Habitat III: F&ES Students Tackle Urban Sustainability Challenges at UN Conference

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

habitat III
Nineteen students from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) will participate in the upcoming United Nations (UN) conference Habitat III, a global summit aimed at outlining best practices for urban sustainability, resilience, and development. The conference will be held Oct. 17 to 20 in Quito, Ecuador.
Several students will be participating as part of a Global Network Week course through the Yale School of Management and the Global Network for Advanced Management, while others will be presenting original research, participating in the plenary negotiating sessions, and conducting social media outreach.

Also participating in the conference will be Karen Seto, Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science at F&ES, who will speak as part of a session, “Conflicts of an Urban Age: Expansion or Redevelopment.” The talk will focus on how spatial planning can shape excessive levels of urban expansion and assess the limits of redevelopment and intensification of existing cities.
Laura Hammett ’17 M.E.M., one of the students attending the conference, became interested in the conference last fall around the time that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were being deliberated in New York City.
Habitat III... has the potential to shape how cities and urban areas think about sustainable development moving forward.
— Laura Hammett ’17 M.E.M.
“Habitat III is one of the first major UN conferences following the launch of the [Sustainability Development Goals] and the Paris Agreement and it has the potential to shape how cities and urban areas think about sustainable development moving forward,” she said. “The conference offers F&ES students focusing on urban issues the unique opportunity to learn from the preparatory process and contribute our environmental perspectives and expertise on the ground in Quito.”
Hammett worked with a few peers to organize a group independent study course during the spring 2016 semester. The group met weekly to focus in on issues of urban sustainability and the lead-up to the conference. As the course progressed, students developed ideas and research to present at the conference itself.

A core mission of Habitat III will be adoption of a “New Urban Agenda,” a document that will set global standards for sustainable urban development and serve as a guide for countries and cities moving forward.
Sam Geldin ’17 M.E.Sc., another second-year student attending UN Habitat III, participated in earlier negotiating sessions held in Surabaya, Indonesia. “The participants, discussions, and knowledge-sharing at Surabaya were really inspiring and made me even more excited to attend Quito,” he said.
At the conference, students will present research on several challenges facing urban areas, including:
  • Inequity in the face of urban development, green space, and community health (Amber Collett ’17 M.E.Sc.)
  • How institutions share urban resilience practices and knowledge (Geldin)
  • Access to information on safe drinking water (Sara Schwartz ’17 M.E.M.)
  • Potential transportation and urban land use policies to mitigate climate change (Emily Wier’17 M.E.M.)
  • The use of indicators to monitor progress toward environmentally just urban development (Ryan Thomas, Yale Data Driven Environmental Solutions Group, & Diego Manya ’18 M.E.M.)

Laura Hammett will cover the event on behalf of Yale Climate Connections, an F&ES-based project that produces daily multimedia news and commentary on climate-related issues.

Follow their activities on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #YaleUrban. Read more about students’ research on the F&ES blog.