Dr Paul Morland set the scene for the conference’s main programme by highlighting a range of demographic trends which will take us to 2050 and affect the needs and trends that our infrastructure will be required to respond to globally.
He structured his presentation around 10 numbers – starting with the dramatic reduction in infant mortality across the world, meaning that population growth has risen rapidly. Dr Morland highlighted rapid growth in sub-Saharan Africa, whose population is likely to make up 35 per cent of the global population by the end of this century.
This, he suggested, will change everything for the world going forward. Dr Morland also emphasised that rapid urbanisation has led to a change in lifestyles, resulting in a decreased fertility rate. He noted that this is not only happening in rich and western countries, but also elsewhere where fertility rates are often below replacement levels.
As populations continue to age, he also highlighted the role of migration in continuing to shape societies. In New Zealand, Dr Morland highlighted Auckland as a model which the rest of the country will learn from as global population migration continues.
Toyota’s Neeraj Lala outlined their work reimagining themselves as a mobility company. We heard how 2050 is already here in the form of Woven City in Japan which is a living laboratory with 2000 residents.
Global cities expert Professor Greg Clark then outlined that the next stage in the recovery from COVID-19 for our cities will be a reinvention, not simply a return to a pre-pandemic normal. He explained that the last century has been one marked by the growth of cities – a trend which is expected to continue, with an estimated 81 per cent of the world’s population set to live in urban centres by 2080.
In recovering from COVID-19, Professor Clark outlined that cities must reinvent themselves and transform their role from central business districts and centres of transport and consumption, to focus more intently on habitat, innovation and experience. This, he explained, would require cities to focus on housing and residential amenities and to consider reengineering the office, in a hybrid world of work, to be about collaboration. To create cities focussed on experience, he suggested that the sequencing of the transport system and the integration of amenities and systems would be critical going forward.
Cities, he reflected, also have roles as high emitters, victims, and solutions to the climate imperative. Professor Clark says net-zero will require an energy switch, as well as an urban transition. He emphasised that the pandemic has created an opportunity for reinvention for our cities, which can also help to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.