From the Globalance Investment Commentary (Wealth Cockpit):
The chart opposite shows the built-up area of Atlanta compared to that of Barcelona. Despite comparable populations, the urban area of Barcelona is only 4% of the area of Atlanta and its emissions are 11 times lower.
The majority of cities are currently following the Atlanta pattern of expansion: unplanned, unstructured growth, producing urban sprawl and high volumes of car traffic. All else being equal, the land size of urban areas will grow a massive 300% by 2030, the equivalent to adding an area the size of Manhattan every day. The number of cars is set to double from 1 billion currently to 2 billion.
Urban sprawl also represents huge costs in economic terms: up to 30% additional spending on infrastructure, energy and water supplies and up to 50% higher mobility costs. Other disadvantages include increased air pollution, traffic congestion and risk of accidents. A recent study has quantified the incremental costs of sprawl in the United States at USD 400 billion per year.
This calls for action on the part of policy-makers. Intelligent urban planning and capital spending on energy-efficient construction, mobility and infrastructure projects will not just cut costs, but also improve citizens' quality of life and enhance the appeal of locations, giving them a significant competitive edge. Various countries have recognized the need to take action. For example, China issued its «New National Urbanization Plan» this year, which gives overriding priority to urban planning.
Source: Bertaud and Richardson, 2004