As the world moves into the urban age, the dynamism and intense vitality of cities become even more prominent. A fresh future is taking shape, with urban areas around the world becoming not just the dominant form of habitat for humankind, but also the engine-rooms of human development as a whole.
Amidst multiple challenges facing cities today, a focus on poverty reduction and/or responses to the economic crisis is gradually shifting to a broader and more general understanding of the need to harness the transformative dynamics and potentials which, to varying degrees, characterize any city anywhere in the world.
It is really remarkable that only one century ago, two out of 10 people in the world were living in urban areas. In the least developed countries, this proportion was as low as five per cent, as the overwhelming majority was living in rural areas. The world has been rapidly urbanizing since then and, in some countries and regions, at an unprecedented pace. It was only two years ago that humankind took a historic step when, for the first time in history, the urban outnumbered the rural population. This milestone marked the advent of a new “urban millennium” and, by the middle of this century, it is expected that out of every 10 people on the planet, seven will be living in urban areas.
In the last decade, the urban population in the developing world grew an average 1.2 million people per week, or slightly less than one full year’s demographic growth in Europe’s urban areas. Asia dominated the picture, adding 0.88 million new urban dwellers every week. Africa was the second largest contributor with an additional 0.23 million per week, dwarfing Latin America and the Caribbean’s 0.15 million weekly increment.
Still, a common set of conditions can be found prevailing in all cities, which enable human beings to flourish, feel fulfilled and healthy, and where business can thrive, develop and generate more wealth. These conditions mark out the city as the privileged locus of prosperity, where advancement and progress come to materialize.
Eight key elements found in Global Cities
Well developed Infrastructure –
- Well developed Infrastructure
- Good Quality of Life
- Environmental Sustainability
- Knowledge and Innovation driven economies
- International Connectivity
- Compelling Global Identity
- High levels of Productivity
- Favorable business environment
Infrastructure is crucial for the development, functionality and prosperity of urban areas. It provides the foundation on which any city will thrive. Adequate infrastructure – improved water and sanitation, reliable and sufficient power supply, efficient transport networks and modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) – contributes to the sustainability and economic growth of urban areas, promotes the competitiveness of local businesses, improves labor productivity, enhances the investment climate in the city and contributes to its attractiveness.
Good Quality of Life –
Today no one disputes that quality of life is essential for a city to prosper. The notion is increasingly used by decision-makers, practitioners and urban populations alike. Everyone agrees on its importance, but everyone will also agree that this notion comes with different meanings and facets.
Safety and Security are major deterrents to domestic and foreign investment and can cause capital flight. In Africa, more than 29 per cent of business people report that crime was a significant investment constraint.
Environmental Sustainability –
The prosperity and environmental sustainability of cities are inextricably linked. Urban areas consume huge amounts of environmental goods and services like food, water, energy, forestry, building materials, and ‘green’ or open spaces often beyond their boundaries. This undermines the assimilative capacity of the environment around urban areas.1 For example, the cities of the world generate over 720 billion tons of wastes every year, but in developing regions, even in large, presumably more affluent, cities only 25 to 55 per cent of wastes are collected.
Knowledge and Innovation driven economies
- In an increasingly knowledge-driven world, positive development in the global economy requires high levels of human capital to generate new ideas, methods, products, and technologies.
– Global relevance requires global reach that efficiently connects people and goods to international markets through well-designed, modern infrastructure. Geography has always played an important role in the evolution of cities. Historically, coastal cities and cities in river deltas have been preferred locations – at present, 14 of the world’s 19 largest cities are port cities. However, with advances in transport and communication technologies and also with increasing specialization, other locational factors, beyond positions along waterways, have accelerated the growth and development of cities.
Compelling Global Identity
– Cities must establish an appealing global identity and relevance in international markets not only to sell the city, but also to shape and build the region around a common purpose. Metro areas that are appealing, open, and opportunity-rich serve as magnets for attracting people and firms from around the world.
High levels of Productivity –
Enhancing urban productivity is clearly desirable, as it improves competitiveness and, ultimately, the prosperity of any city. More productive cities are able to increase output with the same amounts of resources, generating additional real income that can raise living standards through more affordable goods and services.
Favorable business environment –
A business-conducive environment is needed for a vibrant private sector, attracting and retaining investment (including foreign direct), creating jobs and improving productivity – all of which are important for the promotion of growth and for expanded opportunities for the poor. Cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Busan, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka all feature favorable business environments, with beneficial effects on prosperity. Attracting investment from a wide variety of domestic and international sources is decisive in enabling metro areas to effectively pursue new growth strategies.
Prosperity in Global Cities
Never before had humankind as a whole faced cascading crises of all types as have affected it since 2008, from financial to economic to environmental to social to political. Soaring unemployment, food shortages and attendant price rises, strains on financial institutions, insecurity and political instability, among other crises,
Prosperity, as defined by UN-Habitat, is a social construct that materializes in the realm of human actions. It builds deliberately and conscientiously on the objective conditions prevailing in a city at any time, wherever located and however large or small. It is a broader, wide-ranging notion that has to do with well-balanced, harmonious development in an environment of fairness and justice.
Prosperity remains one of humankind’s most enduring pursuits across time and space. But it is only in the past few decades that decision-makers, academics, practitioners and populations have started to measure this important dimension of human development.
