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Cities knowledge hub

Why does CISL focus on cities?

CitiesCities and the urban system will shape our collective future. The UN predicts that by 2050, 66 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities. As the world continues to urbanise, sustainable development challenges will be increasingly concentrated in cities, particularly in emerging economies where the pace of urbanisation is fastest.

Cities face significant and growing challenges as they seek to access and manage the resources that they need to grow, whilst reducing air, water, and soil pollution and also addressing issues of social inclusion and economic development. Responding to these challenges will require informed leaders, collaboration across sectors, and innovative, integrated solutions that foster thriving communities and economies.


Capacity building and leadership development

Sustainability leadership

The transition to sustainable, resilient cities requires informed progressive and ambitious leadership. Leadership that draws on those with deep knowledge of the system and insight into the challenges and the opportunities that sustainability presents.

Our bespoke executive education programmes support leaders across government, business and civil society to understand and respond to the changing urban context. We design programmes for clients who play a critical role in shaping cities of the future, including property developers, designers, construction companies, city leaders, manufacturers, transport providers and technology companies in the UK and in China.

Cambridge also offers graduate programmes that are designed to equip individuals to respond to the pressing challenges of our time and of the future. The part-time Master of Studies in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE) is especially relevant to professionals from varied backgrounds who are engaged with designing or influencing the urban landscape.

Read about our tailored education programmes or the Master of Studies in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment.


Financing the transition to low carbon sustainable cities

Low carbon

Access to capital is critical to facilitate a response to many of the challenges cities face.

Our executive education programmes for development banks and other financial sector organisations has helped them to understand the need and opportunity to promote the financing of zero carbon infrastructure and inform the development of low carbon, climate resilient strategies and policies. 

More about our sustainable finance business and policy groups.


Supporting the move towards city resilience


Cities are becoming increasingly exposed to natural hazards and climate change related risks. Our ClimateWise platform is a global network of almost 30 leading insurance companies working to actively identify the risks and opportunities associated with the ‘protection gap’. This is the growing divide between total economic and insured losses associated with climate change.

At the city level, ClimateWise’s Societal Resilience Programme explores how to address the widening protection gap through insurance industry collaboration with city authorities, and other stakeholders. The programme aims to help the industry better manage their physical and social exposure to climate risk, both through their underwriting and asset management activities.

An example of this programme was The City Innovation Platform, a collaboration between the public and private sectors to support the delivery of sustainable, financeable and insurable public infrastructure projects in emerging economy cities. It brought together networks of senior city officials, insurers and financiers to identify the key project risks as each stage of the infrastructure development pipeline and where insurance expertise can support more informed risk management and risk transfer activities.

ClimateWise’s research into the development and management of Resilient Cities has included the development of a toolkit to facilitate workshops to explore building city resilience.

Learn more about ClimateWise.


Thought leadership

ReportingTo help industry and city leaders to access and interpret research and the latest thinking on the implications of a changing landscape on their operations, CISL has synthesised key climate change research reports specifically for the sector.

Implications for Cities, Implications for Buildings and Implications for Transport highlight the climate science implications outlined in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Better Growth, Better Climate is a synthesis of The New Climate Economy Report highlighting that the next 15 years are crucial to grasp the opportunities for cities to achieve economic growth and action on climate change together.

Other low carbon transformation thought leadership.


Global and European policy engagement

Policy EngagementMany sustainability challenges require a collaborative response, involving individuals and organisations across sectors at a local, national and international level. Cities’ influence on the global economy means they have an important role to play in influencing international agendas. On behalf of the UNFCCC we facilitated L’Appel de Paris (the Paris Pledge for Action) a collaborative action to help non-Party stakeholders (including cities) support the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In addition we engage with businesses whose work directly influences the future sustainability of cities. In this capacity, CISL is supporting members of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group to shape European policy through the production of an EU industry commitment of net zero carbon buildings.

Interested in the Corporate Leaders Group? Read more.

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Adele Wiliams

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