Construction Kenya’s INSIGHTS advises as to how to build sustainable cities for the good of all. Still, in an era of rapid urbanisation, we witness increasing demand for additional housing, infrastructure, transport and green spaces. We can only agree on how all around the world thinkers can help tackle these challenges.
How to build sustainable cities
More than 66% of humanity projected to live in urban areas by 2050.
In the next thirty years, more than two thirds of humanity is projected to live in urban areas with most of the urban population growth expected to happen in lower income nations.
With that in mind, there is an urgent need for planners to ensure that urban areas are inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient enough to meet the anticipated population growth.
But what makes a city liveable? While there is no single magical bullet, cities can make themselves more habitable by adopting a range of social and technological measures.
Here are 10 ways to build more sustainable cities:
1. Clean energy
Although most cities can generate clean energy, their high level of power consumption means the metropolises are unlikely to be self-sufficient in terms of energy production.
However, cities can lower their carbon footprints by, among other things, converting sunshine into electricity; using timber from local forests to produce low-carbon energy for heating and electricity generation; and using solar to heat buildings and water.
Converting waste into energy is also a great step towards improving a city. The Indonesian city of Sodong, for example, has implemented an air-filled waste disposal system that uses pipes to suck trash from homes into processing centres that automatically sort the material to recycle and turn it into renewable energy.
London Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, uses “springy” tiles to harness the kinetic energy in foot traffic and convert it into electricity.
Such innovations can help cities to become more sustainable.
2. Efficient buildings
Buildings consume most of a city’s energy intake while emitting large quantities of carbon. Cities should encourage the design and construction of efficient buildings – which are often more cost-effective and functional compared to installation of costly devices for clean energy production.
Creating efficient buildings involves the insulation of walls, windows, and roofs, and operating energy-efficient lighting and heating systems.
Passive House in Darmstadt, Germany, is a great example of energy efficient building. The ultra-low energy house is so highly insulated that it requires no heating or cooling.
Singapore and New York have shown the world how small initiatives such as painting roofs white and planting trees can reduce city temperatures by up to 2°C – thereby cutting a city’s energy consumption.
In Scandinavian and eastern European countries, hot water for heating is distributed to buildings through insulated pipes underneath the streets. The water is heated using energy generated from extremely efficient power stations that generate both heat and electricity.
3. Efficient transportation
While vehicles, trains and aeroplanes facilitate the smooth running of a city, the transport systems can cause traffic congestion, poor air quality and gas emissions.
To minimise the number of cars on the road, some cities have formulated ideas that can be adopted in other parts of the world.
The Scottish city of Edinburgh, for example, has developed one of the largest car-sharing clubs in the UK, which allows members to use cars only when they need to.
Singapore and London have designed high-quality bus and underground rail systems, as well as low-emission areas where only electric vehicles are permitted.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, cycle commuting is highly encouraged with cyclists given priority at traffic lights throughout the city.
4. Urban agriculture
The food we eat comes with a carbon footprint, which is worse if the produce travels hundreds of miles to reach us. It is therefore a great idea to encourage urban farming to ensure local sourcing of foodstuffs.
Urban farmers such as US-based Aero Farms are already embracing vertical farming solutions to produce food in cities. Vertical farming produces crops on stacked layers, often on skyscrapers, instead of on a single layer in either an open field or a greenhouse.
Advances in lighting and automation, as well as other factors such as reduced use of pesticides, enable vertical farmers to make higher profits than traditional farmers.
5. Sharing spaces
City residents around the world are reducing the carbon footprint of consumption through sharing of resources. It is increasingly common to find inhabitants engaging in carpooling, lodging rental and shared ownership of facilities such as gyms and lounges.
6. Design for social integration
Once considered the world’s most dangerous city, Colombian city of Medellin has transformed itself by focusing on architecture and design.
The city has adopted the use of shared spaces and improved public transport to blur economic boundaries and create a sense of connection among its residents.
7. Mobility on demand
Smartphone-assisted traffic management and car routing can reduce time and fuel wasted trying to navigate through congested cities.
