A prominent example for global changes that no longer affect individual countries or regions alone, but affect the whole of humanity, is the trend towards urbanisation. This goes along with the spread of “megacities” on all continents, especially in developing and newly industrialising countries.
By means of this research programme the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is furthering the development of innovative solutions and concepts in emerging megacities.
The growth of metropolises is not a new phenomenon. However, pace and dynamics of the process of urbanisation is historically unprecedented.
In 1975 only 38 % of the world’s population lived in cities. Since 2008, more than 50 % of the world's population is already living in cities, and this is going to increase towards two thirds by 2030.
This preconditions given, the strategic and innovative competence of politics, the economy and civil society is put to the test.
The tendency of urbanisation is accompanied with another development: the development of mega-urbanisation. Currently the United Nations count 22 cities exceeding 10 million inhabitants. This number is expected to grow to 26 in 2015 with 22 of these in emerging economies.
Furthermore, there are mega-urban regions; this means large regions, which consist of interconnected, increasingly agglomerated cities and urban growth centres. These megacities are faced with complex problems, which are directly affecting the quality of life of their inhabitants: in many cases, transport systems, living space and the supply of water and food cannot resist the rapid population growth. The necessary extension of technical and social infrastructure cannot keep pace with the growing demand. Large cities and those with over a million inhabitants that are moving towards the 10 million mark are of particular interest for politics. In these “megacities of tomorrow” there is the opportunity to precautionary action and targeted urban development.
Steering urbanisation is therefore a central challenge in the pursuit of living up to the goal of global sustainable development. The formation of megacities and mega-urban regions are local processes with enormous effects in all three dimensions of sustainability: the social, ecological and economic dimension. They are closely interconnected with other global changes, i.e. land consumption, energy consumption, and the emission of greenhouse gases.
Globally effective potential of energy efficiency and climate protection opens up especially in urban growth centres of tomorrow. This holds true especially for the fast growing urban agglomerations in developing and newly industrialising countries.