Today 54% of Earth’s 7 billion people are living in cities, developed countries counting 80% of the global urban population. In the next 30 years urbanization, combined with overall population growth, will boost the number of inhabitants in cities by 2.5 billion. While the global population will increase by 22.5% until 2050, Europe will lose 5% going down to 706 millions and reaching a historic low of only 7.2% of world’s population. Cities are the new countries and super tall buildings could function like mini-cities in the next 25 years.

We have to start readdressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed and managed. We need smart cities that are flexible, inclusive, safe and sustainable, that can adapt and survive to a 100x increase or a 10x decrease, it is therefore critical to build urban resilience to improve human health and well-being, to reduce inequalities, to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, all that while achieving affordable living for citizens independent of migration. Intensive policy coordination, long term planning and investment choices are needed to create cities that “work”, everyone needs to do their part: the governments, the private sector and the civil society; putting the people at the centre.

Cities are responsible for 75% of worlds energy consumption and 80% of CO2 emissions. In 2014, 9 of 10 people who live in cities were breathing air that did not comply with the safety standards, pollution killing prematurely more than 5.5 million people worldwide. Cities are inducing global environmental change, particularly when it comes to production and consumption of energy, water and goods or waste generation. Having a circular economy could be the answer.

On the other hand, cities are generating 80% of global GDP, urbanisation can contribute to sustainable growth, if well managed, by increasing productivity, allowing innovation and new ideas to emerge. Larger cities tend to perform disproportionately well. In 2012, large cities made up 33% of the world’s global population, but produced more than 55% of all global economic output.

Polycentric development is better than today’s monocentric approach to have as many functional-independent-communities as possible. Over the next two decades more cities will elect to create high-rise buildings with floors dedicated to gyms, residential space, and office work to accommodate the influx of people that will move into cities.

International collaboration is critical for urban development. Sharing knowledge between stakeholders from all around the world is important in understanding how the city fabric functions in all its dimensions. UN-Habitat is working towards a better urban future and the Quito Agreement is quite a historic moment. Thanks to WUF – World Urban Forum and C40, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, we are doing progress in having better cities and communities.

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