Urban populations are growing and around three out of every four of us will live in cities by 2050. As cities expand, pressure on vital resources of energy, water and food increases. Across the world there are big differences in the way cities are built and run, how inhabitants move around and how they use energy. It is vital to understand more about these differences in order to make the right choices for building sustainable cities.

Research into 500 cities by Strategy&, supported by Shell, showed that cities can be grouped into six categories, or city archetypes. We analysed the six city archetypes to better understand the changing world and help create scenarios about how individual cities could evolve and become more efficient. We also examined how cities have coped with major development challenges in the past.

For example, faced with high levels of poverty and unemployment in the 1960s, Singapore has since evolved into one of the world’s most prosperous cities through smart urban planning and investment in public transport.

In New Lenses on Future Cities, we have identified several ways in which city leaders can help make the urbanisation process more sustainable. Effective planning to reduce the need to travel around cities, together with efficient public transport for when it is unavoidable, can make a big difference. Wider use of electric, hydrogen or natural gas-driven vehicles also makes a major contribution to sustainability, as does switching from coal- to gas-fired power generation.

We have also co-produced two in-depth city reports – for Marikina in the Philippines, and Surat in India – which focus on ways these cities might increase resilience in the face of challenges.

Download our supplement and in-depth city reports and discover how we might make our cities more efficient, appealing places to live.

Our Cities Reports

Study on Marikina City

Marikina building view

Challenges and Opportunities for Marikina City 

A city resilience study co-produced by the Shell Scenarios team examines how Marikina City, part of the Manila metropolitan area in the Philippines with a population of around half a million, could achieve its aspiration to grow more sustainably.

Marikina is prone to flooding, due to monsoon rains swelling the rivers that run through the city. It suffered a major flood in 2012. The study suggests developing green recreation spaces to help absorb heavy rains during tropical storms, and considering the development of a distributed energy system within the city, which can help provide power in case of natural calamities.

Download the study: Challenges and Opportunities for Marikina City

Read the story: Supporting City Resilience in the Philippines

Study on Surat City

Surat road traffic

Challenges and Opportunities for Surat City 

The second city resilience report co-authored by the Shell Scenarios team explores how the fast-growing Indian city of Surat could develop smart infrastructure to strengthen local services and energy supplies. 

The city, which  had a population of 4.6 million in the 2011 census, is experiencing rapid industrialisation and migration. It is also one of the world’s most climate change-affected cities, according to World Bank Sustainable Development Network, and has experienced 23 floods in the past century.

Download the study: Challenges and Opportunities for Surat City

Read the story: Helping Surat achieve greater resilience 


Cities of the future

Cities of the future

Around three out of every four of us will live in cities by 2050. Cities around the world are hubs for innovation and are often at the forefront of new models, technologies and social enterprise.

Learn more about Future Cities

More in Shell Scenarios

New Lens on the Future

Our New Lens Scenarios explore two possible ways the 21st century could unfold, with dramatically different implications for society and energy. 

A Better Life with a Healthy Planet

How could the world meet future energy demand while reducing net carbon emissions to zero?

You may also be interested in

Future cities

Which city best suits your lifestyle? Answer our future cities quiz and compare 500 cities worldwide to find out.

Powering Progress Together

Sparking conversations and ideas to support the global drive towards more and cleaner energy

Could sun-charged batteries power our homes?

Combining solar or wind energy with new, more affordable batteries could transform the way some of us use electricity at home.