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Sustainable futures: The evolution of urban and metropolitan areas

A daily blog series during COP26 — on this final day before key leaders retreat behind closed doors, the floor was given to cities, regions, and built environments.

City bike sign on asphalt bikepath man cycling on road, colorful vintage light on street, commuting to work on bicycle in urban environment

On this final day before key leaders retreat behind closed doors, the floor was given to cities, regions, and built environments.

Essential for the resilience of our communities, the sustainable adaptation of urban areas was pinned as key to the acceleration of climate action.

The discussions explored how urban planning and innovation within construction are vital to resilience and sustainability. Collaboration on national and local levels, as well as the need for governments to develop enabling frameworks, was highlighted.

In our recent report on the sharing economy — Mobility in a post-pandemic world: From evolution to revolution — we outline the various sustainability initiatives seen in cities around the world to make urban spaces greener and reduce emission levels. These include:

  • Madrid banning 20% of vehicles to its urban core.
  • London rezoning urban roads for the benefit of pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Barcelona implementing the Super Block in the city center, preventing the use of cars in a nine-block radius and encouraging the use of micromobility.

As leading cities around the world push for a greener reality, the construction industry is currently exploring innovative ways to follow suit.

Globally, built environments generate 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions. To add to this, the construction industry uses an estimated 32% of the world’s natural resources. By evolving and pursuing sustainability, this industry has the opportunity to effect substantial positive change. Innovation will be essential to meeting these challenges.

A key to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint is the use of sustainable materials.

Some of these materials, however, have risk implications of their own. Cross-laminated timber (CLT), for example, is viewed as a sustainable material. Its use in some countries is quite common, in others its uptake is more of a shift. Insurance for the latter can be challenging, as less claims data is held by insurers, and what is available points to an increased risk of loss.

Challenges like these highlight the importance of a forum like COP26. Without establishing common ground, and collectively finding ways to overcome barriers to success, our last best window of opportunity to tackle climate change could very well close.

This blog is part of the COP26 series.

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