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The Green Revolution: How European Smart Cities are Tackling Climate Change
The Green Revolution is in full swing across Europe as smart cities rise to the challenge of tackling climate change. These urban areas, equipped with advanced technology and innovative solutions, are leading the charge in reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainable living.
In the heart of Europe, cities are harnessing the power of technology to create a more sustainable future. They are integrating digital technology into urban infrastructure to improve the quality of life for their residents while simultaneously reducing their environmental impact. This is achieved through a variety of methods, including the use of renewable energy sources, efficient waste management systems, and advanced transportation solutions.
One of the most notable examples of this green revolution is Copenhagen, Denmark. The city has set an ambitious goal to become carbon neutral by 2025. To achieve this, Copenhagen has implemented a wide range of initiatives, such as the installation of wind turbines, the promotion of cycling as a primary mode of transportation, and the creation of green roofs to absorb rainwater and reduce heat.
Similarly, Stockholm, Sweden, is making strides in its quest to become fossil fuel-free by 2040. The city has invested heavily in renewable energy, particularly in the form of biofuels generated from waste. Stockholm also boasts an extensive public transportation system that runs largely on renewable energy, further reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
In Spain, the city of Barcelona is leveraging the power of technology to create a more sustainable urban environment. The city has implemented a smart grid system that allows for more efficient energy use and distribution. Additionally, Barcelona has introduced a comprehensive waste management system that includes the use of sensors to monitor waste levels and optimize collection routes.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the city of Amsterdam is pioneering the use of electric vehicles. The city has installed numerous electric vehicle charging stations and offers incentives for residents to switch to electric cars. Amsterdam also encourages the use of bicycles and public transportation, reducing the reliance on fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
These European smart cities are not only reducing their own carbon emissions but also setting an example for other cities worldwide. They demonstrate that it is possible to integrate advanced technology into urban infrastructure in a way that improves the quality of life for residents while also reducing environmental impact.
However, the green revolution is not without its challenges. Implementing these changes requires significant investment and planning. Cities must also work to ensure that these advancements are accessible to all residents, regardless of income level. Despite these hurdles, the progress made by these European smart cities is promising.
The green revolution in European smart cities is a testament to the power of innovation and technology in the fight against climate change. By harnessing renewable energy, promoting sustainable transportation, and implementing efficient waste management systems, these cities are making significant strides towards a more sustainable future. As the world continues to grapple with the realities of climate change, the lessons learned from these smart cities will be invaluable in shaping our global response.
In conclusion, the green revolution is transforming cities across Europe, turning them into bastions of sustainability and innovation. These smart cities are leading the way in the fight against climate change, proving that with the right technology and forward-thinking policies, a sustainable future is within our grasp.
The UN 2023 Water Conference in New York set the stage for a global community united in its resolve to achieve ‘Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation for all by 2030’. With discussions spanning the UN Water stage and accompanying events like the New York Water Week, participants from multiple sectors shed light on various themes critical to realizing sustainable water security amid the changing climate. As Arcadians committed to sustainability and improving quality of life, we joined in the discussions, sharing insights from our water resilience projects. Here’s a reflection on the takeaways and areas we must consider together to propel the agenda.
1. Integrated and inclusive solutions: singularly focused on bridging water and humanity
The water crisis is more than a resource challenge; it’s a social crisis affecting billions worldwide.1 This critical issue was central to the discussions and events at the UN Water Conference. Marginalized groups, including women and girls who face specific issues related to hygiene and domestic pressures2, bear the brunt of the lack of clean water and sanitation services.
To ensure our water systems are inclusive in the long term, they must be affordable, safely managed, geographically accessible and adapted for disadvantaged groups.3 Projects like Resilient NJ in the US demonstrate the importance of involving marginalized communities in decision-making and implementation processes to ensure we’re truly meeting the needs of all community members when addressing climate resilience.
‘Systems thinking’ is also key. By recognizing the interconnectedness of water-related issues like resource sustainability, biodiversity impact and service accessibility, this approach promotes collaboration among utilities, governments, communities and other stakeholders to navigate competing values and make informed decisions.
For example, our Shelter team in Mozambique learned how floods in the area presented both risks and benefits to the community, helping the team to advise on solutions that protected residents and preserved livelihoods. In Cameroon, we learned that prohibiting activities along the Dibamba River would disconnect communities from their cultural connection to this important landmark. Given this, we collaborated on a permitting system that both promotes responsible engagement and helps preserve cultural ties.