Likewise, self-driving vehicles and carpooling can increase efficiency by maximising use of vehicles and reducing the need for space to park idle cars.
8. Nature-based solutions
Nature-based solutions to urban problems can help cities to tackle climate change while reducing disaster risks.
New York City’s greened rooftops and streets that can better manage storm water runoff and improve urban climate are a great example of natured-based solutions.
Another great example is China’s introduction of the concept of ‘sponge cities’, cities with open spaces that can soak up floodwater and prevent disaster in ecologically friendly ways.
9. Pocket parks
In densely populated cities such as San Francisco, local authorities have put in place small green spaces that help to increase green cover while providing recreation space to residents.
Most pocket parks re-use spaces that previously served other purposes — for example, rehabilitated street parking spaces or a public right-of-way that was earlier used for transportation.
10. Pervious concrete
Pervious concrete is a mixture of cement, coarse aggregate, water and admixture, with little or no fine aggregates. It is designed to allow water to penetrate the asphalt for absorption by the earth. This can help cities to tackle flash floods and worsening quality of water in river courses and so on.
Hailed as one of the most promising sustainable material today, pervious concrete has outstanding potential to counteract these adverse impacts while providing necessary structural integrity, thus supporting continued urbanization.
Special Reports in Cities look to climate-friendly greenbacks to fund smart projects by Sue Weekes, News editor, Smart Cities World, is more and more evident all over the developed world. It is like a salvation tendency aimed at the assurance of a viable future. It is how the world chooses to respond in the coming years to avoid human activity-induced climate change that has massive repercussions for generations yet to be born.
Cities look to climate-friendly greenbacks to fund smart projects
With technology set to play a key part in the global recovery from the pandemic, we explore evolving funding methods that are helping cash-strapped cities get smart.
There is a certain irony in the situation that having stalled many smart city projects around the world in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to prove the catalyst for accelerating programmes via stimulus and recovery packages.
While technology doesn’t hold all the answers when it comes to helping cities recover and build back better, world leaders clearly recognise the important part it must play.
US president Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan outlined in March has been the most notable stimulus package to date and ticks many boxes when it comes to core to smart city areas: $100bn for broadband internet; $100bn for electric grid and clean energy; $174bn for electric vehicle incentives, $85bn for public transit, $50bn for disaster resilience of infrastructure; and $20bn for road safety.
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) pledged a similarly unprecedented package worth €1.8 trillion to help the continent recover, with the centrepiece of NextGenerationEU funding the Recovery and Resilience Facility. This will provide €672.5 billion in loans and grants available to support reforms and investments undertaken by EU countries. Its ultimate goal is to make European economies and societies “more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions”.
“Covid has slowed down many projects due to the paralysis in procurement processes,” says Alicia Asín, CEO of Libelium, which develops and deploys Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for a range of smart city applications. “Now we expect that NextGenEUrope funds to help incentivise and accelerate projects again. Those funds are a great tool to make a difference moving forward from proof-of-concept phase to production.”
These sentiments are echoed by Murali Krishnan, senior industry analyst at growth strategy and research firm, Frost & Sullivan, who also witnessed the abrupt halting of smart city infrastructure development as economic growth dwindled in several economies and governments were forced to reduce spending. “Government financing will continue to be the leading funding model globally as government stimulus programmes across major economies have been initiated to drive economic growth,” he says. “Such stimulus programmes include digitisation and technological spending complementing the rise of smart cities.
Government financing is ideal for projects that have low economic viability but strong social need
“For instance, China rejuvenated its ‘new infrastructure initiative’ post Covid, with announcements to increase investments across 5G, smart grids, data centres, and other smart city initiatives.”
Technology has come to many cities’ aid during the global pandemic and will be key to their recovery, but critical challenges that existed before the pandemic such as digital divides, climate change, congestion and poor air quality, haven’t gone away. As Michael Huerta, former acting US secretary of transportation and administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, who recently joined the board of directors of mobility analytics company StreetLight Data, points out proper consideration must now be given to how best to channel this money.
