Guest post: Anne Johnstone, Senior Manager at Ramboll Environ
Half of the world’s inhabitants – 3.5 billion people – live in urban areas. By 2030, this is predicted to rise to 60%, or almost 5 billion people. Cities are the leading source of global economic growth, resource consumption and carbon gas emissions. Urban superpower in the 21st century is all about human capital, and building livable cities is key to attracting the right people.
The burning questions that most city leaders ask themselves remain barriers for action. How can we plan for an uncertain future with extreme weather? How can our city remain attractive and competitive while we strive for climate-friendly mobility? Which technical solutions will allow us to fulfil our ambitions and what do they cost? And how do we secure the financial incentive to invest and collaborate?
As a sustainable society consultancy, we view climate change events such as frequent heatwaves, cloudbursts and flood risks not only as threats, but as opportunities to co-create more livable, recreational urban environments and achieve green growth. Strong partnerships, both public and private, need to be established to develop these long-term solutions for cities and preparing a city for the future is a comprehensive and expensive process. But the costs of not adapting can be even greater.
Taking this view, Jeddah, a Saudi Arabian city with 3.5 million inhabitants, implemented a masterplan, designed by Ramboll, which not only had potential to save the city EUR 1-2 billion annually but also improved its water and air quality, established an effective waste management system and created green, recreational areas within the city.
In Denmark, the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg have joined forces with Ramboll and other advisors on a plan to safeguard the Danish capital against cloudbursts and heavy rainfall. Some of the excess water will be retained locally for recreational areas, while cloudburst boulevards with high kerbstones will lead stormwater away efficiently and quickly.
Other cities, such as Glasgow, have carried out research into how constantly evolving digital technologies will shape tomorrow’s city.
Above all, the concepts of mobility and connectivity need to be at the top of the agenda, as this defines the experience of city living. Congestion, pollution and lack of infrastructure limit a city’s economic development – we need as a priority to ensure that their infrastructure is smart infrastructure. From solutions like contactless payments in the London Underground, Hamburg’s single citywide Wi-Fi network or real-time monitoring of traffic flows in Dublin, solutions like this will help free cities from the urban sprawl of the 20th century and make them much more livable.
A bit about Anne:
Anne Johnstone has over 15 years’ consulting experience, specialising in environmental due diligence, contaminated land investigation and risk assessment. She helps clients identify environmental liabilities associated with property and business transactions and assists in realising the development of large-scale brownfield sites. Her clients include top UK pension funds, private equity firms, corporations and public sector bodies and she is the Vice Chair of UKELA.