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Mérida competes for title of ‘Earth Hour Capital’

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Cars have steadily overtaken Mérida, and a global competition has taken aim at the issue. Photo: Gettty

Mérida, Yucatán — The city is competing to be a 2017 “Earth Hour Capital.” That means that Mérida will have to come up with some bold plans by September.

The One Planet City Challenge, previously known as the Earth Hour City Challenge, invites cities to report ambitious and innovative climate actions. They evaluate each candidate, data is entered on the Carbonn Climate Registry, and outreach and support is provided in collaboration with ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.

Final plans and data are reviewed by an international jury after the reporting period ends in September. 

Sustainable transport and mobility is the thematic focus for this year’s One Planet City Challenge. Friday’s push for a 2040 master plan ties in to this ambitious goal.

Mérida’s recent history of allowing urban sprawl and dramatically increased traffic set up a huge issue to be addressed if the city is to impress the judges.

The winner will get help from WWF, the competition’s organizer, in raising funds to achieve their goals.

Last year’s winner, Paris, was hailed as a “role model for climate action” with an “ambitious vision and successful engagement with business, civil society and other cities on its journey toward sustainability.”

Cynthia Menéndez, sustainable cities coordinator at WWF Mexico, said that many cities are seeking to participate by changing their policies to protect the environment and to achieve a balance with nature.

She said that given the Peninsula’s biodiversity and tourist appeal, cities in the south and southeast of the country should aim for sustainability and low carbon emissions. That means reducing the number of cars, traffic accidents, noise and congestion.

But in both Quintana Roo and Yucatán, the annual growth rate of private vehicles is 12 and 9 percent, respectively, higher than the national average of 7.6 percent.

Past winners

Competition is steep. Last year’s challenge drew in 125 cities representing 21 countries. Cities were evaluated on their level of ambition and innovation in developing solutions that advance sustainable development under local circumstances.

National winners included Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Boulder, Colo.; Chiangrai, Thailand; Edmonton, Canada; Hue City, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Lappeenranta, Finland; Montería, Colombia; Murcia, Spain; Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; Quito, Ecuador; Rajkot, India; Santa Rosa, Philippines; Shenzhen, China; City of Singapore, Singapore; Tshwane, South Africa and Umeå, Sweden.

The WWF and the World Resources Institute will provide support to the winning city to raise funds for the implementation of some of these measures.

According to WWF, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, and that is expected to rise to 70 percent by 2050. Large cities account for more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions.

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