“In the transportation arena, the [United States] administration has talked about making smarter investments that not only address mobility needs, but at the same time help advance our climate and social equity goals,” he says. “This presents an opportunity to reimagine what we invest in and to talk about how smart city projects can address all three of these goals.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand for mobility, and I do expect an acceleration of projects overall. The key will be to address needs in ways that have broad support.”
Alongside stimulus funding, green banks and other more sustainable funding models are likely to become part of the mix. A green bank is a public, semi-public or not-for-profit institution that offers a variety of financial products focusing specifically on climate mitigation projects, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes.
The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is among those calling for a “green and just” recovery. In November last year, it urged leaders to explore the use of city green banks as a mechanism to deliver a Covid-19 recovery plan that prioritises the environment and local communities. Its step-by-step guide, Establishing a City Green Bank, is based on the experiences of major locally operating green banks.
“City-level green banks have the potential to deliver low-cost investment through a self-sustaining mechanism, offering long-term environmental, social and economic benefits for people,” said Claire Markgraf, head of financing of C40 Cities’ Sustainable Cities Initiative.
Banks are also launching greener and more socially responsible funding initiatives that aim to help the private sector fund smart city technologies. At the end of 2020, the United Overseas Bank in Asia launched the UOB Smart City Sustainable Finance Framework to make sustainable financing more accessible to companies that are helping to create smart cities.
The framework is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is supported through the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s green and sustainability-linked loan grant scheme.
Covid has slowed down many projects due to the paralysis in procurement processes
It sets out the criteria that the bank’s corporate and institutional clients must meet when accessing a range of products, from green- or sustainability-linked loans and trade finance facilities to other sustainable banking products. Under the framework, businesses must also be able to demonstrate how their activities promote a better quality of life for residents through renewable energy, green building construction, improved energy efficiency, green transportation, sustainable water and waste management and/or climate change adaptation.
Meanwhile, cities in developing countries around the world have seen the benefits of support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), set up in 2010. A critical element of the historic Paris Agreement and the world’s largest climate fund. it is mandated to support developing countries raise and realise their ambitions towards low-emissions, climate-resilient pathways. The GCF’s current portfolio features 173 projects around the world with a funding commitment of more than $8.3bn.
According to the Saigon Times, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is proposing a major $67.3m smart city project in Can Tho, a city located in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in which the GCF is involved. The report says finance will be sourced from an official development assistance loan of $32.9m from ADB, another loan from the GCF of $7.07m and the city’s reciprocal capital of $20.2m.
The report explains that Can Tho City, the investor of the project, will borrow the money while the Ministry of Finance will sign agreements for borrowing and using the ADB and GCF support on behalf of the government.
Smart city projects can, of course, be funded from multiple sources. Krishnan explains that these can be chosen during different phases of the project depending on a number of factors. “Project initiators must carefully choose funding mechanisms depending on risk appetite and return on investment expectations,” he says, adding: “Direct financing through government allocation or international grants is popular in developing regions, whereas more developed economies often rely more aggressively on revenue-based financing models to build infrastructure.
“Government financing is ideal for projects that have low economic viability but strong social need.
“Public and private partnership (P3) models vary in terms of agreement though they are found commonly in developing and developed regions as a means of financing.”
Huerta is a “big fan” of public-private partnerships and despite recent announcements about federal funding, believes it is important to continue to explore opportunities in this area: “This requires a lot of discussion between cities, investment partners and the larger community about shared goals and objectives, and being willing to hold everyone accountable for meeting them.”
Transit Wireless, a 5G, neutral host infrastructure provider of wireless, wireline and data-driven solutions to transit operations, has a long-standing public-private partnership with the New York City Metropolitan Transport Authority. In its recently launched white paper Infrastructure in Crisis: How P3 can save critical projects in a post-Covid World, it says P3s “fill budget holes” where cities have limited options to raise revenue. It contends that the P3s that work most successfully today are those that allow a win for all parties – the government entities, private partners and citizens – at a cost and risk model that is sustainable even during the worst fiscal times.
