More than 90% of all urban areas are coastal; by 2050, more than 800 million urban residents could be affected by sea-level rise and coastal flooding.

McKinsey, July 2020

2050: A date with some big numbers

While the Paris Agreement has a net zero emissions target by 2050, that date has a few big numbers attached to it: by then 68% of the world’s population will live in cities: 1.6 billion people could be vulnerable to chronic extreme heat (it’s only 200 million today) and 650 million could face water scarcity.

Cities are doing it for themselves

C40 Cities is a network of large cities committed to addressing climate change. Their report develops priorities and plans that could be adapted by many cities to combat climate change.

The report identifies a ‘starting’ list of 15 high potential actions. Four of the actions build ‘systemic resilience’ (meaning they strengthen all kinds of cities) and 11 are ‘hazard’ specific meaning they target particular physical climate risks.

Specifically, city

Some actions are relatively expensive, such building barriers to protect coastal areas and retrofitting infrastructure. Lower cost suggestions include planting trees next to streets and starting behavioural change programs to conserve water.

While only national governments can commit to international climate change targets, local knowledge and local action is crucial in getting to zero by 2050.

Equipping cities to both combat and withstand climate change must become part of the trillion dollar infrastructure investment the rapid urbanisation megatrend identifies as necessary to sustain expanding global metropolis.

Megatrends watch: climate and resource security


This update is part of our Megatrends Watch series, which tracks developments that inform our six global megatrends….

Image: Jonathan Ford

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What are megatrends and how they are shaping the future of business?

Impactful Technology

Accelerating individualisation

Demographic change
Rapid urbanisation
Climate and resource security
Economic power shift