The debate often describes measures to meet climate change as a path of sacrifice. But researchers at Lund University paint a picture of future cities that are better than today.

In the university’s newsletter Apropå, several researchers discuss how cities can change if we succeed in reaching the climate goals. Some examples they give are plants and solar panels on roofs, more fruit trees, ponds and canals—less space for cars and more space for socialising. Many are likely to view such changes as positive.

– That something is better or worse is a subjective measure. Norms change over time. What is taken for granted today may not be so in the future. For example, eating large amounts of meat or flying often and long distances,’ says Jamil Khan, Senior Lecturer in Environmental and Energy Systems at Lund University.

Jamil Khan is researching how different policy instruments can make cities and transport more climate-friendly so that Sweden can reach its climate target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

– There is every reason to believe that cars will be used less frequently and differently in the future. According to experts, the city’s roads will be reserved for cyclists, pedestrians and some public transport.

Green spaces

The 15-minute city is a vision where residents can reach essential services by walking or cycling in no more than 15 minutes. For larger cities, this can mean revitalising neighbourhoods’ public spaces.

–  When you look at urban planning in concrete terms, you discover many advantages to planning the city for less traffic. Cleaner air, less noise and a safer traffic environment, says Johanna Alkan Olsson, who researches sustainable transformation at Lund University.

She believes that future cities will have more green spaces, canals, ponds, and trees. Vegetation reduces the risk of flooding, lowers the temperatures on hot summer days and helps biodiversity.

Fruit trees provide food, and birds can eat what’s left. Tree and pond maintenance offers job opportunities for people in need of transitional jobs, she says in the newsletter.

Catharina Sternudd is a senior architecture lecturer focusing on urban design. She shares the belief in more trees and also believes in new jobs being created. This is partly because retail supply will also be affected if the circular economy takes hold.

– We will see more shops repairing electronics, refurbishing furniture and offering other renovation services, she predicts in the newsletter.

Eight possible changes

Together, the researchers list eight ways in which the city can change

  • The city becomes an expanded living space – more social spaces, fewer cars
  • Not everything happens in the city centre. Neighbourhoods are revitalised
  • More trees, like fruit trees
  • More water: ponds, canals and water fountains
  • Better use of roofs – for plants or solar panels
  • More shops offering renovation services
  • More local food and allotments
  • More free time to spend in the local environment due to a relaxed working life

You can read the whole article at Lund University’s website: (Swedish only).

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