2015 is pivotal for global action on sustainable development, with cities key to success, UN’s Afsané Bassir-Pour tells 2015 Sustainability Week at DEREE-ACG

“Making our cities smarter and greener makes moral sense not just economic,” United Nations Director of the Regional Information Centre for Western Europe Afsané Bassir-Pour said March 10 in Athens during Sustainability Week 2015 at DEREE-The American College of Greece.

Cities, though currently problematic, present the solution to a sustainable future, while leaders from around the world are gathering at several pivotal UN conferences this year to agree on a more sustainable future, she told the audience during her keynote speech.

Calling 2015, the “year for global action on sustainability,” Ms Bassir-Pour described the dire statistics plaguing cities that need addressing: “While only 2 per cent of land is occupied by cities, we consume 60-80 per cent of energy and are responsible for 75 per cent of carbon emissions,” Ms Bassir-Pour warned at the start of the annual event, which this year focused on Sustainable Cities.

A former Le Monde bureau chief and international correspondent in Switzerland and at the UN Headquarters in New York, she outlined the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (17 goals, and 164 targets), adding that the UN aims for 2015 – the year it celebrates its 70th anniversary – to be a universal year for development and sustainability, with two very important summits.

The COP21 in Paris in December is expected to adopt a landmark treaty on climate change, while a UN special summit in September is where “we hope the Sustainable Development Goals will be adopted,” among a host of other gatherings.

“The success of each and everyone of these gatherings depends on the participation in cities, and we believe that the battle will be won or lost in cities,” the UN Director underscored, while she also praised Athens for being one of five cities to win an important city competition last year, alongside Barcelona – which received the Grand Prize – in the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2014 Mayors Challenge.

Launched last year with more than 150 top cities from 28 nations participating, Athens won for its Synathina Public Platform for Engaged Citizens, which envisions creating an online platform connecting dynamic groups of civil society with local institutions and local governments to work together to tackle local problems, ensuring solid foundations and sustainable policies for the revival of Athens’ neighborhoods, Eleni Myrivili, Athens Municipal Council member, told the audience at Sustainability Week.

A slew of other distinguished speakers, including scientists, academics and professionals gathered at 2015 Sustainability Week for lectures, workshops, games and art exhibits touching on a number of pivotal topics, such as food, waste, energy, climate change, urban green, sustainable living, arts and sustainability – “topics that close the loop.” Among them, Katia Lasaridi of Harokopio University, Christos Giannakopoulos of the National Observatory of Athens, and Pavlina Proteou, founder & owner of BeyondCSR Net.

“It was yet another wonderful gathering of minds committed to sustainable development and we thank those who attended and shared their insights with students, faculty and guests,” said Dr Christina Marouli, the head of The American College of Greece’s Center of Excellence for Sustainability, organizers of Sustainability Week, singling out her favorite hands-on activities, the photo exhibition and competition, the “Junkyard Wars” – a “waste art” event, and Solar Busk – a music performance using solar energy.

Click here for more information on DEREE-The American College of Greece’s Center of Excellence for Sustainability.