Smart cities can lower carbon emissions

Read time 2min 50sec

Using smart city technologies, it is possible to cut 90% of emissions from cities across the globe.

This is according to a new report by the Coalition for Urban Transitions, which shows national governments that invest in low-carbon smart cities can enhance economic prosperity, make cities better places to live and rapidly reduce carbon emissions.

The report offers case studies from around the world where national and local governments have worked together to transform their cities for the better within two or three decades.

It finds that implementing low-carbon measures in cities would be worth almost $24 trillion by 2050 and could reduce emissions from cities by 90%.

“Cities are engines of growth, innovation and prosperity,” says António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations.

“This report shows how the right investments can build sustainable and liveable smart cities and communities that will help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the objectives of the Paris Agreement. It is possible and realistic to realise net-zero urban emissions by 2050. But to get there, we will need the full engagement of city governments combined with national action and support.”

The report comes as SA is also riding the smart city wave. During his State of the nation Address, president Cyril Ramaphosa shared his vision of a new South African city driven by smart technologies.

“National governments with the vision to invest in smart, sustainable cities today will see great returns on their investment,” says Lord Nicholas Stern, professor of economics and government at the London School of Economics.

“Zero-carbon cities will offer countries a competitive advantage as they seek to attract global talent and investment. Countries that do not pursue the transition to zero-carbon cities, on the other hand, face staggering costs of inaction. High-carbon systems will become unprofitable or inoperable as markets and regulations evolve, and the result will be stranded assets and workers left behind as industries fail or relocate.”

The report also demonstrates that in addition to the economic benefits, compact, connected and clean cities provide a higher standard of living and greater opportunity for all.

Investments in low-carbon measures in cities could support 87 million jobs annually by 2030, it notes, adding these measures will also reduce choking air pollution, cut chronic traffic congestion, and improve worker productivity.

It also points out that urban populations are growing fast, and trillions of dollars will be invested in urban infrastructure in the next decade.

“National governments must seize this brief window of opportunity, as decisions made about cities in the next decade will put countries on a path to prosperity and resilience – or decline and vulnerability,” says the Coalition for Urban Transitions.

The organisation stresses the need for a zero-carbon urban transition is immediate, and the costs of inaction could be devastating.

It urges governments to remove land use and building regulations that limit higher, liveable density; as well as ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles; and adopt green alternatives to steel and cement.

Governments must also fund and finance sustainable urban infrastructure, it notes, adding that examples include eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels.

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