Climate-Smart Smart Cities

According to the estimations by UN-Habitat, about 64% of the world’s population shall be residing in cities by the year 2050. Cities as we all know, consume an enormous amount of resources and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has estimated that about two-thirds of global energy consumption and about 70% of the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions can be attributed to urban infrastructures.

The Indian population at the current growth rate is estimated to be 814 million in 2050 from the last count of 410 million in 2014 and about 7 megacities will have more than 10 million people each. This translates to a rise in energy consumption, degradation of forest/agricultural land, disturbed eco-system, water problems, problems of waste-management etc.

Assessing the Present Scenario:

Climate change has opened up cities to natural disasters/threats, such as elevated sea levels, floods droughts, rise in temperatures, heatwave etc. This, in turn, has also led to social impacts such as destruction of livelihood, health risks, death etc. One can take the example of Delhi, wherein the population explosion has given rise to urban sprawl and vehicular congestion, that has led to an increase in localized air pollution adding to CO2/NOx emissions.

According to Swiss Re, a global reinsurer, an estimated loss of $50 billion, occurred in Asia alone in the year 2016, due to floods, cyclones and other disasters; out of which only 8% were covered by insurance. Thus, the time for cities to lead the world towards a sustainable future by doing away with resource- intensive, inefficient methods of the past and becoming resilient/climate-smart is now.

On a fundamental level, a climate-smart transformation will require strategies that are city-specific, which will help in the reduction of the carbon footprint of a city and enhance its resilience to climate change via a mix of smart/affordable infrastructure and adaptable land-use.

Seeking Solutions:

Cities can leverage data analytics and use ‘predictive models’ for the assessment of potential risks related to climate vulnerabilities, such as erratic rainfalls, high-temperatures, Apart from this cities should also have a series of clearly demarcated’ low-carbon pathway’ interventions, that would base themselves around plausible issues like integrated solid waste management, efficient energy/water supply, the harnessing of solar energy, green infrastructure, smart grids etc. that could dissociate a city’s economic growth associated with the growth of GHG emissions.

Wise implementation and leverage of ICT, according to research, can enable 15% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. ICT can also bring about a transformation in value chains, for example, almost 70% of electricity gets wasted before reaching the end consumer. Technologies like smart grids/meters can deliver the energy more efficiently, creating a dramatic improvement in energy efficiency/consumption. Smart grids can also provide a vital opening for energy sources that are intermittently renewable such as solar, wind energy etc. which can be integrated within grid systems that are optimized, thus reducing peak demand and need for load shedding and also enable new methods of delivering energy to areas via technology like microgrids etc.

Resilience to natural disaster/climate change, sustainable architecture and contingency plans for risks/disasters need to be an important component of any smart-city plan. To achieve all this, it is also essential to note that addressing of adaptation/resilience planning programmes cannot be in silos. Rather they need to addressed/incorporated together with each step of Smart-city development, from land use planning to housing and transport.

‘Climate-smart’ smart cities can safeguard, as well as enhance the quality of life for its citizens via economic growth and environmental protection. Investing in various facets like infrastructure, technology and services that can ensure clean, safe/reliable transport, energy, health, housing, public-sector services etc. can help facilitate a much-needed move to lower-carbon technologies as well as greater energy efficiency.

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Author: Sujit Patheja, Head – Business Development, Smart Infrastructure

Sujit Patheja heads Business Development for the Smart Infrastructure practice at ITL. His responsibilities include defining strategy, building brand and driving sales targets in the Smart city/Infrastructure space. In his 3.5 years stint at ITL, he has led many strategic initiatives and delivered success across industries and geographies. Before joining ITL, he spent 6 years at Infosys spearheading sales across Manufacturing, Government, Energy and Utilities verticals. Sujit is a post graduate with a MBA degree in International Business.
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