Urban futures under the new scenario framework

Organizers: Guillaume Rohat (University of Geneva), Felix Creutzig (Mercator Research Institute)


Cities currently hold more than half of the world’s population and the vast majority of its economic activities, industries, and built assets. Recent research suggest that climate risks are rapidly growing in urban areas of all sizes and economic conditions, particularly within low- and middle-income countries. At the same time, cities account for more than two-thirds of global carbon emissions and consume over 60% of the world’s energy. In this context, it is crucial to explore how different societal futures – as described in the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) or other scenario frameworks – will (1) influence cities’ vulnerability and abilities to cope with climate change, (2) shape future energy consumption and carbon emissions in urban areas, and (3) determine future urban climate outcomes, in both developed and developing countries. While organized and efficient urban planning brings a number of benefits in terms of both adaptation and mitigation, unplanned urbanization exacerbates climate risks and increases carbon footprints.   

This research session welcomes studies that seek to understand the effect of varying levels and types of socioeconomic development on urban governance, development of slums and marginalized communities, intra-city social and economic equity, urban morphologies, urban emissions, urban climate, and any other urban-related challenges. In addition, this session welcomes applications of the scenario framework (that is, the combination of SSPs and RCPs) focusing on urban areas and aiming to explore the combined effect of changes in socioeconomic and climatic conditions on (1) the wide range of climate-related risks in urban areas, such as water scarcity, deadly heat, sea-level rise, river floods, and urban air pollution, (2) urban climate outcomes, and (3) carbon emissions levels and urban energy savings. 

This session is relevant to the developers of the SSPs and other scenario frameworks – through the “urban extension” of the scenarios – as well as to the users of these frameworks.