The United Nations is in Utah this week.  The annual United Nations Civil Society Conference is being held in Salt Lake City, which marks the first time that a major UN conference is being held in a United States city other than New York.

There is significance to the fact that Salt Lake City is hosting this conference.

The Civil Society Conference is an annual confab in which NGOs and other non-government actors directly engage with each other and with UN officials . The theme of this year’s conference is “building inclusive and sustainable cities and communities” and to that end, Salt Lake City has much to boast. The city is a recognized leader on sustainability issues, having pledged in 2016 to use 100% renewable energy by 2032 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2042.

“We have not only led our state down a path toward addressing climate change and air quality in the state but we’ve been leading in the country,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski told The Salt Lake Tribune in a recent interview. “We were the 16th city in 2016 to commit to 100% renewable [energy] and actually have our energy partner standing with us in that commitment. And now we’re closing in on several other communities joining us and, in fact, probably by the end of the year we will have more cities in Utah 100% renewable than any other state in the country.”

Much of the focus of three days of panels, meetings and speeches will be on Sustainable Development Goal 11, “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by 2030”. The conference concept note explains:

Today 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas and that figure is expected to reach 68% by 20501. As the complexities of urban life grow, communities and local leaders are at the forefront of finding sustainable solutions to poverty and inadequate housing, hunger and health, clean water, energy, environmental degradation and climate change, infrastructure, transport, education, migration, violence and gender equality. These and other challenges are interconnected with similar issues in rural areas and municipalities of all sizes, where activists and civil society organizations partner with governments and the private sector to ensure that communities are inclusive, equitable and sustainable.

You can follow the action using the hashtag #UNCSC2019

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