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Mexico City Mayor Talks Urban Planning, Climate Change

Harvard's Graduate School of Design
Harvard's Graduate School of Design
By Renwick M. Wilson, Crimson Staff Writer

Several speakers, including mayor of Mexico City Miguel A. Mancera, addressed a packed crowd at the Graduate School of Design Friday night to discuss negative effects of urbanization and climate change on cities.

The bilingual talk, hosted by the Design School in Spanish and English, was part of a larger two-day event at the Design School on the unique challenges faced by cities in the 21st century.

Harvard's Graduate School of Design
Harvard's Graduate School of Design By Casey M. Allen

Mancera, who has served as Mexico City’s mayor since 2012, focused much of his keynote address on the importance of combating climate change for Mexico’s future.

“For the government of the city of Mexico, the theme of climatic change is a very serious point. It’s a theme that worries us. It compromises the city, the future of the city and our children,” Mancera said through a translator.

Mancera also made note of the numerous initiatives that Mexico City has undertaken to decrease its resource consumption, with an end goal of reducing its carbon footprint and contribution to global climate change.

Echoing Mancera’s remarks, Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Design School, highlighted the linkages between urban growth and resource use.

“There is a dilemma, we urbanize, we improve things, we grow, but the very concept of growth itself produces the necessity for the utilization of more resources,” Mostafavi said. “And this is something, as designers, you have to deal with. You have to address this conundrum between the project of urbanization and the project of resource utilization.”

Diane E. Davis, a professor of urban design at the Design School, stressed the unique role that local governments play in addressing emerging urban development challenges. She said that local government leaders often fill the gaps left by national politicians who are ambivalent about climate change.

“The dilemma of national governments not always stepping up to the plate to solve urban problems and environmental problems means that other political leaders, acting at different sovereignty scales, must step into the breach, and this is where city mayors are becoming critically important,” Davis said.

While noting that Mexico City still has a long way to go to mitigate climate change, government professor Jorge I. Dominguez praised Mancera for his efforts to date.

“Mexico City is a gigantic city, and it is a city that has evolved over time with extraordinary challenges, challenges that are difficult for any mayor to address, and he has addressed them very effectively,” said Dominguez.

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