About 3 decades ago, Medellin was among the world’s most dangerous cities. Explosions, homicides, and drug cartels reigned. Only the ones with a death wish went out when the sun went down. However, now, the city is an exemplar of innovation and urban planning, so much so that it is even internationally famed for its modernity and entrepreneurialism. Now it is on track to become an “eco-city”, the first in Latin America.
It had all started with continuous investments into public parks, technology, schools, transportation infrastructure, and poor communities. Now the focus is on widespread initiatives in the renewable energy sector. This includes waste and water management, housing, and transportation.
Medellin Is Moving Ahead Of Many Major Governments
All across the world, investors and governments are directing funds towards recovering from the pandemic. But cities such as Medellin see this as a chance to do something more. They are setting an agenda that is climate-friendly at the same time. The agendas are set for a long period of time as well.
Colombia has started reopening most of its large events, even though coronavirus cases are continuing to climb. The devastated economy of the country needs a boost. Daniel Quintero, Medellin’s mayor, has claimed that the cities revival from the pandemic will happen along with the goals it has set for the climate. Last year, in an interview with Reuters, Quintero has said that current events were triggering immense transformations within institutions and people in general.
The ambitious plan of the Medellin government includes cutting 20% of their carbon emissions, electrifying every public transport by the end of the decade, increase the size of bike lanes by at least half, and double line numbers for public transport. Medellin already has a head-start over the rest of Colombia. It has the only running metro in the nation, bike lanes, and an electric bus fleet. It also has an urban greenery network called “green corridors” which line streets that are congested.
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In January, the city launched another station for electrically charging its electric bus fleet, numbering at 69. Plans have been drawn up to double the number within the coming 3 years. They are also planning to construct a light rail system that is fully electric.
However, some activists and politicians have claimed that the administration is mostly just talking when it comes to lofty promises. They are rarely politically willing to make them happen.
Jaime Arenas Plata is the director of the Sustainable Energy Cluster of Medellin. He said that one of the strategies to meet Medellin’s climate goals is localizing manufacturing the parts for a mass system of transport that is de-carbonized. The Sustainable Energy Cluster is one of the cluster systems in Medellin that is a private-public partnership. The aim is to increase economic growth.
But Will The Plans Even Happen?
Among the obstacles that have been highlighted by critics is the budget of the city. In the previous year, the budget has been reduced to only 57 Mn pesos ($14,896) which is the lowest in a decade. The administration, however, said that the cuts were necessary because of the pandemic. They expect to continue to make Medellin an Eco-city in 2022/23.
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There is also a lack of connection within Medellin’s surrounding municipalities. Imposing bans or restrictions in a certain municipality only shifts the pollution to another, because there is no coordination. So skeptical politicians are rightly pointing out the futility of pushing such projects forward without connecting with the other areas. Finally, the city still has extreme poverty and several instances of inequality. So the question remains if Medellin can become a true eco-city and not just one on the surface.