Technology has come to many cities’ aid during the global pandemic and will be key to their recovery
Typically, this sees burden of much of the financing shifting to the private partner. The P3 provides revenue opportunities to municipalities, for instance, advertising on free public wifi or generating revenue from a road toll. The provider also carries the responsibility for the performance of the infrastructure throughout its lifecycle.
The white paper highlights, though, that success of the P3 is reliant on the right mindset and behaviours, as well as a collaborative plan and understanding of the required outcome. “It is imperative that when entering a successful PPP, the public entity and the private entity view each other not as parties on opposite sides of the negotiating table, but as partners who work to achieve the overall goals,” says Melinda White, CEO of Transit Wireless. “The right plan accounts for contingencies should obstacles arise. When approaching a PPP, it is essential that the company truly understand and deeply connect with the needs of the agency and its operations.”
Going forward, White believes that federal support actually strengthens existing and future and create more opportunities for collaboration. “It will incentivise cities to move ahead with network infrastructure, partner with private companies, and commence the work to build connected communities.”
A Press Release in answer to the question such as ‘What are the Major Challenges that Smart Cities face?’ elaborated on by TechJuice gives us a good idea of what to expect in the future of all urban settlements throughout the world.
Smart cities are mushrooming across the globe. Countries are making use of technology, the defining factor of smart cities – to make gains in sectors of health, education, mobility, energy use and urban governance. While it is heralded as a game-changer by various stakeholders primarily due to its revolutionary working mechanisms, it has also received its fair share of criticism. Researchers claim that unequal access to technology coupled with unequal opportunities will create disparities, leading to social stratification. Nonetheless, the digitalisation of societies remains an undisputed truth. Yet, in order to reap the full benefits of technology and the subsequent adoption of smart cities, their challenges need to be discussed.
The challenges faced by smart cities are manifold, and their problems are multidimensional. Graana.com identifies the difficulties faced and provides an analysis of its barriers.
Assimilation of Knowledge
The main ingredient of smart cities is the use of technology. The assimilation of this knowledge for citizens will be a prominent challenge faced in the new dynamics of a smart city. The greatest threat to the citizens is the question of privacy and the quality of life where data related to the households and private information is concerned.
The introduction of technology in everyday life can be bliss as well as a curse. There is a chance that technological advancements will replace the work done by human resources causing unemployment and fragmentation of the social fabric. Moreover, it can further contribute to poverty and inequality. There are also chances that it will cause social stratification where people in urban and rural areas will be affected and marginalized differently. This will further contribute to inequality. In addition, the introduction of technology will severely impact the ageing population that is not receptive to new advancements. Their training will be time-consuming and cumbersome.
Provision of Services
The method of services provided will be a new area of concern. The employment of technological modifications is largely left to two channels: top-down or bottom-up. The top-down approach suggests that the implementation of sustainable mechanisms in smart cities are left to the large companies that have the resources and the technical know-how to successfully implement the assessments. The downside of this approach is that these top-down giants amass the power to act as monopolies which ultimately acts as a deterrent to creativity.
The bottom-up approach is the other viable solution. The approach suggests that the government makes use of small-scale technological hubs and other grassroots initiatives. The rationale behind this approach is that the grassroots have immense potential that can be untapped to enhance creativity and free-thinking. This will allow for creative solutions on multiple fronts. However, the weakness of this line of action is that the fragmented initiatives will be difficult to monitor and a cohesive action plan will be demanding to achieve. This will compel the government to take the center stage and resolve issues, if and when they arise.
The development of infrastructure is the backbone of the economy in today’s society. Developed infrastructure automatically translates into the wellbeing of its citizens. For the development of smart cities, it is imperative to develop the requisite infrastructure to sustain the developmental projects. However, most developed cities are already ensnared in challenges related to population growth and old infrastructure. The condition in some cities is abysmal. There is an absence of proper sewage systems, inadequate housing facilities and an underdeveloped road network.
With a move towards making cities more efficient and ‘smart’, there will be a need to develop the already underdeveloped infrastructure. The resources available to do that are already scarce, and the bureaucratic protocols to get approval are tedious. If approved, new technological devices are not welcomed by the people with open arms. It takes time for people to get accustomed to changes.
