By 2050, approximately two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities, up from just over half right now.
In order to accommodate the masses, it's important for urban centers to rev up their preparations for the future — through infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, policy-making, environmental protections, and other forward-looking strategies.
A new report from AT Kearney, a global business-consulting firm, ranks 128 cities based on their projected levels of importance and competitiveness in the future. The ranking combines cities' scores across various data points, including environmental performance, patents per capita, the number of business incubators and Fortune 500 companies, and quality of life.
In order to suss out the top cities of the future, AT Kearney calculated scores in four categories: personal well-being, economics, innovation, and governance.
These are the cities to keep an eye on in the coming years.
25. Los Angeles, United States
Los Angeles, which fell four spots on the ranking from 2016 to 2017, continues to be a center for business and technology. It's home to several tech giants, including Snap and SpaceX, and fosters the growth of future tech leaders through its startup incubators.
24. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver edged one spot up the list from No. 24 in 2016. That's because of its rise in tech entrepreneurship and the legal medical marijuana industry. In 2016, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced an agreement to invest CA$900 million in the city's transit infrastructure, which is likely to improve its scores in the years ahead.
23. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo has the largest population of college graduates. But its human capital wasn't enough to keep the Japanese capital from sliding four spots this year. In 2016, the governor of Tokyo resigned because of a spending scandal. Yoichi Masuzoe is the second leader of Tokyo's municipal government to leave office because of a financial scandal in recent years.
22. Düsseldorf, Germany
Düsseldorf lands at No. 22 on the ranking, rising eight spots from 2016. The seventh most populous city in Germany is known for its fashion industry and art scene. One company on the Fortune Global 500, food and drug store conglomerate Metro, calls Düsseldorf home.
21. Copenhagen, Denmark
Rising three spots from No. 24 last year, Copenhagen has been called an urban cyclist's paradise. Since the 1960s, the capital of Denmark has reduced car traffic and parking centers by making space on the roads for bicyclists and pedestrians. The environmentally friendly city also hosts a number of conferences on climate change and renewable energy.
20. Toronto, Canada
Entrepreneurship in Toronto has increased over the past year, and some financial experts suggest that the city is poised to become a new tech hub. The city is also often cited as an environmental leader — a law enacted in 2010 requires all new buildings, except individual homes, to have green roofs. The fourth largest city in North America fell from No. 18 in 2016.
19. Washington, DC
The US capital cracked the top 25 global cities list for the first time in 2017, rising eight spots. AT Kearney named leaders in five different dimensions, including business activity and human capital, and Washington, DC, took the top spot in political engagement — unsurprisingly.
18. Berlin, Germany
Berlin, which slumped four spots from No. 18 in 2016, is known for its eco-friendly policies. The rate at which the German capital is improving its environmental performance has slowed in recent years, though it will most likely remain a global leader in sustainability. Germany plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to 95% by 2050.
17. Atlanta, United States
In 2016, Atlanta saw increases in all three data sets that determine a city's potential for innovation: patents per capita, private investments, and university-sponsored incubators. Those improvements stalled over the past year, causing it to drop 11 spots from No. 6 in 2016.
16. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam has seen increases in private and foreign direct investment in recent years. Though the capital of the Netherlands fell eight spots from No. 8 in 2016, AT Kearney named the city a leader in freedom of expression. This constitutional right has been under the spotlight since 2014, when the Amsterdam court decided to prosecute a politician who openly criticized Islam.
15. Chicago, United States
Like Los Angeles and Toronto, Chicago has the potential to become a future tech hub. The third most populous city in the US has seen increases in private investments and entrepreneurship in recent years. Chicago hosts a whopping 12 Fortune Global 500 companies, including Boeing, United Continental, the Kraft Heinz Company, and the troubled retailer Sears.
14. Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva leads the pack in several metrics, including number of broadband subscribers and access to television news. The headquarters of Europe's United Nations is home to a variety of prominent international organizations, including the Red Cross and the World Trade Organization.
