Did you know more than half the world’s population live in cities? Cities across the world play a central role in achieving net zero emissions – without intervention, we can expect increased greenhouse gas emissions, worsened air quality, energy inefficiency and so many more issues. Cities must take proactive measures to combat climate change and transition to sustainable practices to mitigate these risks. Thankfully, there’s a growing number of decarbonising GreenTech (green technologies) revolutionising our cities. Besides saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions, decarbonising cities bring multiple benefits to the people that live and work there, such as reducing energy bills, improving health, and creating ‘green’ jobs. There is a wealth of successful approaches that cities have taken to tackle climate change – let’s get stuck in!
1 – Barcelona
Over the past few years, Barcelona has been reinventing itself as a ‘Smart City’. A Smart City utilises information and communication technology to optimise urban functions. These include improving services and enhancing the quality of life for citizens with a focus on reducing environmental impact.
One of the most significant advancements they’ve made is through an LED-based street light system and a sensor network. LED lighting technology converts a higher percentage of electrical energy into visible light than traditional lighting systems, minimising energy wasted as heat. LEDs also consume less electricity, meaning fewer emissions are generated.
A central unit in the street enables lights to work together, and the sensors can adjust the lighting based on the presence of people and the time of day. By implementing this LED-based street light system, Barcelona has produced energy savings worth up to 30%.
2 – San Francisco
Did you know San Francisco is leading the way in waste robotics? The city’s primary waste service provider, Recology, has automated part of its sorting line with AI-programmed industrial robots to sort plastics. These cutting-edge robots have been estimated to reduce waste sent to landfill by 75% because they reduce instances of non-recyclable materials or contaminate recyclable materials with non-recyclable substances being mistakenly disposed. That’s a real game-changer in the waste management field!
Thanks to the robots, more items can be recycled or reused in the circular economy, avoiding carbon emissions that come from producing virgin materials and new products. In line with its commitment to sustainability, the city has pledged to reduce the amount of solid municipal waste disposed of in a landfill or by incineration by at least 50% by the end of this year.
3 – Delhi
Another city leading the way in decarbonisation policies is India’s capital. Delhi has an ambitious electric vehicle (EV) policy that came into effect in August 2020. The renewable energy policy has been set out to reduce carbon emissions by 5 million tonnes by 2024. By 2030, they are expecting to reduce by another 15 million tonnes. The move to EVs is fundamental in the movement away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles that release carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Since the launch of the policy, the number of EVs registered in Delhi has crossed the 100,000 mark making it one of the best decarbonising GreenTech solutions out there.
4 – Berlin
Keeping with the theme of transport, BVG, Berlin’s public transport operator, launched the Jelbi mobility service in 2019. The smartphone app has emerged as a pioneering platform that brings together public transport, car sharing, bikes, scooters, and taxis. The aim of the platform is to discourage people from using their cars.
Instead of multiple vehicles carrying one or two occupants, schemes like this can host a larger number of people and use less energy per person. Berlin has been voted number one across the board for their innovative public transport, and we can see why.
5 – Leeds
At Halston Group, we’re proud to call Leeds our home. The city has worked hard to retrofit energy efficiency into its buildings to cut carbon and raise living standards. A report by Economist Impact found that heat pumps are among the best decarbonising GreenTech in cities. They’re being used to replace fossil-fuel systems, like gas boilers. Heat pumps use electricity to extract heat from the air or ground and transfer it indoors for heating.
Leeds secured £37m from ERDF and government grants to transform 4,500 properties with smart technology and air source heat pumps. The city has committed to spending another £100 million to improve the energy of council properties by 2025. Once completed, the work to improve the energy efficiency of these homes will reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 5,000 tonnes and will have supported more than 1,800 jobs. Decarbonising heating systems is a major priority for the UK, and it’s great to see Leeds being a front-runner in utilising the technology available.
Decarbonising GreenTech: Coming to a City Near You
Despite these cities paving the way to a more sustainable future, there’s still a long way to go. With just under 30 years left to decarbonise before climate change is estimated to take full effect, we need to pick up the pace of adopting decarbonising GreenTech. It’s great to see these well-known cities leading the way – where’s next?
If you want to learn more about the innovative GreenTech available to support cities, have a read of our GreenTech whitepaper, ‘Entering the GreenTech Era’.