Starweek Magazine

Powering progress together: Imagine our world

Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Imagine the world in 2050: Would your city be able to cope with the challenges of urbanization? Would there be enough energy for all of your city’s electricity needs? How about water? Or sanitation? And as the world continues to brace for climate change, would your city be resilient enough to survive all these?

On Feb. 26, for a good full day, experts and thought leaders from civil society, government and the business sector gathered at the Manila Hotel for the Powering Progress Together (PPT) organized by energy giant Shell, to discuss what the world would look like in 2050.

The verdict: The future can look good but this depends on the actions and steps that people take today.

This year’s PPT-Asia forum, with the theme “Resilience in an Urbanizing World,” discussed challenges and opportunities in Asian cities including Manila, presented case studies on resilience for cities and explored resilience and its implications on business.

“By 2050, three quarters of our global population will live in cities. The world will need to evolve radically new and financially sustainable models that manage the growing pressure on energy, food and water and allow urbanization to deliver well-being and prosperity to residents,” Shell said in its New Lenses on Future Cities supplement.

As such, experts said urbanization is an inevitable scenario of the future. Experts agreed that urbanization could bring benefits if managed properly, but could lead to declining quality of life, greater environment degradation, accelerate greenhouse gas emissions, social stresses and political turbulence if managed poorly.

In terms of population count, Hugh Mitchell, Shell chief of human resources and corporate officer, said the global population is expected to increase to nine billion by 2050 from seven billion at present. This, he said, “puts pressure on energy, water and food.”

Cities that are unable to rise up to the challenges of urbanization could reduce the quality of life of their inhabitants.

“But if they are well designed and managed, cities can be catalysts for economic development,” Mitchell said at the opening of the forum, which saw a crowd of at least 300 participants.

One way to meet the challenges of urbanization is to meet rising energy demand in ways that would also reduce greenhouse gases, he said.

?Ways to do these include shifting from coal to gas, developing carbon capture technology and the introduction of carbon pricing systems that would pave the way for the shift to natural gas.

Effective waste management, implementing smart urban planning and closer integration among the stakeholders are also some ways by which cities could be more resilient.

For her part, Toni Yulo-Loyzaga, executive director of the Manila Observatory, said people have to take concrete steps in dealing with specific problems brought about by climate change and to really get out of their comfort zones.

“Individually, we need to be aware in our households of the way we dispose of waste and, collectively, we need to be aware of a better way of life,” she said.

In the area of overcrowding, pollution and congestion, Glynn Ellis, strategic energy advisor for Shell, said in the panel on Resilience for Cities that there is a need to plan more effectively to address all these.

“Many cities lose billions of dollars a year due to transport delays and traffic gridlock,” Ellis said.

Noted Filipino architect Felino Palafox Jr. believes that good urban planning, good governance and well-crafted design in cities are among the factors that spell the success of cities around the world.


Here at home, Metro Manila residents believe that the metropolis is resilient to the challenges of natural disasters and urbanization but at the same time acknowledge that a number of key developmental issues still exist.

This is according to a study released by Shell and conducted together with global research firm Ipsos.

“While the overall positive perception of Filipinos is truly admirable, it is important that this mental and emotional resilience does not lead to an oversight on important physical and actual resilience,” said Ellis, a member of the team behind the study.

The perception survey covered a thousand individuals at least 18 years of age across Metro Manila with representative sample in terms of age, gender, work and socioeconomic status.

Eighty six percent of those living in Metro Manila feel that their place is resilient to extreme weather events.

“However, with the number of major weather disturbances that Metro Manila has faced in recent history – most impactful of which was Tropical Storm Ondoy, residents also identified priorities in waste management, drainage declogging and construction of roads,” results of the survey showed.

Other initiatives that the respondents deemed are needed include reforestation (29 percent) and development of waterways and river basins (21 percent). 

Still, most residents – or 81 percent – feel that Metro Manila is resilient to the pressures of urbanization and a growing population.

A significant number of residents also expressed personal responsibility to reduce their consumption of energy, water and food and about a third encourage others to do the same.

In terms of concrete actions, three in ten residents are limiting the use and purchase of appliances that require a lot of energy, according to the results of the survey.

“Among a range of energy sources, solar energy is the most preferred energy choice followed by natural gas. Residents are also clear that their least preferred method of generating energy would be from coal,” Shell also said in its survey report.

In summary, experts agreed during the forum that the character and quality of future urbanization would have a huge influence on global resource and sustainability, which will directly affect the quality of life for billions of people around the world.

Shell Philippines country chair Ed Chua said Shell, for its part, would continue to promote collaborative action and innovative solutions to address the world’s present and future challenges.

“We hope to forge more concrete partnerships as we move toward the future,” he said.

Indeed, the future is waiting – but how it will look depends on each and everyone’s actions.

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