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It is increasingly clear that the battle for environmental sustainability will be won or lost in cities. Over half of the world’s population now live in urban areas, a figure which will reach almost 60% by 2025. Already, cities account for a disproportionate share of greenhouse gas emissions. Issues of water and waste management in cities are inter-related with carbon ones, as well as having their own important impact on the environment and quality of life. As highlighted in this report’s predecessor, Megacity Challenges, the large cities of the world recognise these challenges and place a high importance on environmental issues. However, if a choice needs to be made between the environment and economic growth, it is still the latter that often wins out.
This report describes a series of technological levers of varying effectiveness, and with different cost implications, which can all contribute to greater environmental sustainability in cities, focusing in particular on the example of London. In so doing, it aims to provide necessary clarity about these levers to policy makers, planners, businesses, consumers and concerned individuals—in short society as a whole. The encouraging message is that many of the levers to reduce energy and water consumption and improve waste management in urban agglomerations not only help protect the environment, but also pay back from an economic point of view.
This report seeks, through a detailedanalytical approach to available technolo-gies, to help decision makers, both public and private, take informed decisions when navigating the opportunities and challenges they face. Its focus on some key determinants of urban environmental performance also provides insights for other mature cities. It does not pretend to simplistically “solve” climate change or other environmental challenges, issues replete with uncertainties as well as ethical, social and economic ramification, providing a useful tool to address some of the most urgent questions of today in a better way.
The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a programme of interviews and wrote this report, based primarily on research conducted by McKinsey & Company.