Half the Earth’s population will live in urban areas by next year, making cities key in the climate change battle, according to the 2007 State of the World Report by Worldwatch.
Although cities only cover 0.4 % of the Earth’s surface, they generate most of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the report. Moreover, the rapid urbanisation of developing regions such as Africa is identified as “taking a huge toll on human health and the quality of the environment, contributing to social, ecological, and economic instability in many countries”.
It estimates that out of some 3 billion urban dwellers, 1 billion live in ‘slums’, characterised by the lack of clean water, a nearby toilet, or durable housing.
“For a child living in a slum, disease and violence are daily threats, while education and health care are often a distant hope,” said Molly O’Meara Sheehan, State of the World 2007 project director. “Policymakers need to address the ‘urbanisation of poverty’ by stepping up investments in education, healthcare, and infrastructure.”
Cities are also increasingly aware of the problems posed by climate change: out of 33 cities projected to have a population of 8 million or more by 2015, 21 are costal cities facing the threat of rising tides.
Policies providing better water and sanitation services to the urban poor, bolstering urban farming, and improving public transportation are identified as being of particular benefit.
In Europe, “urban sprawl” is fast becoming one of the main ‘ignored’ challenges facing Europe, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).
Germany is holding an informal ministerial meeting on territorial cohesion and urban development in Leipzig on 24-25 May 2007 as part of its six-month Presidency. On that occasion, ministers are expected to adopt a Territorial Agenda for the European Union. The Commission will later launch a wide public consultation on urban transport with the pupblication of a ‘Green Paper’ in September.