Can cities save the world?

(Eco Business, 4 Oct 2019) By 2050 two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, and that infrastructure could be the key to managing the climate crisis, if we act now.

By 2050 about two-thirds of the human population — that is six out of the world’s nine billion people — will be living in cities. Given that 55 per cent of people already live in cities, this should not come as a surprise. The only question is whether this urbanisation will be seen as a problem, or as an opportunity. For a few people, the future of the city may determine the success or failure of humanity’s ability to deal with the climate crisis.

Cities occupy only 2 per cent of land but they produce about 70 per cent of global waste, emit nearly 70 per cent of greenhouse emissions and consume more than 60 per cent of energy. While more and more infrastructure will be built in the coming decades — with about 75 per cent of infrastructure that is expected to be in place by 2050 is yet to be built — there is ample opportunity to begin with the housing sector.

“We don’t need nudges and tweaks but transformation on a massive scale, starting immediately,” says Aniruddha Dasgupta from the World Resources Institute.

Even as one billion people live in informal settlements globally, the housing sector uses 40 per cent of the planet’s total resources and represents over one-third of total greenhouse emissions.

“Small but efficient technology can change the whole urban settlement pattern. Sustainable design can provide decent affordable housing and control overuse of natural resources,” said Anna Dyson, a professor at the Yale Centre for Ecosystems in Agriculture.

An example of innovation

Experts who gathered at Stanford University in California on the first week of September to discuss the planet’s health urged policymakers to focus on cities as an opportunity to kick off action. Several innovations around housing are underway globally, with the tiny house designed by the Yale Centre for Ecosystems in Architecture serving as one example.

External link

Eco Business, 4 Oct 2019: Can cities save the world?