Since the concept of smart cities is a relatively new one, it is incumbent to conduct a strategic assessment of the steps undertaken to make cities more technologically advanced. For this purpose, assistance will be required to identify the problems faced and then develop and implement the best practices and methods to address the issues. It helps analyse the mistakes taken in the past and provide an opportunity to rectify them for the future. Moreover, it will aid in the assessment of the proposed solutions in order to check their viability.
It should be borne in mind that while developing the indicators for the usage during these strategic assessments, special attention should be paid to the indicators that will measure their effectiveness. It will ultimately give shape or define the characteristics or key features of a smart city. Furthermore, attention should be given to differing interests and ways should be formed to mitigate conflicts. For example, these conflicts may arise between sustainability factors such as the conflict between food production and biofuel or within sustainability factors such as a conflict between biodiversity and biofuel production.
An ESI ThoughtLab report on sustainable development goals in 167 cities, representing nearly 7 percent of the world’s population, found that the coronavirus has accelerated technology growth worldwide as planners, administrators and businesses consider the post-pandemic realities of urban centers. Claire Swedberg explains why and how IoT Growth in Cities was Accelerated by COVID-19.
Global Study Shows IoT Growth in Cities Accelerated by COVID-19
By Claire Swedberg
Analytics company ESI ThoughtLab (ESITL) has found that technology, including Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, is at the forefront as municipalities plan their COVID-19 pandemic recovery, along with sustainability initiatives. According to the company’s recent report, released this spring and titled “Smart City Solutions for a Riskier World,” COVID-19 served cities an unexpected stress test. The study found that cities are investing in technology-based solutions to meet sustainability development goals (SDGs) at an accelerated pace.
To make that transition possible, says Lou Celi, ESI ThoughtLab’s CEO, a dual effort needs to be made to ensure citizen support and cybersecurity for IoT rollouts. ESITL collaborated with a coalition of businesses, government agencies and academics to conduct the overarching research, which explored 167 cities in 82 countries on all continents, representing 526 million residents (6.8 percent of the world’s population). The organization studied and interviewed cities to learn about their SDG efforts, including their existing and planned use of IoT and other smart technologies.
The project, which launched in early 2020, took approximately a year to complete. This was accomplished during the pandemic, and tracking will continue going forward in order to compare data following the outbreak. The IoT plays a part in the study, with the researchers examining the intersection of technology and sustainability goals. “It was a real watershed study,” Celi says, and cities were found to be already well invested in SDG and smart-city solutions, with most seeking to accelerate their adoption.
The study focused on urban rather than rural areas. “More than half of the world lives in cities, and that’s where social and environmental issues require the most attention,” Celi says. The research team’s survey used a scoring methodology that allowed them to categorize cities by their progress against the United Nations’ 17 SDGs. Cities were categorized in three stages of SDG progress—implementers that were still in the early stages, advancers that were making progress, and sprinters that have made the most progress on SDGs—and about 22 percent of the cities studied were sprinters.
When gathering information, ESITL collected quality-of-life data from such sources as the World Bank, Numbeo, Spain’s University of Navarra and the IESE Business School. The organization also conducted interviews with urban leaders and experts. “To identify best practices and provide case studies, we had in-depth discussions with government decision-makers and business leaders in smart cities around the world,” Celi states. ESITL established a multi-disciplinary advisory board to review the results, which consisted of city leaders, corporate executives and academic experts.
The study found that while IoT and other technologies are already being adopted to meet SDGs, COVID-19 has punched the gas pedal, with 65 percent of cities interviewed indicating that the biggest lesson they learned during the pandemic was how crucial smart-city programs are for their future. “One thing that’s very clear is that the pandemic has led us into an undeniably digital-first world,” Celi states, adding, “We knew the digital economy was coming, just not this soon.”
