Water inundation inside houses in India. Credit: Anil Kumar.

+ The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity to make a positive difference when it comes to shaping the urban environment.

Climate Week once again highlights one of the most daunting challenges facing the modern world – the threat from global climate change.

Yet in the midst of all the discussions around issues such as sea level rise, and the increased frequency of severe weather events, there is also hope as more people work together to tackle greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and mitigate risks.

Take rapid urbanisation, for example. By 2050, the global urbanisation rate is forecast to rise from just over 50% to almost 75%. Over the same period, the world’s population will grow from just above 7 billion to more than 9 billion by some estimates. As a result, the world’s urban population could jump from around 4 billion today to almost 7 billion by 2050.

You may reasonably argue about the exact timing or numbers, but in broad terms there is no argument – over the next three and a half decades we will have to build the infrastructure, towns and cities required to support most of the world’s urban population… all over again.

Inevitably, this will put an incredible strain on all our resources. Water, energy, food, transport, housing, healthcare, you name it. And coming at a time when the global carbon count recently passed 400ppm for the first time, we know that there is already pressure on the planet’s climate with all the attendant risks associated with that.

Given the scale of the challenge, it is perhaps understandable that some people might wish to look away, ignore the evidence or rely on some passing miracle to appear. The truth is simply that we must act.

The good news is that we possess the ingenuity and skills to do so – provided we have the will. On that score, a new report produced by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Arup shows that people are taking positive steps around the globe. The research published during Climate Week shows that 228 global cities, representing 434 million people, have already set greenhouse gas reduction goals that could save GHG emissions totalling 13GtCO2e against the business as usual scenario by 2050.

It’s not enough, but it’s a start. So it seems that society, slowly, is beginning to take up the challenge of climate change and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate just how smart we human beings really can be at developing sustainable, resilient communities.

This is certainly a challenge that Arup is keen to be a part of – finding the solutions to some of the threats posed by climate change. This is why the firm is prioritising action on cities, transport and mobility, water and low-carbon energy. This is why we are refining and enhancing our talent base in areas such as planning, resource management, climate resilience skills and services. And this is why we are working with clients and partners around the globe who share a belief that everyone must act.

The challenge may be vast. But the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity.