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Are Megacities Key to the Future of Energy, Fuels & Transport?

02.07.17 | Blog | By:

This excellent infographic on global megacities from Visual Capitalist caught my eye because of what we might be able to extrapolate about energy/transport issues. The infographic notes that while in 1950 30% of the global population lived in cities, by 2050 70% will live in urban areas, many of which will be megacities. I think this dynamic has the potential to significantly impact future fuel demand because, as I’ve pointed out before, cities are already struggling (and will continue to) with traffic and transport-related air pollution.

This is an underlying force propelling transport policy solutions such as improved/expanded public transport, zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) and outright car bans (or limitations). I believe that’s going to continue. And oddly enough, neither the recent BP and ExxonMobil energy outlook appear to account for these potential impacts. The focus from some other stakeholders has been on the disruptive force ZEVs (particularly battery EVs (BEVs)) present to future oil demand. But I wonder if the real attention should be paid to the potential power shift from national/provincial governments to the cities — especially as it pertains to future energy/transport policies.

It will be cities, for example, that institute car bans, expand and improve infrastructure for both public transport and ZEVs, autonomous, shared driving, and redesigning cities to promote walking and cycling. Some advocates are encouraging and planning for this power shift, and recently, a Global Parliament of Mayors was created to “leverage the collective political power of cities.” It may be cities that end up carrying much of the water to actually implement the Paris Agreement. And consider: McKinsey has estimated that the 600 top urban centers contribute whopping 60% to the world’s total GDP today.

The infographic notes seven types of global cities, with these classifications and data coming from the Brookings Institution.

  1. Global Giants: These six cities are the world’s leading economic and financial centers. They are hubs for financial markets and are characterized by large populations and a high concentration of wealth and talent. (New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Tokyo, Osaka)
  2. Asian Anchors: The six Asian Anchor cities are not as wealthy as the Global Giants, however they leverage attributes such as infrastructure connectivity and talented workforces to attract the most Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) out of any other metro grouping. (Singapore, Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing)
  3. Emerging Gateways: These 28 cities are large business and transportation hubs for major national and regional markets in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. While they have grown to reach middle-income status, they fall behind other global cities on many key competitiveness factors such as GDP and FDI. (Examples: Mumbai, Cape Town, Mexico City, Hangzhou)
  4. Factory China: There are 22 second and third-tier Chinese cities reliant on export manufacturing to power economic growth and international engagement. Although Factory China displays a GDP growth rate that is well above average, it fails to reach average levels of innovation, talent, and connectivity. (Examples: Shenyang, Changchun, Chengdu)
  5. Knowledge Capitals: These are 19 mid-sized cities in the U.S. and Europe that are considered centers of innovation, with elite research universities producing talented workforces. (Examples: San Francisco, Boston, Zurich)
  6. American Middleweights: These 16 mid-sized U.S. metro areas are relatively wealthy and house strong universities, as well as other anchor institutions. (Examples: Orlando, Sacramento, Phoenix)
  7. International Middleweights: These 26 cities span across several continents, internationally connected by human and investment capital flow. Like their American middleweight counterparts, growth has slowed for these cities since the 2008. (Examples: Vancouver, Melbourne, Brussels, Tel Aviv)
Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist
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