WITH and FOR communities is what we do as Arcadians — from Local Sparks initiatives by our colleagues in their own hometowns, such as the Pumps for Life in the Philippines, to maximizing impact in countries with the most need for community support as seen in our Shelter missions in Mozambique, Cameroon and Kenya. It’s important to see the bigger picture to assess where we can make the biggest impact.
Global Shelter Program Manager and Senior Project Leader for Resilience
2. No one is an island: partnerships pay off
The water crisis is a complex puzzle that cannot be solved alone. Collaborative efforts such as public-private partnerships mobilize diverse talent, promote agile working frameworks and enable innovative finance structures to maximize outcomes. The 7 Square Endeavour in Rotterdam exemplifies the power of multi-stakeholder collaborations, serving as a groundbreaking success and inspiration for other cities with similar climate goals.
Universities and the tech sector also contribute significantly by developing the science and future capabilities for water optimization needs. This was evident in the Pratt Institute’s ‘Condensations, parts 01|02|03’ event participated by some of our leaders.
The Pratt Institute’s program, which included an AI workshop, was an absolute top session with students, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and local community groups. We shared our insights to prepare engineers for climate challenges, with many of the students showcasing the potential AI has to offer. I can’t stress enough the importance of these knowledge-sharing sessions in scaling our water solutions, while also equipping the next generation of professionals to find their calling in this important space. Our collective futures depend on it!
Arcadis Vice President, Director for Climate Adaptation North America
Leveraging tech capabilities to provide easy access to information is also key. Together We Walk, for example, is an app we developed collaboratively for the UNWC participants. Through an immersive experience, it offers insights into the history of New York’s water works. The app has been updated to include Water Talks, a podcast produced by the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and Water Management which features insightful conversations with key players in the water industry.
Together We Walk presents Water Talks
A podcast hosted by Tracy Metz and featured in the Arcadis Together We Walk app. Download it to start streaming.
Like so many cities, New York has done a phenomenal job over the last 50 years of reclaiming its waterfront. We are now very much a water-oriented city.
Chief Climate Officer of New York
3. Actionable data: making bigger waves of change
Data enables better predictability, communication, engagement and decision-making. The time is now to embrace tech innovations such as digital twins to accelerate a water-positive future.
Arcadis Global Director for Water Optimization
Data drives progress. To accelerate solutions, we must move beyond collecting raw data and focus on extracting actionable insights that guide immediate decision-making. Utilizing data analytics, as demonstrated by the Arcadis Non-Revenue Water Digital Twin platform, helps detect water infrastructure anomalies and prevent significant water loss. Similarly, the 50L Home coalition highlights the potential of water conservation and reuse, demonstrating how consuming just 50L per person per day can prevent water scarcity crises while still enabling a comfortable lifestyle.
We are working to bring the 50L vision to the Netherlands, where the narrative of water abundance is changing. Through collaborations with local players and sharing actionable insights, we aim to change behavioral choices to conserve and reuse water in households and businesses.
Arcadis Senior Director for Resilient Cities and UK Climate Adaption Lead
4. ‘Novel’ to ‘normal’: making nature-based solutions mainstream
Biodiversity serves as our most powerful defense against climate change, safeguarding our water supply. Nature-based solutions (NBS) that restore and enhance it, such as the Marker Wadden wetland restoration in the Netherlands, offer a way forward.
In some cases, NBS alone may not fully meet the requirements. Integrating green and gray infrastructure, as shown by the Living Breakwaters in New York, combines the strengths of natural and built structures to effectively mitigate storm waves. The benefits are manyfold, spanning economic, ecological and social aspects.
During our panel discussion hosted by Ecoshape, to which Arcadis has been a long-time partner, we highlighted the importance of projects like the Living Breakwaters to build resilience against major events like Superstorm Sandy. Coastal communities can learn from the enablers of this project to upscale NBS in their own areas: using a systems approach, applying familiar NBS concepts and driving public engagement and participation, to name a few.
Arcadis Global Director for Climate Adaptation
Urban coastal communities can also benefit from a circular water economy, as shown by the One Water project in Santa Monica Bay, California. By diverting urban runoff for treatment and reuse, this holistic strategy increases potable water supply, reduces public health threats through improved beach water quality and enhances resilience against weather extremes like heat waves.
