Innovation

Cities: the key to a sustainable future for our planet

Centuries from now, how will historians describe the hundred years leading to the year 2050?  

For many, it will probably be seen as the “century of the city,” a period during which millions of people migrated from the countryside to city centres around the world in search of jobs and prosperity. 

The crucial question today is how governments and individuals can help build and shape cities in a way that will contribute to a decent quality of life for all.

Indeed, the pace of urbanisation is accelerating at unprecedented speeds. According to the UN, about half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, a figure that is expected to rise to almost three quarters, or 6.3 billion people, by 2050. The majority of that growth will come from cities in China, India, the US and sub-Saharan Africa.

But beyond the daunting statistics, the crucial question today is how governments and individuals can help build and shape cities in a way that will contribute to a decent quality of life for all. And this question is a significant one: poorly planned cities can lead to overcrowding, traffic congestion, resource mismanagement and greater poverty. They can also have a negative impact on the environment, leading to greater pollution and negative consequences for human health, large volumes of uncollected waste, and loss of habitat and food sources.

On the other hand, well-designed cities can bring clear benefits, including increased economic prosperity and social cohesion. This is why the decisions cities make (or fail to make) today will have a tremendous impact on how city inhabitants will live tomorrow.

Better mobility solutions for better cities

Mobility holds one of the critical keys to more sustainable and liveable cities. Today, the environmental impact of transport cannot be underestimated: 15% of global CO2 emissions are attributed to the transport sector. Because transport burns most of the world's petroleum, this creates air pollution and is a significant contributor to global warming. And as populations increase worldwide, the number of cars on our roads, aircraft in our skies and ships in our waters will only increase.

However, today’s cities are increasingly looking to industries like automotive and aerospace to imagine new mobility possibilities. And advanced technology is providing solutions: electric and hybrid-electric propulsion is rapidly revolutionising mobility technologies across industries, from automotive to marine. For the aviation industry, electric and hybrid-electric technologies hold the real promise of significantly reducing the CO2 emissions of commercial aircraft. 

Airbus embarked on its electrification journey in 2010 and has since made significant progress. This includes the development of two electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles, Vahana and CityAirbus, which are designed to be zero-emission and suitable for short-range urban transport. The E-Fan X, a complex hybrid aircraft demonstrator equipped with a 100-passenger capacity, is expected to achieve double-digit percentage fuel savings. With all of our electric propulsion technology projects, the goal is to drive the commercialisation of electric-powered urban air mobility vehicles and, eventually, large commercial aircraft.  

City changers to drive action for more sustainable cities

To enable governments and individuals to help shape cities for the better, stakeholder engagement is essential. The Urban Future Global Conference (UFGC) brings together these stakeholders to spark discussion, inspire, engage and drive progress. UFGC is Europe’s largest event for sustainable cities that is dedicated exclusively to “city changers,” or decision-makers who are actively and effectively making cities more sustainable. The 2019 event will be held in Oslo, the European Green Capital 2019, from May 22 to 24.

Airbus is a UFGC Premium Partner. Several Airbus “city changers” will speak at UFGC, including the following: 

·       Derek Cheng: [May 22] Derek will speak about Airbus Urban Mobility’s collaboration with the city of Shenzhen to deploy Urban Air Mobility (UAM) solutions, including the challenges involved in doing so.

·       Vincent Loubière: [May 22] Vincent will speak on how collaboration is critical to helping cities and citizens to create disruptive practices that have the power to make our cities more liveable, more inclusive and more sustainable.

·       Vassilis Agouridas: [May 23] Vassilis will speak about how UAM is creating a social shift in the way we live, work and travel, and how this shift will provide numerous opportunities for cities.

·       Glenn Llewellyn: [May 23] Glenn will speak about how electric and zero-emission flight, including commercial aircraft, is closer to reality than most of us think.   

Click here to view the full event programme.  

Stay tuned for our UFGC web story series that spotlights our Airbus “city changers” and offers insight on how they view the challenges that cities face today.