Ricky Burdett speaks at the CityLab 2016 summit in Miami. C2 Photography

Can cities around the world correct course?

MIAMI—By 2050, an expected 2.5 billion people around the world will be moving to cities. And these numbers don’t even account for the impending migration of communities who are most at risk from climate change. The question of what form and shape global cities will take to absorb future residents was at the heart of a presentation by Ricky Burdett, the director of LSE Cities, at The Atlantic’s CityLab 2016 summit in Miami Monday.

So far, the picture looks bleak. Between 1990 and 2050, average population growth in 200 cities around the world is expected to reach 300 percent. But the average footprint—the actual physical form of the city—will expand by nearly 500 percent. “Which means that density is dropping,” Burdett said. “In terms of environmental sustainability, that’s aptly critical.”

Around 90 percent of this new urban growth will be concentrated in Asia and Africa, regions where informal structures are already a staple in big and small cities alike. That’s where the need for smart growth interventions is the greatest, says Burdett. India’s Smart Cities Challenge is one high-profile example of an innovative approach. In it, over 100 Indian cities have submitted proposals aimed at tackling municipal problems, hoping to win a slice of an expected $15 billion total to eventually implement their plans. Twenty proposals have been awarded funding so far.

Whether or not India’s cities will be adequately prepared for the future remains to be seen. But what’s significant is that urban development is now being regarded as a priority in that country, and possible solutions are being considered in a thoughtful, thorough manner. That’s the first step to correcting course for cities around the world.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A young refugee from Kosovo stands in front of a map of Hungary with her teacher.

    Who Maps the World?

    Too often, men. And money. But a team of OpenStreetMap users is working to draw new cartographic lines, making maps that more accurately—and equitably—reflect our space.

  2. Life

    Amazon Go Might Kill More Than Just Supermarkets

    Supermarkets are community anchors. Amazon’s “just walk out” version embodies a disconcerting social transformation.

  3. It's Google Street View, but with a dose of cuteness.

    Take a Virtual Tour of Japan With 3 Very Good Boys

    Three Akita dogs guide you through their home city of Odate on Google Street View.

  4. Transportation

    An 'Instant Bridge' Collapses Near Miami, and Many Questions Remain

    Florida International University’s new pedestrian bridge was state-of-the-art. On Thursday, the new span failed, killing six.

  5. A LimeBike and LimeBike-S are pictured.

    I Have Seen the Future of Urbanism and It's a Scooter

    While you’re still trying to figure out dockless bikes, there’s a new two-wheeler to share around town. It could be a bigger deal than you think.