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Urbanisation- Shaping the future of sustainable cities


As the world witnesses increasing urbanisation, the relationship between cities and carbon emissions has become a focal point in the ongoing climate crisis. In 2020, urban centers released an astonishing 29 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air.


GS3- Environment

Mains Question:

As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, the relationship between urban areas and carbon emissions has taken centre stage in the ongoing climate crisis. Analysing the link between urbanization and climate change, suggest a way forward strategy to effectively deal with it. (15 marks, 250 words).

Urbanization and Climate Change:

  • With urbanization being a defining characteristic of the 21st century, understanding its impact on carbon emissions is imperative. It’s not just about the 70% of CO2 emissions attributed to urban areas from burning fossil fuels; the influence of urbanization on the global carbon cycle extends beyond these emissions.
  • By 2050, estimates suggest that seven billion people will inhabit cities, exacerbating concerns about worsening climate conditions and sustainability.
  • In 2020 alone, urban inhabitants collectively emitted a staggering 29 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  • While these emissions are a significant driver of climate change, they also pose a severe threat to public health.
  • The consequences extend beyond meteorological records and climate models, translating into more frequent and extreme weather events that jeopardize life, livelihoods, property, and essential resources.
  • Additionally, the rise in CO2 levels contributes to health complications, especially for those with respiratory issues, due to an increase in ozone concentration.

Way Forward:

Transitioning to Low Carbon Cities:

  • Building low-carbon cities requires a sector-coupling approach that assesses and transforms multiple sectors, including energy, buildings, transportation, industry, and urban land use. Addressing both the supply and demand sides is essential for realizing this vision.
  • In the energy sector, promoting clean and cost-effective technologies, transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, and implementing carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies are vital steps.
  • Moreover, constructing energy-efficient buildings, using low-emission materials, and mandating net-zero energy for new constructions while retrofitting existing buildings are crucial in terms of infrastructure.

Benefits of Energy-System Transitions:

  • The core of this transition is sustainable development, aligning with the planet’s preservation and optimal resource utilization.
  • The benefits of transitioning to low-carbon cities are manifold, including a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, improved employment conditions, enhanced knowledge intensity in firms, skill development promotion, food security, sustainable living, livelihood options, and the protection of biodiversity and human health.

Challenges and Concerns:

  • The transition to low-carbon cities comes with challenges, particularly for developing economies heavily reliant on fossil fuels and with limited access to renewable energy options.
  • In developed countries, potential inequities may arise due to high energy costs and associated economic disparities.
  • Addressing justice concerns related to land evictions for renewable energy projects, marginalization of communities, and gender gaps requires a comprehensive approach that considers diverse voices, indigenous knowledge, and experiences.


Sector-Coupling Approach, Energy-System Transitions, Equity, and Decarbonization can be a way forward to sustainable urbanization, mitigating the consequences of urbanization on the environment, reducing carbon emissions, and ultimately building cities that are not only green but also provide a higher quality of life for all their inhabitants. It is the only way to ensure that the future will indeed be green, allowing our planet to thrive for generations to come.

July 2024