Cities and sustainability

The world's cities are growing rapidly - one estimate suggests that, by 2050, 70% of the planet's nine billion-strong population will live in an urban area.

The world’s most powerful cities make a significant contribution to global economic growth. However, this growth is uneven - and produces major challenges in social and environmental sustainability.

This working group was formed to engage with the sustainability challenges posed by urban growth in an academic and policy-relevant way.

Our aims

  • To address the fundamental uncertainties and lack of knowledge about how to achieve this urban reconfiguration.
  • To contribute to debates on the future of urban sustainability.
  • To research attempts to sustainably reconfigure urban systems of provision.

Our themes

The group undertakes work that is broadly organised around the governance of (post-) sustainable urban futures. We are concerned with both understanding the future of the sustainable city and in shaping what this looks like. We draw on a range of theoretical insights, methodological approaches and empirical work in a variety of existing urban contexts. In doing this, we engage with a variety of different social interests through various media of knowledge exchange.

Our work is organised into three themes:

Urban knowledge

Our work contributes to debates on how urban knowledge is produced, exchanged and mobilised and how this is used to shape more (un-)sustainable urban futures.

This addresses how future sustainable cities are envisioned, experimented with, can be understood and achieved at a time when key concepts (‘city’, ‘sustainability’) are under stress.

Indicative activities

Indicative publications

  • Can a city ever be truly 'carbon neutral'?
  • Greater Manchester's Green Charter: The responsibility of whom?

Urban materiality

This theme of our work focuses on how transforming the urban built environment, infrastructure systems and service provision can contribute to their organisation in more (un-)sustainable ways. 

Indicative activities

Indicative publications

The everyday urban

In times where urban contexts and the systems of provision that sustain urban life are being transformed, our research addresses what this means for understanding experiences of everyday urban living. 

Indicative activities

Indicative publication

Working group leader