Euromonitor expects world’s urban population to rise by 29% between 2022-2040 to reach 5.8 billion people by end of period; shift to sustainable mobility has become essential goal for urban development, which includes promotion of low-emission vehicles

Sample article from our Sustainability & Social Responsibility

February 24, 2023 (press release) –

Between 2022 and 2040, the world’s urban population is expected to increase by 29% to reach 5.8 billion people by the end of the period. Rapid urbanisation is bringing numerous challenges for cities, one of which is air pollution. Cities make a significant contribution to climate change as, according to the World Bank, they generated 70% of global CO2 emissions in 2022. Energy and transport are among the main contributors to the pollution. For example, in North America, in 2022, the energy sector, including transport, contributed 80% to the total greenhouse gas emissions. It makes energy and mobility the core areas of sustainable development and governments are looking into innovations in these areas while planning the cities of the new generation.

Reduced energy consumption and more renewable sources are essential for sustainability

According to the UN, in 2021, cities made up almost 80% of the world’s total energy consumption but are increasingly shifting towards renewable energy sources. In 2022, a quarter of electricity globally came from hydro, solar and wind. Cities are pioneers in adapting new technologies. In Australia, for example, Adelaide’s municipal operations have been powered entirely by wind and solar energy since 2020, while the Western Harbour District of Swedish city, Malmo, has operated on 100% renewable energy since 2012.

43% of global urban residents planned to reduce energy consumption in 2022

Source: Euromonitor International Voice of the Industry: Sustainability Survey

Energy consumption management also includes adopting energy-saving techniques such as efficient climate control, lighting and distribution systems, as well as changes in the consumption habits of end-users. The reduction of energy consumption has gained importance due to the energy price increase in 2022 with 43% of urban residents globally reducing energy consumption, as per the Voice of the Industry (VOI): Sustainability Survey.

Sustainable mobility is needed to reduce air pollution

The shift to sustainable mobility has become an essential goal for urban development. Sustainable consumer mobility in cities includes the development of public transport, shared mobility services, cycling and walking infrastructure, and the promotion of low-emission vehicles. For example, in London, UK, since 2019 all new double-decker buses are hybrid, electric or hydrogen.

25% of European businesses either invested or planned to invest in electric vehicles in 2022

Source: Euromonitor International Voice of the Industry: Sustainability Survey

Commercial mobility is also increasingly leaning towards lower carbon-intensive transportation. The EU’s Green Deal aims for nearly all vans to be zero-emission by 2050. Indeed, businesses are shifting their focus to align with sustainability goals. According to the VOI: Sustainability Survey, in 2022, 25% of European businesses either invested or planned to invest in electric vehicles.

Future cities are craving sustainable mobility and energy

In the so-called “sustainable cities of the future”, the role of energy and mobility is essential. For example, Masdar City, construction of which started back in 2008 in the United Arab Emirates, claims to be the world’s first carbon-neutral city. It relies on renewable energy, powered by solar panels, wind and waste-to-energy technologies, while movement sensors help to cut energy consumption by more than 50%. A mix of electric and other clean-energy public vehicles enables minimisation of the transport emissions from traffic.

The Line, another ambitious project introduced in 2021 in Saudi Arabia, is a 170km long mirrored skyscraper. The mix of residential, business and recreation areas suitable for nine million inhabitants makes it a megacity rather than just a building. It is also anticipated to be a net zero carbon city powered by renewable energy. The reduction of transport emissions is based on the replacement of private cars with smart public transport and a metro that connects the ends of the city within 20 minutes.

Challenges on the way to sustainability in the new cities

Sustainable projects of large scale are difficult to implement. By 2022, only the first phase of the Masdar project was completed and its finalisation was pushed back to 2030. Originally, the city had to be fully carbon-neutral, but already by 2016 it became obvious that it could not reach net zero. The initial green mobility plan has also been revised towards the mixed usage of eco-vehicles.

With USD500 billion in costs and the first building phase to be completed in 2030, the Line project also looks unrealistic. As per Darren Oldfield Architects Ltd estimates, the construction phase only may produce four times more greenhouse gas than the UK in a year. Located in the desert, both cities use additional energy for cooling and face problems of water supply, mainly depending on desalination. The projects are highly controversial, and experts doubt that they will ever be completed due to the costs and complexity.

Future cities need achievable energy and mobility development plans

As climate change is accelerating, the idea of sustainable cities built from scratch is tempting. There are plenty of ambitious projects but very few of them reach the construction phase. “Car-free”, “carbon-zero” or “net zero” claims have numerous challenges.

According to the VOI: Sustainability Survey, companies do not invest in green initiatives due to the high cost and lack of awareness of the practical implementation and benefits of green technologies. Making green energy and mobility projects more affordable and increasing awareness, governments may raise business involvement. Only with the tight collaboration of governments and business in the energy and mobility projects may cities decrease their environmental footprint.

For more on energy and mobility, plus five other areas of urban sustainability, please see our report Cities and Sustainability: A New Agenda for Urban Living





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