Urban Societies Can Adapt To Resource Shortage And Climate Change


Cities can break the link between high living standards and significant

contributions to climate change, using many technologies and policies

that are already available if not widely used.

So says a paper published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A by Dr David Satterthwaite, senior fellow in the International Institute for Environment and Development’s Human Settlements Group.

The paper urges policymakers to seize the potential for cities to reduce waste, pollution and resource use whilst increasing the quality of life of their inhabitants.


It reviews evidence from studies of urban centres across the world — in both developed and developing countries — to show how such settlements can raise living standards and resilience to climate change without necessarily increasing their emissions of greenhouse gases.


“Most people assume that cities are centres of high consumption and waste generation — and so are also drivers of climate change,” says Satterthwaite. “But this is not the case for many cities.”


The paper shows that as low and middle income countries develop the growth of their cities need not come at a high environmental cost — while in high-income countries it will be possible to greatly reduce carbon emissions without sacrificing living standards or economic opportunities.


“Most cities have tremendous potential to delink high living standards from high resource use and greenhouse gas emissions,” adds Satterthwaite. “This needs to be understood and acted on if dangerous climate change is to be avoided.”