Chiara von Gunten & MichaelMainelli
If humanity is to navigate its way towards and prosper in a carbon-constrained world, the transition will permeate every aspect of our lives. What we eat, where we live and how we move around will surely be subject of adaptation. Nowhere is this more true than in cities. They are already home to 50% of the world’s population, generate around 80% of global economic output and account for 70% of greenhouse gasses.
Moreover, this trend is set to continue. Estimates of future population growth predict that three quarters of humanity will live in cities by mid-century, with developing and emerging countries experiencing most of this increase. By any measure, future generations will largely experience a low-emissions existence through the lens of city life.
The way cities develop, particularly large and fast-growing cities in developing and emerging economies, will therefore have profound and long-term implications for humanity’s future. With this in mind, it is imperative that decisions and investments in urban infrastructure are leveraged to achieve sustainable economic growth within the carrying capacity of the planet’s systems and resources. The alternative is grave: long-term lock-in effects of unsustainable fossil fuelbased technologies and development, leading to run away climate change, ecological destruction and biodiversity loss.