And though steadily declining, mangroves and coral reefs, too, sequester substantial amounts of carbon and serve as buffers against storm surges. The need to restore these natural defenses cannot be overstated.
To scale up its implementation, we must change our mindsets about NBS and green-gray integrations from being a novelty into becoming the norm. Businesses, investors and water utility sectors must integrate these approaches into their planning and design considerations throughout project lifecycles.
5. Role of corporates in shaping the water future
As major water users4, corporations have a responsibility to tackle the water crisis. Reflecting on these key considerations in planning water-related projects will help create resilient and sustainable systems:
Partners for shared capabilities, finance models and approaches focused on equity and inclusion
Digital tools that provide actionable insights for efficient decision-making
A nature-based or integrated solution over usual business practices.
At Arcadis, we see concrete goals as a pathway to the possible. Echoing Global President for Resilience Heather Polinsky’s speech at the UN Water stage, we are committed to achieving gender balance and diversity within our workforce, with a target of 40% women and a focus on underrepresented minorities. We also commit to developing equity-focused frameworks that minimize environmental impacts on communities in every water project. What commitment will you be making?
The Water Environment Federation shares Arcadis’ passion for building a diverse workforce to sustainably solve water challenges to improve quality of life for all. No one entity has all the answers or solutions. By working together, we can impact real change.
Water Environment Federation President and Arcadis Senior Vice President, North America Wastewater and Water Sustainability Leader
Together, we want #ClimateAction
Realizing SDG 6 requires action from all fronts. Using digital tools to inform and shape positive perceptions, engaging marginalized groups in planning and implementation processes, and including the private sector in funding mechanisms all work toward more equitable and inclusive water solutions that deliver benefits for both people and planet.
There’s always a reason for pessimism in this world. But luckily, there is always a reason for optimism. And it’s a choice you can make as a human being, you can make as an organization or a coalition, and you can make as an institution or a politician. And that choice is on yourself.
Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Netherlands
Together, we talk. In our upcoming Thought Leadership Paper on Droughts and Water Scarcity, these lessons learned are further addressed considering the arguably greatest single current threat from climate change: droughts, often resulting in water scarcity. In this inspiring paper we talk with sector leaders, stakeholders, and experts on problems they face, best practices they apply and the attitude, leadership, and collaboration that is required for successful implementation.
Main author: Piet Dircke, Arcadis Global Director for Climate Adaptation
It’s not often that the UK feels as hot as the central Sahara, but there were certainly a few days in the summer of 2022 when that was the case. Such heat waves can occur when the Sahara arrives on our doorstep on the back of unusual winds. How do these events work and what can we expect from them in the future?
Heat waves are made in several ways, starting with intense sunshine. But as the early weeks of the summer of 2023 in the UK have shown, you can have noticeably cool air and bright, near-peak summer sunshine at the same time.
What really raises the temperature is the importing of heat from somewhere else. That process is often very efficiently carried out by the wind and that somewhere is the Sahara, when a southerly wind blows for long enough. We have come to call these events African plumes, or sometimes Iberian plumes as you may have heard them described in recent weather forecasts. They only visit the UK a few times a year.
Where plumes come from
African plumes are characterised by a hazy atmosphere laden with dust from the Sahara – the biggest source of that material anywhere on the planet come the summer months in the northern hemisphere.
Very large particles of dust are raised from the desert surface by gusts blowing over hundreds of kilometres, produced by the outflow of energy from thunderstorms. The big bonus following the arrival of this air in the UK is very colourful sunsets, as the setting rays are scattered by the dust, leaving only the red colours of the more elusive longer wavelengths of light for us to see.
While the process of importing heat from afar might sound exotic, it isn’t really. That is exactly what the weather is geared to do. Every day the Earth’s atmosphere has to respond to a never-ending problem of being inundated by an unfathomable amount of energy from the sun and to make things interesting, that energy is unevenly distributed so that some regions, such as the tropics and subtropics receive lots and other regions, notably the high latitudes and polar regions, very little.
Outside the tropics, the number one method for sorting out that discrepancy in energy is to move heat in the winds. In the northern hemisphere, winds from the south are warm and those from the north cool. A constant supply of cool northerly wind has been a key reason why decent June sunshine hasn’t raised temperatures just yet this summer. By crossing latitudes, cool winds going south and warm winds going north help to even up the problem of uneven heating from the sun.
