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Underdeveloped urban centres - Marrakesh, Morocco
Urban Powerhouses, Hong Kong, China
Developing mega-hubs - Chongqing, China
Sprawling metropolises, Los Angeles, USA
Prosperous communities, Copenhagen, Denmark
Underprivileged crowded cities, Manila, Philippines

Which kind of city are you living in and how will it develop in the future? Urban populations are growing, which presents both great challenges and exciting opportunities. The latest scenarios supplement reveals how we might make our cities more efficient and appealing places to live.

Around three out of every four of us will live in cities by 2050. As cities swell, pressure on vital resources of energy, water and food will become ever greater. Across the world there are big differences in the way cities are built and run, their transport systems and energy use. It’s vital to understand more about these differences in order to make the right choices for building sustainable cities.

Matching common traits

Every city is unique, but some share similar traits. Cities can be grouped into six categories, according to research supported by Shell:

Underdeveloped urban centres, Developing mega-hubs, Under privileged crowded cities
Sprawling metropolises, Prosperous communities, Urban powerhouses

I suspect that one day historians will describe the 100 years to 2050 as the century of the city.

Jeremy Bentham, Head of Shell Scenarios

Urban evolution

In the New Lens Scenarios we introduced analytical tools to help us better understand the changing world around us. We have applied these tools to the six city types, creating scenarios around how individual cities could evolve and how they might be more efficient.

Singapore and Detroit

Singapore took decisive steps in urban planning, housing and transportation which gave it room to manoeuvre for its long-term physical development.

Singapore infographic

Detroit struggled to find and finance solutions to the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Detroit infographic

Better planning

We have identified a number of areas for action – all of which rely on strong city leaders. The areas include:

  • Urban planning which focuses on the efficient use of resources. Compact cities such as Hong Kong use much less energy per person than sprawling cities like Los Angeles.
  • Smaller cars powered by electricity or hydrogen fuel cells, as well as trucks fuelled by liquefied natural gas.
  • The use of global positioning technologies to monitor freight transport, helping ensure goods are delivered efficiently.
  • Switching coal-fired power stations to cleaner-burning natural gas.