The Australian bushfires were a prime topic of conversation amongst the world’s leaders at the World Urban Forum (WUF10) in Abu Dhabi recently. The United Nations secretary-general and the executive director of UN-Habitat, the organiser of the forum, conveyed their empathy and support for Australians. Both also demanded action on climate change.

In Abu Dhabi, more than 18,000 participants representing almost 170 countries talked climate change, social inclusion and urban innovation. The overall theme of the conference, meanwhile, revolved around a grand plan to combat climate change.

At the forum, Australia’s response to the bushfires was also a key topic of discussion.

The World Urban Forum takes place biannually and is a worldwide gathering of community leaders, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and UN agencies committed to the development of sustainable solutions for an urbanised planet.

Most urban cities in Australia and around the world are situated in coastal zones. They confront similar issues in regards to climate risks (fire, flood and coastal inundation) and the management of urban growth and decline.

The institution of coastal urban futures will take an integrated effort; one that involves all levels of government and citizenry and revolves around environmental, social and economic considerations.

At the forum, Australian planner/Commonwealth Association of Planners president Dyan Currie stressed the value of a holistic and highly resilient solution to fire and flood recovery.

Representatives of a growing new global network, Planners for Climate Action, shared their insights and ideas regarding recent events in the environmental realm, including the bushfires.

Case studies detailing sustainable successes at the national level were spotlighted at the forum. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), for example, attained its objective of 100 percent renewable electricity by this year.

Sound leadership and clear objectives were identified as those key elements that cities need to reach sustainable solutions.

The problems of climate change and urbanisation, leaders such as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN under-secretary-general and executive director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Sharif agreed, must involve all people at all places around the world.

Also central to discussions was the needed implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, as well as the global climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

The world’s population is expected to rise from 7 to 10 billion by 2050. Most individuals will reside in urban settlements. This is what makes the concept of good, effective urban planning so very crucial.

The WUF10 theme this year was “culture and innovation as a basis for achieving inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements”. Participants agreed in the importance of cultural diversity, the interconnection of urban innovation with culture with an eye toward urbanisation, of civic engagement, etc.

WUF10 cast an eye to the future, foreseeing a future civilisation that revolves around renewable energy, more self-dependent small towns, and mixing innovation with all-natural solutions.

New concepts addressed included floating cities, the merging of the past with the future, and environmental industries that involve regeneration, waste management and energy transition.

The value of SDGs in addressing climate change was stressed, as well as the immense value of local cultures, values and inclusion in empowering separate cities to act as individual units to secure and safeguard their own futures.