Responding to Climate Change and the Relevance of the Built Environment
Chapter 1: Where we are today
In our urbanized world, cities and other urban environments create problems as well as provide solutions. Cities are an unsustainable source of resource depletion and pollution, and account for 40 per cent of global energy consumption and over 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of the world’s population lives in ever-growing cities. Rapid industrialization in developing economies, ongoing urbanization and population growth will exacerbate these problems, while growing population density within cities itself breeds human and environmental stress and multiples the impact when disaster strikes. But there is hope. Globally, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and businesses increasingly recognize that cities need to become more sustainable by reducing their impact on the natural environment, while becoming more resilient to natural and human-made hazards. But, how can we achieve cities that are environmentally and resource sustainable and resilient to human-made and natural hazards? Some will argue that we can make significant improvements through technological innovations. Others will say that we can do so by rethinking our behaviour and changing the way we use cities and other urban environments. The technology and social know-how is indeed available to facilitate a cost-effective transition towards cities that are less dependent on energy, water and other resources, produce fewer greenhouse gases and other wastes and can better withstand natural or human-made hazards. In other words, cities hold significant potential for increased sustainability and resilience. That is hopeful in itself.