Some cities are enhancing prosperity though strategic thinking and conscious planning policies. This is the case with Dubai in which took advantage of its privileged geographic location to become the largest re-exporting centre in the Middle East, and today is emerging as a cosmopolitan centre.
Swift global integration, the rapid expansion of a global consumer class, and the rise of urban regions as the engines of global economic growth have ushered in a new era. The global economy no longer revolves around a handful of dominant states and their national urban centers.
Competition among Global Cities is more open than ever before. For most of the twentieth century, Paris, London and New York formed the leading triad. Berlin was sidelined in the course of the two world wars. Moscow stood in the Soviet Bloc apart from economic competition. Tokyo was probably the first strong challenger.
London, Paris, Tokyo and especially New York will continue to benefit from their legacy infrastructure, and to trade on their open societies, transparent governance and status as safe havens and knowledge hubs, as well as their technological and travel connections, for some time. But is it realistic to assume that they can retain their leading status, with relatively miserly economic and demographic growth?
Going Green: What makes a city green?
Thousands of cities, big and small, around the world have embraced the green movement over the last few years, with many more following their lead. From innovative recycling programs to adding more green space, it actually is becoming easy to be green around the world.
Although there are not established official criterias for ranking the greenest of all cities, there are several key areas to measure for effectiveness in carbon footprint reduction. These include air and water quality, efficient recycling and management of waste, percentage of LEED-certified buildings, acres of land devoted to green space, use of renewable energy sources, and easy access to products and services that make green lifestyle choices (organic products, buying local, clean transportation methods) easy.
Top 6 Green Citie
Roughly one-third of all residents of Copenhagen use a bicycle to commute to and from work! Even with those impressive stats, the city plans to push for more bike usage from residents and visitors by about 50 percent over the next three years. The city also hopes to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2015 and become the world's first CO2 neutral city by 2025.
In 2011, San Francisco beat out 26 other major U.S. and Canadian cities in a report by Economist Intelligence Unit in five out of nine metrics including green buildings, transportation, water, energy and air quality.
The greenest city in Canada and second greenest in North America (behind San Francisco), Vancouver is aiming to become the world’s greenest city by the year 2020. Home to over 200 parks, Vancouver makes great use of renewable sources for power, with a majority of it via hydroelectric power.
Sweden is a country that leads in green electricity solutions. Most of the country’s electricity comes from nuclear and hydropower. A city such as Malmo is contributing to the green project of Sweden with plans to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent between 2008 and 2012. To achieve the city’s target, citizens across Malmo are transforming into sustainable, eco-friendly cooperatives particularly the areas of Western Harbour, Sege Park and Augustenborg.
Thanks in large part to its location; Reykjavik makes use of geothermal energy generated underground from hot springs. The city is able to generate electricity and heat 95% of all their buildings. By the year 2050, Iceland plans to free itself from dependence on fossil fuels and become a hydrogen economy. Already, Reykjavik is harnessing energy and produces electricity entirely from hydropower and geothermal resources.
Recently named the world’s most livable city, Melbourne is also finding ways to become the greenest. By 2020 they plan to achieve zero-net emissions thanks to a six-goal plan put in place by the city council which includes strict green building codes and improved city planning. Melbourne is home to an impressive transport network that includes low carbon impact transportation such as Melbourne's airport/city Skybus Super Shuttle, which is Australia’s first carbon-neutral public transport operator.
Green means business
There are genuine opportunities for national and city leaders to reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance ecosystems, and minimize environmental risks.
The competition to attract international Greenfield investments is stronger than ever. For the first time, all continents are represented in the top 10 Global Cities ranking. While international investors have become more volatile worldwide, Global Cities act as anchors.
Europe is still the first source and destination of international Greenfield investments, far ahead of
America and Asia and the Middle East.
Investors continue to focus on essential criteria to select locations, including political stability, market size, economic growth and talents, but they are also paying increasing attention to infrastructure and R&D quality.
The process of making the world’s cities and urban fabric greener and maintaining them in a sustainable way will bring considerable employment opportunities. Upgrading to greener infrastructure generates jobs, whether by improving roads and buildings, establishing public transport networks, repairing and enhancing drainage and sewerage systems or creating and managing efficient recycling services. Many of these jobs will require knowledge of new technologies or working practices, for example, in constructing, installing and maintaining local hydrogen fuel-cell power stations or a network of charging points for electric vehicles. Providing training and support is fundamental to the process, within local authorities and for private companies, particularly small enterprises.
With the largest oil and gas reserves in the world, the Middle East and North African (MENA) may appear to be an unlikely advocate for renewable energy. However with excellent solar and wind conditions across much of the region, an increasingly tight gas market and a growing recognition that hydrocarbon reserves can be put to better use other than generating electricity, renewable energy is attracting unprecedented attention in the MENA region.
Renewable energies have the potential to equip the MENA region with centuries of sustainable and clean electricity. However with a decreasing scope for hydroelectric capacity due to a lack of recent rainfall, the power targets that are being set across the region for renewable energy power capacity means that it will fall to both solar and wind energy projects to meet these specific country targets.
With a number of renewable energy projects currently being planned, developed or in execution stage around the region including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, and more recently the UAE, never has a time been more crucial to provide detailed information about the region’s long-term plans and strategies for renewable energy in the region.