Urenio Watch Watch: Intelligent Cities / Smart Cities

Reinventing the City to Combat Climate Change ­

How the world’ s cities develop their infrastructure over the next 30 years will determine the future path of global warming, according to a study conducted for the WWF. The study analyzed data on population, environmental measures, construction and infrastructure investments, and the best practices that successful cities use when tackling the challenge of sustainability.

Nearly 80 percent of carbon dioxide emissions ‘” the main cause of global warming ‘” already emanate from cities, and that number is expected to grow as the world’ s population moves toward the 9 billion mark and congregates increasingly in urban centers. Depending on how we develop and manage our urban infrastructures during the next three decades, cities could become either a force for environmental destruction or a primary source of ecological rejuvenation.

To achieve the latter result, the US$350 trillion to be spent on urban infrastructure and usage over the next 30 years will have to be directed towards low to zero carbon emissions, particularly in the world’ s small but fastest-growing cities and developing nations, where the largest impacts can be made. There are three prerequisites for this effort:

  • Cities must adopt aggressive energy reduction goals and best-practice approaches to urban planning.
  • Innovative financing strategies are needed to provide $20 trillion to $30 trillion in funding for additional up-front capital costs, with developed nations working together to assist developing nations in their low-carbon urban infrastructure initiatives.
  • The latest technological advances must be utilized to support and enable the planning, construction, and usage of urban infrastructure in all cities.

The latest issue (No60, Autumn 2010) of strategy+business (s+b) magazine expanded on this analysis by interviewing city officials in different regions about their experiences as they implemented policies to improve planning, technology adoption, and investment. The authors then identified clear success factors. The most successful cities are those that combine efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the future with a focus on improving livability for their citizens today. They also take a long-term view in formulating plans and policies, and work to make them relevant to their own particular situations. The cities described in this article are far-flung and have vastly different populations and resources, and none of them have a perfect record in pursuing sustainability. But they share a commitment to reshaping our common urban future and exploring the opportunities that will arise. They are the pathfinders that all cities ‘” especially the fast-growing categories ‘” can and must learn from.

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