New York

26 April 2022

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the Second UN Roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities: Meeting the Rising Seas with Floating Infrastructure [as prepared for delivery]

I am excited to join this distinguished group of forward-thinking partners on a truly unique undertaking that ignites the imagination of visionaries, mayors, urban planners, engineers, architects, artists, investors and sustainability experts alike.

First, let me thank the Mission of the Maldives and UN-Habitat for co-convening this Second UN Roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities to explore how we meet the challenges of the rising seas with floating infrastructure.  I also want to commend the role of the government of South Korea for mobilizing us and co-convening the First Roundtable.

Here we are, three years after we first met and two years into a global pandemic that has taught us – in case we didn’t already know – that every life on Earth is interconnected. The pandemic has exposed the cost of urban inequalities, the fragility of human life, and the vulnerabilities that underpin global economies.

Meanwhile, the impacts of the climate crisis are accelerating. Melting ice is accelerating sea-level rise at a massive scale.

More than half a billion urban residents already face rising sea levels and more frequent or severe storms.  And 9 out of 10 of the world’s biggest cities will be affected by climate disruption.

Cities are also responsible for over two thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions, and if we do not make them an integral part of climate action, we will be in real trouble.  That is why Secretary-General António Guterres says that the way we design cities is key to the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

I cannot say it any more plainly: global problems need global solutions. From the private sector, government, to civil society– we must all lead from where we are. Three years ago, we gathered in this same room as dreamers with aspirations.  Today, we have a location and a timeline towards the world’s first self-sustaining marine metropolis. That is the power of collective action.

Floating cities are not a silver bullet, but they are part of the arsenal of adaptation strategies available to us.  Sustainable coastal urbanization is a generational opportunity to advance climate action, clean energy and environmental protection for a greener, cleaner and healthier future.

I congratulate Mayor Park Heong-Joon and the City of Busan for being selected as the location where we can develop a prototype of the world’s first sustainable floating city.  Busan is showing the world that it is at the vanguard of a new approach to sustainability – one that can help us address the climate crisis, rise to the challenge of sprawling urbanization, and quite literally, live in harmony with nature, preserving fragile coastal ecosystems. Busan is a living hub for innovation that the world should watch.
 
The High-Level Meeting on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda will take place in two days, to help us forge more partnerships for sustainable urbanization.  This project is a brilliant example of how the United Nations cooperates with local authorities and relevant stakeholders to promote global solutions.

This partnership extends across traditional sectors.  We have in this room, technology start-ups, urban planners, marine engineers, investors, architects, energy scientists, zero-waste experts, artists, and of course representatives of governments and intergovernmental organizations. This is how it's done, with creative synergy, solidarity against the challenges we have and bold action.
 
I want to acknowledge the critical role that OCEANIX has played in driving international partnership for the prototype, galvanizing such an impressive interdisciplinary coalition. 

It is also gratifying to see so many Member States represented here today. I challenge all of you to listen closely to how this innovative floating infrastructure can help meet the different needs of coastal cities and Small Island Developing States. You may well find that the technology relates directly to the issues of resilience, coastal expansion, transportation hubs, marine research, climate refugees, climate adaptation centres, emergency towering of medical facilities, and slum upgrading.
 
To give an example from my own country, Nigeria, let me tell you about Makoko Lagos, the world’s largest water slum.  I was there just a few months ago, and I saw how people are living – with pride, with ideas and initiative but without the infrastructure they need to flourish.  This is a clear opportunity to evolve into an ecosystem of nature-based solutions for smart, resilient, and inclusive living.  An opportunity to demonstrate how communities can co-exist with water.
 
Busan is leading.  Who will be next?  This is a race to the horizon of a better world.  I congratulate UN-Habitat, which is thinking not just out of the box but out of the building, reaching beyond traditional boundaries and showing us that the coast is clear for breakthrough solutions.

Thank you.

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