Smart-city solutions already yield sensor data that drives intelligence, Celi says, ranging from traffic control to air-quality measurements and infrastructure management. Now, he reports, “Cities are upping the ante. They are adopting transformative technologies, the exponential ones like IoT, blockchain and AI [artificial intelligence], as they try to harness data.” The cities that are most advanced in the use of smart technologies and are achieving the most progress in meeting their SDGs are those described as Cities 4.0, which are gearing up for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Such cities are advanced in using smart technologies and data to drive their social, environmental and economic agenda. Some examples, the survey found, include Athens, Helsinki, Moscow, Philadelphia and Tallinn. All 20 of the 4.0 cities have made large investments in IoT and cloud-based technologies, while 84 percent said they are currently making large investments in the IoT. On average, the study found, cities currently use six types of data, including biometrics and behavioral data, and will be using seven in the next three years. Those at the forefront of adoption—the sprinters—are expected to increase some of the fastest growing digital technology sources to nine.
When asked if the pandemic has had a lasting impact on their planning, 69 percent of the respondents indicated they are reconsidering urban planning and the use of space. More than half (53 percent) said the pandemic has permanently changed how people live, work, socialize and travel in cities. For 36 percent, COVID-19 exposed the weaknesses in cities’ operational continuity capabilities.
“Cities have changed dramatically since the pandemic,” Celi says, “and we’re not going back. They’re going to be using technology to reposition their cities and their focus is going to be on SDGs.” Additionally, 65 percent of respondents reported that the pandemic has demonstrated how crucial smart-city programs are for a city’s future. “Cities’ use of the IoT, from interconnected devices, is already very high, but it will be growing even faster and converge with other digital technologies, such as cloud, 5G and edge computing.”
According to the study’s results, two key challenges must be considered as technology expands in cities: public investment and security. As technology is adopted, Celi states, “It must be done in a smart way for security, and with citizens onboard.” With regard to security, 60 percent of cities indicated they still have cybersecurity vulnerabilities with their technology deployments. Smaller cities are the least secure, he notes, with only 29 percent reporting that they are well-secured against cybercrime.
“We found cybersecurity was a very big issue,” Celi states. “IoT raises a lot of digital risk.” Bad actors could do damage with cyberattacks, he explains, and the incidence of such attacks rose by about 50 percent during the pandemic. “The lesson is that cybersecurity should not be an afterthought. It should be something adopted initially.”
According to Celi, the most successful deployments were those from which the public gained benefits, while also reducing concerns about privacy. Already, the use of technology during the pandemic has lowered the level of privacy worries as citizens grow accustomed to having more technology in their lives to solve common problems. Based on the survey results, he says, the public’s data-privacy concerns have yielded to the realization in the past year that digital solutions can improve safety and lifestyle. Still, he adds, without a concerted effort to include the public in technology deployments, privacy concerns can result, leading to mistrust.
Cities with high levels of citizen participation tend to be those with stronger communities and more empowered citizens, the study indicated. Those deemed sprinters used a variety of techniques to bring the public onboard, such as ensuring that disadvantaged populations were included in technology capture and use, as well as providing gamification and incentives. City employees need to be brought into the decision-making process as well, the research found, in order to make technology adoption successful and inclusive. Other potential headwinds ahead for SDG efforts may include regulations, finding the right partners and keeping pace with technology changes.
Going forward, Celi says, “Our big push is going to be ‘What’s next?’ What everyone wants to know is, ‘What’s Main Street going to look like in three years?'” ESITL plans to continue researching the SDG progress and technology use of cities as the pandemic ends. He offers some predictions in the meantime: Remote work will continue, he says, and that affects cities in numerous ways, ranging from transportation to the environment. “One of the lessons learned from the pandemic was that there are ways to run a city with less of a carbon footprint.” As COVID-19 eases, he adds, “I think there’s more of a social awareness that we have to be better at keeping people and the planet healthy and safe.”
The study found that cities have been making strides in meeting their SDG goals. “I wasn’t expecting that so many cities were already embracing SDGs,” Celi admits. “But I was happy to see the correlation between technology and the SDGs.” As efforts build to meet sustainability demands, the research indicated that the most successful deployment consists of a collaborative effort. City governments benefit from working with partners ranging from businesses, associations and universities to other cities, federal agencies and multilateral organizations. “We need to work together to find the solution. And through the enlightened use of technology, we can help make the world a better place.”
