The world has changed almost unrecognizably in the past century. We have seen the rise of the automobile and the internet; we have lived through two world wars; we have seen the collapse of empires. And ticking alongside these global transformations, has been the unprecedented mass movement of people from rural to urban areas.
Globally, the population living within cities grows by two people every second – that means that by 2050 an estimated 6.4 billion people will be urban dwellers. That’s up from a mere 750 million in 1950. Accordingly, the way that people live, travel and make their money has changed. Yet, we are still governed (in large) by conventional politics, and defined by the boundaries that differentiate our nation states.
However, recently many people have been taking a closer look at where the power to drive policy really lies; and whether it is changes driven by individual cities that are having the greatest global impact.
The ‘micro’ economics of cities is something that most people living within a large urban population will be able to instinctually identify. A Londoner, for example, will likely be able to tell you the areas in which to invest in property, and which streets to avoid. Extrapolate that to evaluating the prosperity of a country and you will see how incomplete national statistics are. The Financial Times uses Indonesia as an example; the country lists growth at 6%, however the capital city, Jakarta, has a growth rate of 13%. Many other areas of the country are showing no growth, or a decline. With this in mind, do you invest in Indonesia? Or in Jakarta?
The driving power in cities is not only in the investment and growth opportunities that they offer. Enacting environmental policies (something closely involved with the focus of Tej Kohli Industries) is also more effectively implemented on a citywide basis. The inhabitants of cities are responsible for over three quarters of all global greenhouse gas pollution thanks to demand on transportation, temperature control, electricity, lighting and entertainment. Imposing the same environmental policies on them as those living in rural areas is, at best unfair and at worst, dangerous.
It is, however, the very economic dominance of cities that offers the potential for creating more sustainable environments. Ann Hildago, the mayor of Paris – a city which last year hosted the historic COP21 agreement – put it best when she said "If cities say we don't want fossil fuel cars then industry will provide." This comment was in regard to the hugely successful Autolib’ – an electric car sharing service which has since expanded to the French cities of Lyon and Bordeaux.
It is a positive sign also that China, the world’s largest contributor to global warming, has begun rolling out Carbon Market schemes in select cities, following the European example.
Tej Kohli industries have long been advocates of sustainable energy and finding solutions for the problems of the future. Investing in sustainability is essential for those in rural areas but cities, as the main polluters and those with the most financial clout, must be the drivers of policy. Perhaps it is time to stop following the status quo, and start implementing action with a realistic understanding of how our societies truly operate – starting citywide, not nationwide.