The world’s urban population will reach 4.9 billion by 2030. For growing cities to be habitable, significant improvements will need to be made to their infrastructure systems, such as those related to water, transportation, healthcare and energy. We also know that sustainability in this context will require investing in legal frameworks, public policy and human rights. GE invests in both physical and social infrastructure in order to provide systemic solutions to the world’s complex challenges.
Urbanization and emerging markets
While the economic outlook for emerging markets may fluctuate in the short term, the demographic trends are clear. Within the next two decades, a majority of the populations in all developing regions in the world will be living in urban areas. Improvements in urban infrastructure must keep pace with this growth, through access to water, energy, healthcare, transportation and jobs, in order to prevent increases in poverty and social instability. The urbanization trend has significant effects on ecosystems as population growth and wealth increase energy use, which in turn drives climate change. Therefore, sustainable growth means that infrastructure systems must be designed holistically. Our commitment to efficiency and efficient products seeks to address this challenge head-on by providing an innovative foundation for tomorrow’s cities so people can live productive and healthy lives.
Growth amid resource constraints
In order to provide fuel, power, housing and transportation for these growing populations, an increasing supply of material resources will be needed to create the necessary infrastructure. The challenges presented by resource limitations also create opportunities to build new systems with resource-efficient materials and recover more resources from waste products. Energy-efficiency is one way to achieve this, but improved resource productivity across a range of inputs is also needed. It is clear that over the next two decades the demand for basic materials will increase, while the supply will decrease and extraction of materials will become increasingly difficult. This scarcity needs to be scrutinized to ensure that the procurement of basic materials does not exacerbate the challenges but rather protects ecosystems and promotes social stability.
Fueling economic growth
With world energy consumption set to rise 40% by 2030, our global energy systems are changing fundamentally, making our decisions about fuel more complex and more important than ever. We are committed to developing clean and renewable technologies, which are gaining ground in the marketplace, while petroleum will remain the backbone of our global fuel use for decades to come. We must continue to make smart decisions about current fuel choices while producing low-carbon power for the world’s developing regions through newer and more-efficient energy solutions. As planning for and managing energy sources and costs become more difficult, these drivers can create a market and an opportunity for GE to help our customers become more energy-efficient, and help them meet growing demand more sustainably. Our ecomagination effort is critical to imagining and building innovative solutions to today’s environmental challenges while driving economic growth.
Infrastructure of all kinds is needed to support growing economies
Achieving sustainability in this context requires identifying and responding to the challenges faced by customers, communities and key stakeholders in our global markets. This includes engaging on public policy, supporting the protection of human rights, supporting the education needs of a growing workforce and promoting adequate legal frameworks. To advance these efforts, we are focused on offering systemic solutions for emerging markets through our products and through our support of public policy, education and partnerships that help create an environment where sustainability can take root. In the policy realm, this means supporting ideas that broaden alternative-energy options to meet the growing energy demand, such as GE’s alliance with the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. We have implemented a number of programs to ensure respect for human rights and their promotion throughout business operations, further supporting social and economic stability. And our rule-of-law efforts in emerging markets—providing legal education to better enforce laws—help to level the playing field and promote stable, durable economic growth.