We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shift future urbanization on to a more environmentally sustainable and socially just path. The Weight of Cities suggests a new approach to focus on low-carbon, resource-efficient, inclusive cities.

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    Material consumption by cities will grow from 40 billion tonnes in 2010 to 90 billion tonnes by 2050, more than the planet can sustainably provide.

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    One-third of the current urban population lives in slums and informal settlements, often without access to basic services.

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    Compact, resource-efficient cities could see cuts of 36-54 per cent in GHG emissions, and in metals, land, energy and water use.

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    The report

      The proportion of the global population living in cities and towns is expected to rise from 54 per cent in 2015 to 66 per cent by 2050, which will result in a significant expansion of existing cities, as well as the construction of new cities. Without a new approach to urbanization, material consumption by the world’s cities will grow from 40 billion tonnes in 2010 to about 90 billion tonnes by 2050. Therefore, the resource use implications and environmental impacts of urbanization are significant. Resources should now become a central policy concern, in addition to concerns about climate change.

      We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shift this expected urbanization on to a more environmentally sustainable and socially just path. Decisions made today on urbanization and land-use models, as well as on critical infrastructure, will determine whether our investments are future-proof, or whether they lock us on to an unsustainable path.

      This report calls for a new strategy for 21st Century urbanization, and presents the parallel actions on urban planning, sustainable design, resource-efficient components, and infrastructure for cross-sector efficiency that are required for a transition towards low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially just cities, It also presents the new governance model and the politics of the new imaginative business propositions and experimentation that will make the transition possible.

      Please refer to the section below, “Related content”, to access a regional report based on the global findings.

      • The full report should be cited as: IRP (2018). The Weight of Cities: Resource Requirements of Future Urbanization. Swilling, M., Hajer, M., Baynes, T., Bergesen, J., Labbé, F., Musango, J.K., Ramaswami, A., Robinson, B., Salat, S., Suh, S., Currie, P., Fang, A., Hanson, A. Kruit, K., Reiner, M., Smit, S., Tabory, S. A Report by the International Resource Panel. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya.

      • Photo, report cover and this page: Adaptation of the image ‘Vision of a Post Fossil African City’ by Karl Schulschenk and Blake Robinson. The original image was part of a series awarded a top 10 position in the Post Fossil Cities Competition, and was on display in the Stadskantoor Gemeente in Utrecht, the Netherlands, from June to August 2017. For more information, visit http://postfossil.city/en/finalists/african-alternatives and www.karlschulschenk.com / @karlschulschenk.

       

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