At the latitudes of the UK, weather systems transport more than 3 petawatts of heat polewards. That is about 300 times the installed electricity generation capacity worldwide. If the climate system is so good at carrying out this heat transport, what is it that makes the African plume events infrequent?
First, to line up a wind which blows all the way from the Sahara to the UK takes a special configuration of pressure systems. No one low or high pressure system is quite big enough to do this on its own. And second, that configuration has to stay in place for at least three days because the wind has to travel the better part of 3,000 km.
Assuming those things are to hand, the UK can experience Sahara-like conditions. Of course, the temperature of the wind will be modified as it makes its journey, in this case, cooling slightly the further it gets from the furnace of the Sahara. But that cooling process is much less efficient than you might think. Air retains the conditions at its origin quite stubbornly, and crossing the hot Iberian Peninsula as African plumes have often done in the past – a part of the world which is warming steeply as a result of climate change – doesn’t help.
What the future has in store
Will warming in the UK in future decades result in more African plumes? Well, here’s the surprise. Meticulous work by the Met Office which involved slicing up British weather into 30 different types showed that three out of four of the patterns which can generate southerly winds from the overheated Sahara are actually projected to become less frequent in future, and only one (a southerly wind driven by a high pressure system over Scandinavia) is expected to increase.
Likewise, the persistence or longevity of those weather patterns (and remember, to get the Saharan heat to the UK requires it persisting for three days or more) decreases for three out of four patterns, again only increasing in the case of the Scandinavian high. Meanwhile, there are also weather patterns which can transport heat from central Europe to the UK. And the Met Office work shows that these patterns are set to increase in frequency in the future – and also extend into the autumn months.
Dry soils over Europe reinforce the heat-making pressure pattern. Sunshine warms a dry surface much more readily than a wet one. So Europe is a source of intense heat for Britain too, with temperatures not far off those of the Sahara.
This plume of heat forecast for early June is a good example. We might lose those striking sunsets made of Saharan dust, but the heat is here to stay.
A circular economic model can help solve the environmental challenges created by our built environment – water, waste and power systems, transport infrastructure and the buildings we live and work in. A circular economy involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling materials and products for as long as possible.
Circular economy principles have gained recognition from all levels of government in Australia. But there’s a big gap between acknowledgement and action. Progress towards systemic change has been very limited.
A new report by university and industry experts lays out a roadmap to a circular economy. Those working in the sector reported the top three barriers as: a lack of incentives, a lack of specific regulations, and a lack of knowledge. The top three enablers were: research and development of enabling technologies, education of stakeholders, and evidence of the circular economy’s added value.
So what are the world leaders doing?
Extensive research for the report drew on real-world experiences, including a survey and interviews with stakeholders. The report offers practical recommendations to drive the transformation to a circular economy, with examples from global front-runners.
The first recommendation is to learn from these nations. Most are in Europe.
A leading example is the Netherlands’ “Cirkelstad”. This national platform connects key players in the transition to a circular economy in major cities. It provides a database of exemplary projects, research and policies, as well as training and advice.
Cirkelstad highlights the importance of broad collaboration, including research organisations. One outcome is the City Deal initiative. It has brought together more than 100 stakeholders with the shared goal of making circular construction the norm. They include government bodies, contractors, housing associations, clients, networks, interest groups and knowledge institutions.
We rarely see such collaboration in Australia. Connections between government, research and industry practices have been weak. Our universities compete fiercely.
In Denmark and Sweden, rigorous regulations have been effective in promoting circular practices. Denmark has incentives for the use of secondary materials such as recycled brick. It also promotes designs that make buildings easy to disassemble.
In Canada, Toronto is notable for its proactive approach. Measures include a cap on upfront carbon emissions for all new city-owned buildings.
Test beds and pilot projects have proven effective, too. A good example is the UK’s Waste House.
Waste House was built using more than 85% waste material from households and construction sites. Yet it’s a top-rated low-energy building. The project is an inspiration for architects and builders to challenge conventional construction methods and embrace circular practices.
Much of the focus of Finland’s circular economy initiatives is on construction and urban planning. Various policy tools and incentives encourage the use of recycled or renewable materials in construction. The renovation of Laakso hospital in Helsinki is a notable example.
