Spotlight: Global coastal cities seek sustainable innovation to tackle impacts of climate change

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-21 05:25:10|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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by Nick Kolyohin

JERUSALEM, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Environmental issues are among the most pressuring concerns of seaside cities around the world that hope to find a solution through technological innovation for the growing problem.

In an interview with Xinhua, Annika Olsen, former deputy prime minister of the Faroe Islands and current mayor of its capital Torshavn, expressed severe concerns about global warming.

"The weather is getting warmer and the temperature of the sea is increasing, which poses a huge challenge to us as a fishery nation," Olsen told Xinhua.

Faroe Islands' fishery export accounts for 98 percent of the total exports, said Olsen, adding that warming of the sea is a challenge to the economy as to the environment.

"We are very vulnerable to changes in the climate," Olsen said, pointing out that "we have more rain and more extreme weather, and the snow is actually gone during wintertime."

Olsen was one of over 300 mayors from about 70 countries around the world who participated in international conference MUNI EXPO 2020, which held from Wednesday to Thursday in Tel Aviv.

The city of Tel Aviv is renowned as an innovative global center, which could be beneficial for cities striving to mitigate global warming effects.

Besides the mayors, about 8,000 participants took part in the annual international municipal innovation convention, initiated by the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel (FLAI).

"Each town or city is unique, but many of the challenges we face are shared," Haim Bibas, chairman of FLAI and mayor of Modiin, told Xinhua.

"Coastal cities must deal with the burden of beach tourism, pollution from the sea, the destruction of reefs and rising sea levels and flooding, securing ports and coastal borders," said Bibas.

All cities must implement sustainable infrastructure, ensure the high quality of air in urban areas, provide smart solutions for mobility, and invest in green energy, he added.

About 170 companies showcased their unique technology at the exhibition part of the conference.

Mindaugas Sinkevicius, president of the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania and mayor of Jonava District Municipality, told Xinhua that there is more focus on the environment and technology could make the cities more sustainable.

Europe is nowadays discussing the green deal about how to become eco-friendly. Still, economic causes could prevent fast movements toward a more sustainable world, according to Sinkevicius.

If Europe becomes greener, the production would cost more money, so it won't be able to compete economically on the same level with countries that refuse to make the same move to a greener economy, he added.

The mayor said that climate change is a tremendous challenge that happens in his country with no snow this year.

David Andre, mayor of Seychelles' capital city of Victoria, said in an interview with Xinhua that the impacts of climate change are bothering his country a lot.

"We feel it very much because we are very small, and the sea-level rise is something that we have seen in Seychelles, and there's been some incidents of coastal erosions," Andre told Xinhua.

Mayor of the Lithuanian resort city of Palanga, Sarunas Vaitkus, told Xinhua that his city is striving to keep its seashore for up to 2 km from the water without any significant construction or buildings to keep the coastline and the sand safe.

Buildings close to the seashore and even actions of other countries cause the sand erosion, said Vaitkus, adding that Palanga is endeavoring to keep its sand.

Hassan Ali Joho, governor of Mombasa County of Kenya, told Xinhua that Mombasa has about 600 km of untapped coastline and a long natural reef that protects the sea which is also untouched.

He came to the conference to learn from others' experience on how to make a blue economy out of the seaside and to look for international cooperation and collaboration in that.

Joho was part of the conference discussion panel on coastal cities' future challenges, and he emphasized the importance of keeping the environment safe and clean.

"We, first of all, must begin our conversation on preservation. When we talk about prosperity, we must look at sustainability," said Joho, who emphasized the vital role of education and people's mindset about the environment.

Joho received loud applause when told about his country's action on plastic waste which is one of the countries that banned plastic bags a long time ago.