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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Big City Living and the Environmental Threat

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People keep moving to the city. Five billion of the world's 8.1 billion people will be living in cities in 2030, according to United Nations projections. The idea that urbanization is synonymous with progress needs a rethink. Cities are not just centers of trade, education, production and culture, but also home to poverty, crime and threats to the environment.

The accelerating growth in urban populations is a global trend. Last year, the UN said, the world's urban population outnumbered that of the countryside -- 3.3 billion to 3.2 billion -- for the first time. Since 1950, the world's urban population has quadrupled against total population growth of 270 percent. In 1975, just three cities -- Tokyo, New York and Mexico City -- had populations above 10 million. By 2005 the list contained 20 cities, including Moscow.

Megalopolises are, most of all, centers of economic activity. Copenhagen, for example, produced almost half of Danish gross domestic product, while London, Tokyo and Vienna produce from 28 percent to 34 percent of the total for their countries. But rich cities face problems with infrastructure, transport, pollution, overpopulation and energy. In poorer cities, slums are the biggest problem, and the number of people living in slum districts worldwide grows by about 27 million people per year, the UN said.

Environmental damage is one of the main problems arising from urbanization. Growing populations mean more cars, buses and streetcars -- and about 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If current trends continue, according to the UN, emissions from cities will increase by from 25 percent to 90 percent from 2000 to 2030.

The mayors of the world's 46 largest cities have formed a group called C40 in an attempt to examine ways to address the dangers posed by climate change. A resolution from the C40 conference in New York last week called for a one-third reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and city halls in a number of major cities have already taken significant steps in this direction.

Mayor Ken Livingstone, for example, has introduced charges for driving in central London. The William J. Clinton Foundation has made $5 billion available to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in poorer cities. Part of that money is earmarked for developing environmentally friendly energy sources, including construction of solar powered electricity generation stations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, has promised to get more people to abandon their cars for public transportation.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov did not attend the conference.

This appeared as an editorial in Vedomosti.