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM (WEF)’s Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer, Formative Content, wondering whether these 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future, came up with this snapshot picture of today’s urban context in which much of human life takes place.
The Image above of Keit Trysh is for illustration and is of Dubai.
These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future
A billion people live in a city with renewable energy targets or policies.
Cities contribute three-quarters of CO2 emissions from final energy use.
New report highlights some ways cities around the world are getting greener.
As urbanization continues apace, cities have an important role to play in helping curb greenhouse gas emissions and achieve Paris climate agreement objectives to limit global warming.
In a new report, REN21, a global body of scientists, governments, NGOs and industry, has highlighted some of the cities leading the way. Here are five of the most effective and innovative projects from around the world.
What is the World Economic Forum doing to ensure smart cities?
Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.
The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.
The World Economic Forum announced on June 28, 2019 that it was been selected to act as the secretariat for the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance.
Led by the World Economic Forum, the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance is the largest global initiative of its kind, with its 16 founding partners representing more than 200,000 cities and local governments, companies, start-ups, research institutions and non-profit organizations.
Together, the Alliance is testing and implementing global norms and policy standards to help ensure that data collected in public places is used safely and ethically.
Adelaide’s municipal operations have been powered entirely by renewable energy since July 2020. The city gets energy from wind and solar farms as part of a long-term commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2025.
Among the steps being taken to achieve this are energy-efficient buildings, initiatives to promote cycling and walking, and schemes to support the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles.
The city has also invested in energy storage technologies, including the Hornsdale Power Reserve. It is one of the world’s largest lithium-ion batteries, and allows for greater use of a variety of renewable energy sources.
Adelaide is also investigating the opportunity to harness biogas from wastewater treatment plants as an additional energy source.
Seoul, Republic of Korea
Seoul has a strategy to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 built around five key areas – buildings, mobility, forestry, clean energy, and waste management. On the path to 2050 it has two interim goals – achieving 40% emission reduction by 2030 and 70% reduction by 2040 (compared with 2005 levels).
The city also has measures in place to cut back its reliance on nuclear energy by adding solar capacity. One of the key challenges is finding sufficient space to install photovoltaic (PV) panels. To tackle this, it is identifying new installation sites on urban infrastructure, and providing subsidies for PV panels integrated into buildings.
Cocody, Ivory Coast
In 2017, Cocody released a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030. The city faces a particular struggle to achieve this because of rising energy demand driven by rapid urban development and economic growth.
The city has put in place a reforestation and carbon sequestration programme, under which more green spaces will be created and 2 million mangrove trees will be planted or restored.
Other initiatives include using solar energy to power large public buildings, installing solar lamp posts and traffic lights, and supplying households with PV power kits.
Older cars are gradually being removed from the roads and others are being fitted with catalytic exhaust systems to reduce pollution.
Malmö has made a name for itself as a sustainable city. The Western Harbour District has operated on 100% renewable energy since 2012, while the industrial area of Augustenborg has solar thermal panels connected to a central heating system.
The city plans to run entirely on renewables by 2030, up from around 43% in 2020.
Construction is under way on a geothermal deep-heat plant, which is expected to be operational in 2022. By 2028 it is hoping to have five of these geothermal plants.
Cape Town, South Africa
Coal is the dominant energy source in South Africa by some margin. The government wants to increase the share of renewable energy from around 8% in 2016 to 40% by 2030.
Emissions from transport are also a major problem for the city. It is exploring the use of biofuels in transport, and has run a pilot programme with locally made electric buses.
A surge of PV panel installations in the past decade means Cape Town had the highest concentration of registered rooftop solar PV systems nationwide in 2019. The city is also targeting greater use of solar-powered water heating systems in low-income areas.
Renewable energy provision at scale is also an option being seriously considered.
The United Nations (UN) celebrated on May 10th, 2021, the first edition of the International Day of the Argan Tree, an endemic tree in Morocco.
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