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Cities of the future

Release date:
30 October 2020
To mark World Cities Day, William Lin, EVP of regions, cities & solutions, outlines four features that could be key to greener cities of the future 
🕒 3 min read | 📖 Feature| 💡 Why it matters

I've been fortunate throughout my career to visit, work and live in a great number of countries with outstanding cities. Cities are home to about half of the world’s population, generating 70% of CO2 emissions and we expect both figures to grow with increased urbanization over time. 

There’s certainly appetite to decarbonize our cities and many around the world are tackling emissions with a range of initiatives. China is investing in smart cities and creating clean energy industrial parks, while new cities, such as Neom in Saudi Arabia, will only use renewable energy, and established cities, like London, are investing heavily in energy efficiency and clean mobility.


“There’s certainly appetite to decarbonize our cities and many around the world are tackling emissions with a range of initiatives.” 


William Lin, EVP of regions, cities & solutions


At the UN Climate Action Summit last year, 102 cities committed to be net zero by 2050. As part of bp’s own ambition – to be net zero by 2050 or sooner and to help the world get there too – we want to help cities along that journey.


Our new strategy outlines our aim to partner with 10-15 cities across the globe over the next decade to help them reach their net zero goals and create the cities of the future. So far this year, we’ve announced partnerships with two cities – Aberdeen in the UK and Houston in the US.

Envisioning the city of the future

But what will the cities of the future look like? No one can say with 100% certainty – but to mark World Cities Day, I wanted to share four key features I think we will see more of, especially if the cities seize the opportunity to build back better, cleaner and greener following the COVID-19 pandemic: 


  1. Decarbonized transportation: zero-emissions buses and trains, integrated with autonomous vehicles and enabled through fast-charging and hydrogen stations. A city that partners with ride-hailing companies to decarbonize fleets and with airlines and airports to produce and supply sustainable aviation fuel from municipal waste. 

  2. Powered by low carbon energy and gas: renewable energy – like solar, wind and bioenergy – will be bolstered by gas-fired power to ensure energy supply remains reliable. With cleaner industries, capturing carbon emissions through CCUS facilities and storing millions of tonnes of CO2. A hydrogen-ready gas infrastructure enabling industrial growth through green and blue hydrogen.

  3. Smart buildings: using sensors and artificial intelligence to optimize use and benefit customers with lower costs – all managed through an easy-to-use, integrated digital platform.

  4. Improved health and quality of life: with fewer emissions, improved air quality and far richer biodiversity, including better management of materials and waste consistent with a circular economy. Natural climate solutions to offset the remaining emissions, making our environment more welcoming.
💡 Why it matters

Cities are critical to the progress of the energy transition, with research suggesting that they hold the potential to achieve 40% of the carbon mitigation goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.


As part of bp’s new strategy, we’re looking to partner with 10-15 cities over the next decade to help them reach their net zero goals. This year, we have already agreed partnerships with two – Houston in the US and Aberdeen in the UK. 


To combat the more than 30 million tonnes of CO2 it emits each year, Houston has drafted a comprehensive Climate Action Plan that focuses on transportation, materials management, energy transition and building optimization. As part of our deal, we will provide planning advice on the agreed focus areas


Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, we will work in partnership with the City Council to explore opportunities like accelerating the adoption of electric and hydrogen-powered city vehicles, energy-efficiency programmes for buildings and circular economy. 

A fascinating concept? Absolutely. But this is by no means a stretch. In fact, many of these products and services are ones we can provide at bp today.


And bringing all these products and services together – whether directly from us, or in partnerships with others – to help deliver the cities of the future is where bp wants to play a key role.


I look forward to being a part of this journey. 

Take a look at this interactive graphic for a bp vision of a city of the future

Decarbonized industry on the outer areas of the city, aided by a carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) facility that enables the capture and use or storage of millions of CO2 tonnes per year. Clean industry Buildings are smart and energy efficient, using artificial intelligence enabled by sensors and satellite technology. Green buildings Waste is kept in the economy through repurposing and recycling to generate biofuels and bioenergy. Waste management Strategic partnerships enable ride-hailing and technology companies to decarbonize their fleets, and airlines and airports to produce and supply sustainable aviation fuel. Integrated partnerships An environment that is 100% powered by renewable sources, such as solar, wind and bioenergy, and optimized through energy storage and trading. Renewable energy Traffic flows freely through a decarbonized and convenient transportation system, made up of zero-emissions bicycles, trams, buses and rail, all integrated seamlessly with autonomous vehicles and enabled city-wide through bp fast charging and hydrogen stations. Decarbonized transportation Any remaining emissions are offset through natural climate solutions. Simultaneously increasing the sustainability of the city, enhancing local biodiversity and generating potential revenue through monetization of carbon offsets. Sustainable carbon offsetting Click on the yellow hot spots for more details

About World Cities Day

World Cities Day 2020 is the seventh global celebration since the day was launched on 31 October 2014 in Shanghai, China. Under an overarching theme of ‘Better City, Better Life’, the aim of the day is to focus the international community’s attention on urbanization as a central issue for development and to encourage cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing urban challenges towards sustainable development.


Each year, a different sub-theme is selected, to either promote successes of urbanization, or address specific challenges resulting from urbanization. The sub-theme for this year is ‘Valuing our communities and cities’, and the Global Observance will be hosted in Nakuru, Kenya.


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