November 2015 –Only two percent of the world surface is occupied by cities, yet they house more than 53 percent of the global population. Cities produce 75 percent of the world’s economic output, consume 75 percent of its energy, emit 80 percent of its CO2 and produce 70 percent of the world’s waste.
For Martin Powell , global head of urban development at Siemens and previously the Mayor of London’s Environment Advisor and an advisor to C40 cities, “the battle of tackling climate change will be won or lost in our cities”.
Despite a growing awareness of the risks of climate change and its impacts, no one is certain how city governments all over the world will work together to tackle the challenges. “That is why cities have to act fast to reduce their consumption of energy and production of carbon emissions. Doing nothing is not an option”, he says.
At the MIPIM conference on global real estate matters which took place in Cannes this week, Professor Greg Clark, chairman of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), pointed out that the adoption of an overall sustainable approach in construction and operations will be a huge challenge in the years to come. “Cities have complex governance systems but need to tackle the growing impact of climate change and sustainability issues on urban development urgently”, he says.
“Today more and more real estate investors pay attention to the place they invest in; for them not only the building counts but also the livability, sustainability and accessibility of the environment”, experts at the conference say.
For Rosemary Feenan, Director global research programs JLL, “Cities in Asia can develop quicker, with very different governance models, and are out for a high level of skill they can attract very effectively”.
In China, urbanization has become one of the government’s key focus areas. In their latest National New-type Urbanization Plan (2014-2020), the Chinese State Council recognizes that Chinese cities are currently facing enormous challenges, and that continued focus on sustainability for urban development will be crucial for the years to come.
Zhangjiakou, a city northwest of Beijing, is completely transforming itself from an old industrial town to a livable city with sizeable natural resources, and a green and low carbon emissions economy. To help Zhangjiakou’s ambitions, the World Economic Forum> (WEF), through its Future of Urban Development Initiative (FUD) works on three initiatives: transport planning, energy management and sustainable industry development.
Due to its proximity to Beijing (a 2.5-hour drive) and considering the air pollution crisis, Zhangjiakou’s industrial legacy is taking the emerging green sector and the city’s abundant ecological resources into account. With its existing wind resources and the city’s installed capacity of wind turbines surpassing 5.000 MW by the end of 2013, the city is already today ranked first amongst all Chinese cities in wind energy generation.
At the end of 2013, Beijing officially announced that it will partner with Zhangjiakou to bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics (the final host city to be elected on 31 July) . Alice Charles, head of Urban Development at WEF explains: “This event will not only put the city on the world map for its advanced green urban development, it will also use this opportunity to practice and demonstrate sustainable urban transformation and act as a role model for other Chinese cities”, she says.