It climbed two spots from No. 16 in 2016.
13. Sydney, Australia
In 2016, Sydney showed the fastest rate of improvement in its environmental performance over the past five years of all the cities studied — tied only with Melbourne. That effort has turned the city into a global leader in that area. It slipped just one spot from No. 12 in 2016, and was named a leader once again in environmental performance and quality of bureaucracy.
12. Zurich, Switzerland
According to the report, Zurich is on track to be a future leader in the governance category, as is Geneva. That's partly because its bureaucracy functions well compared to other cities.
AT Kearney also named Zurich, the most populous city in Switzerland, a leader in the number of broadband subscribers. However, the city slumped two spots from No. 10 in 2016.
Singapore rocketed six spots up from No. 17 in 2016. AT Kearney named it a leader in a metric that measures the quality of its bureaucracy, in part because government officers are paid well and there is little tolerance for abuse of power as compared with other Asian cities studied.
10. Moscow, Russia
Moscow catapulted onto the top 25 global cities list in 2017, rising 25 spots from the year prior. The Russian capital saw improvements in economics as a result of growth in foreign direct investment. Moscow also registered comparative gains in the quality of its bureaucracy —recruiting women to political parties in recent years — though Russian President Vladimir Putin has concentrated power and ruled through executive authority since coming to office.
9. Stockholm, Sweden
In 2016, Sweden's capital city saw improvements in every indicator of innovation. This year, AT Kearney named Stockholm, the most populous city in the Nordic countries, a leader in freedom of expression. The city is home to an advocacy organization, the Stockholm Center for Freedom, that promotes the rule of law and fundamental rights.
8. Houston, United States
For the second year in a row, Houston was named a world leader in GDP per capita, which is an important factor in the report's calculations of personal well-being. The Texas city has also seen a rise in the number of patents filed per capita, an indicator of growth in entrepreneurship.
7. Munich, Germany
Munich may be known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration, but the German city is also a major tech hub in Europe. That's because of its strengths in research and development and innovative networking systems. In 2015, Munich was home to nearly 100,000 startups.
6. Melbourne, Australia
For the second year in a row, AT Kearney gave Melbourne the title of world leader in personal well-being. That means Melbourne, the second largest city in Australia, is improving a combination of infrastructure, GDP per capita, and foreign direct investment faster than any other city on the planet. It also ranked highly in increases of environmental performance.
5. Boston, United States
According to AT Kearney's calculations, entrepreneurship has flourished in Boston in recent years, though the city fell two spots from No. 3 in 2016. The historic city has a longstanding focus on biotech and some of the the world's best universities, including Harvard and MIT.
4. London, England
London held steady at No. 4 over the past year, thanks in part to its access to cultural experiences and workforce talent. London earned the top spot in six metrics used in the report's calculations, including number of top global services firms, number of news agency bureaus, sporting events, international travelers, and international student population.
3. Paris, France
Paris emerged as a challenger for major US cities in future importance and competitiveness, jumping 10 spots up from No. 13 in 2016. The French capital is increasing the number of business incubators it hosts and has had substantial growth in private investment from venture capital and private equity firms — both foreign and domestic.
2. New York City, United States
Between 2016 and 2017, New York City held steady at No. 2 on this list. Considered a world center of fashion, finance, media, and technology, the city posted high scores in business activity, political engagement, and human capital. New York City also leads the pack in capital markets and local institutions with global reach.
1. San Francisco, United States
This is the seventh year that AT Kearney has released this type of ranking. San Francisco, the tech capital of the world, consistently tops the list because of its strength in innovation.
San Francisco, located north of the Silicon Valley tech hub, is best positioned to attract and retain global capital, people, and ideas in the coming years, according to the report. The city saw increases in the number of patents per capita and business incubators launched.
But the concentration of power and wealth has its downside: San Francisco often ranks as the most expensive real estate market in America, with many long-timers forced out as techies move in.