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Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment


A series of seven reports highlighting key ideas and research questions generated during our meetings, a report funded and inspired by the UK Government Foresight Future of Cities project to catalyze discussion about people's 'visions' of the future of Cambridge are some the Forum's outputs so far.

Forum reports

The Forum aims to stimulate cross-disciplinary conversations about some of some of the planet’s most pressing global sustainability challenges and to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to research which will help to prepare for and address those challenges.

Each month, the panel of three expert witnesses help to stimulate discussion about a particular area. These introductions are then used as a springboard to explore gaps in our knowledge and to generate new research questions. 

A series of seven reports brings these ideas together under each of our themes and highlights areas where more cross and trans-disciplinary research is needed.

New report: Cities of the Future

Why focus on cities? In 2014, for the first time, more people lived in urban areas than in rural areas. UN projections show that urbanization combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban populations by 2050.

This rapid growth creates tremendous opportunities and also tremendous challenges. The potential exists within cities for vibrant communities, long-term environmental sustainability, efficient transport and excellent infrastructure. At the same time, there is also the potential for ever-increasing pollution, urban sprawl, high-carbon lifestyles and waste of resources.

The variety of perspectives needed to address these challenges made cities the ideal topic for the Forum to explore first. This report uses discussions during our meetings and the testimonies of the expert witnesses to explore three areas: where we live, how we live, and how cities respond to change. Our aim is to ask questions and in doing so, we hope that it will open up new research avenues to explore in the future.

Visions of Cambridge in 2065

In 2014-15, the Forum and the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) co-led the “Visions of Cambridge in 2065” project, a Foresight-inspired project that brings together visions of the city from charities, city and county-level policymakers, companies, local organisations, networks, and researchers.

The aim of this project was to imagine possible futures of Cambridge; and to open up the possibility of imagining those futures to a broad cross-section of its citizens. This project was undertaken alongside six other city-specific case studies supported by the UK Government Foresight Future of Cities project.

This report is the result of the first phase of the Cambridge case study. It gathers together 24 visions from a wide variety of people who live and work in the city; who were all asked to think about the issues they considered critical to the continued and future success of Cambridge as a city.

The Resilient Cities Policy Briefing

In January 2015, the Forum and the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) Policy Challenges Programme launched a policy challenges briefing that draws on the experience of some of the Forum's witnesses and highlights key policy issues related to the effects of climate change on cities and reflects on the adaptation of existing built environments and modes of governance.

Can we rethink how we design and live in cities? What measures can be taken to make them more resilient to extreme climate events and to long-term changes in climate? The Policy Challenges Programme posed these questions to a range of policy makers, technical experts and researchers drawn from the Forum and their answers have been brought together into a policy briefing that highlights some of the key issues in climate resilience in cities.

A podcast on future cities

Today, more people live in cities than in rural areas and, by 2050, this ratio is predicted to rise to 7 out of every 10 people. Can we rethink how we design and live in cities? What will the impact of increasing numbers of people living in cities be on society, or biodiversity, or on food, water and energy security? A podcast from the 2014 Science Festival features an archaeologist, a criminologist, an economist from the Greater London Authority and a climate scientist and they explored some of the most pressing challenges facing our cities.

If you would like more information about Forum meetings or these themes and events, please contact Dr Rosamunde Almond ()

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A new series of articles draws on ideas from across all our topics to explore some of the cross-cutting themes emerging from the discussions.

Find out more