chairman’s summary was presented at the last day of the conference and all participants have the possibility to suggest changes, after which the co-chairs will draft a final version. A photo gallery of the event can be found on the WRF Facebook page, also viewable without a Facebook account.

More information

Information about the event and follow-up can be obtained by writing to the WRF team, in particular Sonia Valdivia (Scientific Co-chair) and Maria-Lucia Hijar (conference coordinator) at