Watch for Cities to be at the Forefront of Fighting Climate Change
The world will have 9 billion people by 2050, and up to 70% of them will live in cities. For the first time in recorded history, the percentage of people living in cities now is greater than those who live in rural areas. And while cities only take up a few percentage points of the earth’s total landmass, they contribute up to 80% of the world’s emitted carbon.
Yet at the same time, cities are in a unique position to combat climate change. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is close to releasing a report stating increased public transportation, smarter planning and better design can offset the influx of people moving into the world’s cities.
None of this should be a surprise. Cities in the United States have been far ahead of the curve compared to state governments and obviously, the federal government. In Europe, cities including London, Amsterdam and Paris are just among the many cities that are experimenting with “smart city” initiatives to account for a changing climate and continued migration. Then you have the greenfield smart cities, including Songdo in Korea, Fujisawa in Japan and Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (***full disclosure—Masdar is my client). Each of these “smart cities” is offering new ideas on urban planning, smart transportation and sustainable development. And let us not forget the smart cities in developing nations, including Curitiba, Brazil (express busses) and even Bogotá, Colombia (for encouraging bicycling via ciclovías).
The fact is, cities have long been ahead of the curve when it comes to planning for an uncertain future. Whatever you think of politicians, local leaders know their communities better than bureaucrats in far-off capitals—and they have to continue to attract and retain talent and businesses.
The problems climate change will impose on us are as uncertain as they are worrisome. At the same time, this is an exciting time to be living in cities, as some of the most innovative ideas and designs are coming from our urban centers. Watch for a renaissance to continue in cities, on all continents, in developing and developed nations alike.
[Image credit: Leon Kaye]