The race against climate change – and for sustainable urban living | DW Documentary

The race against climate change is in full swing. Can cities be a solution? The UN says that by the year 2050, some 70 per cent of all people will be urban dwellers. But how can cities sustainably accommodate as many people as possible and still offer a good quality of life?

“Urban living must save the planet!” says Xuemei Bai, an Australian professor for sustainability research. But is it really possible to live more sustainably in the city than in the countryside? What about the suburbs?

“The suburbs are a climate killer,” says climate economist Gernot Wagner. In the classic suburb – large plots of land with detached or semi-detached properties – CO2 emissions are two to three times as high as in city centers or rural areas. So, why are cities so crucial for the climate? The answer is simple: Because they are growing exponentially. The UN says that by the year 2050, more than two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities.

Density is one reason cities have so much potential. In a city, measures such as home redevelopments or electric bus routes impact far more people than they would in rural areas. So, should we all live in megacities to save the Earth? In Europe, many people are turning their backs on urban life in favor of a home in the suburbs or the countryside. So what should the cities of the future look like, if they are to sustainably accommodate as many people as possible while still offering a good quality of life? After all, skyscrapers aren’t necessarily a good choice. Urban planner Dita Leyh compares a city of high-rise buildings with an asparagus field: “They’re like asparagus tips everywhere. The spaces in between aren’t really useable. That’s not an interesting public space,” she says. So, what should a city look like then?

There’s no single blueprint, because every city has its own challenges, as well as different climactic and social conditions. Can cities really save us?

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