Cities and towns are at the core of the European economy but they are often also the places where problems related to the quality of life of citizens such as unemployment, segregation and poverty are most evident.
To curtail the negative impacts and foster the positive effects of ongoing urban processes in Europe, policies have to be adjusted and harmonised to accommodate future urbanization trends. Such an analysis of the evolution of European cities requires the evaluation of impacts of continent-wide drivers and, at the same time, assessment of the effect of national and local strategies.
As a contribution to this analysis of the current and future evolution of European territories (countries, macro-regions, regions or urban areas), the Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (DG JRC) of the European Commission (EC) has developed the Land-Use-based Integrated Sustainability Assessment (LUISA) Modelling Platform. Based on the concept of ‘dynamic land functions’, LUISA has adopted a novel approach towards activity-based modelling and endogenous dynamic allocation of population, services and activities.
This report illustrates how European cities could potentially evolve over the time period 2010-2050, according to the reference configuration of the LUISA modelling platform, on the basis of a collection of spatial indicators covering several thematic fields. These spatial indicators aim to improve our understanding of urbanization and urban development processes in Europe; explore territorial dimensions of projected demographic and economic changes, and finally examine some key challenges that urban areas are or may be exposed to. Some of the key findings of this report are given below:
- The proportion of the population living in cities, towns and suburbs is higher in the EU than in the rest of the world. According to the LUISA forecasts, the urban proportion will continue to increase up to 2030; subsequently slow down, and reach a relatively steady state by 2050.
- In 2010, 65% of the EU population were living in Functional Urban Areas (FUA, the city and its commuting zone). This figure is expected to reach 70% by 2050. The total EU-28 population is expected to grow by 4.6%. Most of this population growth will occur particularly in FUA which will grow by an average 14%.
- As of 2010, the amount of artificial areas per inhabitant in the EU-28 was estimated as 498 m2: it becomes 539 m2 in 2050 with an 8% increase. Although there is not a unique spatial pattern, land take tends to start peak at 5 km distance from the city centre. This is due to the fact that land is often less available for development within city centres and that the majority of land take therefore will occur firstly in the suburbs and then in rural areas.
- By 2050, potential accessibility – as measure of economic opportunities - will be higher in the urban areas of north-western Europe, while it will not improve in lagging European regions. Urban form has a considerable impact on average travelled distances and thus potentially on the energy dependence of transport.
- Green infrastructure is mainly located at the periphery of urban areas. Its share per person is generally low or very low in most of the European cities, with few exceptions. Green infrastructure per capita in FUA shows a general trend towards a decrease across the EU-28 (by approximately 13%) between 2010 and 2050.
- Larger cities tend to have higher average flood risk, especially due to the higher sensitivity in terms of potential human and physical losses.
The analysis herein presented is part of a wider initiative of DG JRC and DG REGIO aiming to improve the management of knowledge and sharing of information related to territorial policies, such as those concerning urban development. In this framework, the work will be further developed, covering the following main elements:
- Development of the European Urban Data Platform, providing a single access point for data and indicators on the status and trends of European urban areas;
- Updates of the LUISA configuration, to account for new socio-economic projections;
- Support to the development of the EU Urban Agenda and related initiatives;
- Provision of evidence-based support for the evaluation of territorial policies in particular to proof the role of cities in the implementation of EU priorities.