Strategic zoning of public spaces can also be used to bolster circular economy activities. An example is the repurposing of urban land for activities such as waste sorting.
How can Australia create a circular economy?
Australia has been slow to adopt such measures. There are voluntary schemes, such as Green Star, that include emission caps for buildings. However, Australia lacks specific, well-defined requirements to adopt circular economy practices across the built environment sector.
Our report’s recommendations include:
develop metrics and targets to promote resource efficiency
adopt measurable circular procurement practices for public projects
provide incentives for circular practices
establish technical codes and standards that foster the use of secondary products.
The report finds funding for collaborative projects is badly needed too. Regrettably, the Australian built environment is not seen as a research funding priority. But more funding is essential to foster the innovation needed to make the transition to a circular economy.
Innovation can help us reconcile the public demand for spacious homes with sustainable construction practices. We can achieve this through a mix of strategies:
moving towards modular construction techniques
creating incentives to adopt circular design principles
making adaptive reuse of existing structures a priority
designing multi-functional spaces that makes the most of resources.
Integrating circular economy principles into education and training at universities and schools can embed a culture of innovation. Equipping students with this knowledge and skills will enable the next generation to drive change in our built environment.
Currently, there are few Australian-based training programs that focus on the circular economy. And available courses and programs overseas are costly.
There is also a need to promote inclusivity in the built environment sector. Circular solutions must incorporate cultural considerations.
By embracing the above strategies, Australia can foster a harmonious balance between cultural values, environmental sustainability and efficient resource use.
Collectively, these initiatives will lay the foundation for a circular economy in the built environment sector. The growing need for housing and infrastructure underscores the urgency of achieving this goal in Australia. Ultimately, consumers, industry and the environment will all benefit.
Digitisation could turn electricity into a worldwide network – tech expert
The image above is about the Electricity distribution system, cables to the system, red electric wires, industrial environment
Referencing the Rubik’s cube, Edwin Diender, Chief Innovation Officer: Global Electric Power Digitalisation Business Unit, Huawei Technologies, Thailand, said each cube represents something or someone.
He was speaking on the second day of Enlit Africa 2023, focusing on the theme, Find the Right Technologies to Power the Global Energy Transition.
A cube that contains all the requisite components has the potential to link up the worldwide web of energy, he said.
“It is energy powering the construction of intelligent cities.
“The digital journey is passing phases. It’s a journey that follows programmes and initiatives and brought together as pieces through universal infrastructure.”
Diender said the conversion of analogue to digital is the first step to digitisation. In the energy sector, for example, analogue meters are replaced by smart meters, an item that is digitised and may be “the first step on this journey.”
The next step involves different building blocks that are brought together in a smart system that’s intelligent. This cube connects to many other cubes by a digital framework.
Diender said Huawei is looking at other forms of infrastructure, including electric power digitisation.
This would encompass finding the right technologies to help drive the digital journey for the energy industry.
Harnessing electricity transmission through digitisation
The company wants to “grab opportunities” like a software defined grid, intelligent power plant and green intelligent energy solutions. It wants to bridge industry requirements with digital technologies and finding the right technologies for industrial scenarios.
“The digital journey is a collaborative journey. We are working closely with customers worldwide in the electric power industry.”
He also cited technology solutions that can be used to protect power infrastructure – like an intelligent substation inspection system. Diender said the award-winning Yancheng Industrial Park was an example of Huawei looking at digital energy solutions.
The Yancheng Park project was jointly developed by the company and the Yancheng Power Supply Company, a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China.
“The project uses the triple-dimensional model for energy transformation, decarbonisation, and digital transformation.
“By focusing on the three scenarios of smart energy management, carbon management, and campus management, this project delivers real-time monitoring of energy equipment, strong carbon emission management, intelligent and convenient access control management, and intelligent and coordinated micro-grid control.
“The campus is powered by complementary energy sources and integrates its energy consumption system with on-campus terminals.
“The project is a showcase of an intelligent and low-carbon campus that contributes to a green, low-carbon, safe, and efficient modern energy system.”
Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
Traditional construction methods were no match for the earthquake that rocked Morocco on Friday night, an engineering expert says, and the area will continue to see such devastation unless updated building techniques are adopted.
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