Water, Electricity, and Transportation: Preparing for the Population Boom

Carmen Nobel

According to studies conducted by the USA and UN, the world’s population will likely exceed 9 billion and the population of the world’s cities will likely increase by 3 billion by 2050. Many of the world’s top city and environmental planning experts met in early March 2011 at Harvard Business School to discuss what changes and investments will be needed in order to sustain this population growth. They focused on issues within three major areas: water, energy, and transportation. First, the majority of water within rural communities is used for agriculture, often leaving little water left for domestic use; urban communities often have cheap access to water and, therefore, do not respect the limited nature of the resource. Second, most urban buildings—which consume 40 percent of the world’s electricity—are too inefficient, and the vast majority of people are ignorant of their individual electricity usage. Third, cities are faced with the challenge of encouraging public transport when incentives are very weak (often due to high prices). Throughout the meeting there was an emphasis on the need to develop and encourage public-private partnerships in all three areas.

Source: Harvard Business School

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