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Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment


A report exploring new research questions generated by our meetings about sustainable cities, a policy briefing focusing on climate change resilience in cities and 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 three of the outputs of the Forum's cities topic.

Cities of the future

In 2014, for the first time, more people lived in urban areas than in rural areas. This change has been rapid as in 1950, 30 per cent of the world’s population was urban, and by 2050, 66% of people are predicted to be urban. 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, with close to 90 percent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.

Such rapid growth creates tremendous opportunities and also tremendous challenges. The potential exists in 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.

Sustainable cities was the ideal topic for the Forum to explore first as it brings together social, biological and physical sciences as well as the arts and the humanities. Each month, a rich mixture of policy and decision makers from government and business, technical experts and researchers were invited to the Forum as expert witnesses and to provide their perspective on sustainable cities and the governance systems needed to support them.

Our report - ‘Cities of the Future’ - uses the discussions during these meetings and the testimonies of the witnesses to explore future research questions related to three areas: where we live, how we live in cities, and how cities respond to change. Our aim is to ask questions and in doing so, we hope that this report will open up new research avenues for us all 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 is 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.

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

Cities of the future - report cover

Our latest report - Cities of the Future - uses Forum discussions to explore and generate new research questions related to cities, including where we live, how we live, and how they respond to change.

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What is your vision of Cambridge is 2065? This is the question being ask in a Foresight-inspired report released on the 7th September 2015, co-led by the Forum and the Centre for Science and Policy.

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In January 2015, the Forum and the Centre for Science and Policy launched a policy challenges briefing that draws on the experience of some of the Forum's witnesses and highlights key policy issues related to climate resilience in cities.

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