• Climate Change
  • Global Warming
  • smart cities

Discussing the Smart City and the Energy Transition at Smart City Expo World Congress 2019

Eric Woods
Nov 12, 2019

Connected City

The ideas and principles behind the smart city movement continue to evolve as cities and their partners better understand the requirements, opportunities (presented by new technologies), and challenges (how to address them) of smart cities. Many of these developments are to be discussed during the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) in Barcelona

Smart cities have come a long way since the first SCEWC in 2011. What was once an aspirational idea for urban transformation has become a label for the everyday reality of cities looking to understand how best to use technology to address local environmental and social challenges within a global context. As the introduction to this year’s event emphasizes, it is important to keep the aspiration behind smart cites alive: to dare to keep on dreaming of a smart urban revolution.

Smart City Response to Climate Change

This dream is most important in city responses to climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Global Warming of 1.5°C, holding the global temperature rise below 1.5°C requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” The importance of cities to implement many of these changes is undisputed. 

Cities are responsible for more than two-thirds of the world’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency estimates that potential emission reductions related to urban energy use is equivalent to 70% of the total energy-related reductions required to meet climate targets by 2050. City leaders have been stepping up commitments to making these potential reductions a reality. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy estimates that, if fully implemented, commitments made by the 9,000-plus cities aligned to its goals would achieve annual reductions of 1.4 Gt CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2030 and 2.8 Gt CO2e in 2050 from business-as-usual levels. A reduction in 2030 is equivalent to taking all the cars in the US off the road for 1 year.

Addressing climate issues is closely aligned with other critical urban programs to ensure the resilience, safety, and health of an expanding urban population. This is evident in the close links between potential climate actions and the United Nation’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), as agreed upon in 2015. The SDGs also place a strong emphasis on the role of cities, notably in SDG 11, which commits world leaders to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.”

Zero Carbon City Goals Require New Thinking

The zero carbon and resilient city needs to comprehend and manage a much more complex set of interdependencies between diverse aspects of city operations, infrastructure, platforms, and priority issues such as health, mobility, sustainability, and economic development. Meeting these goals requires a combination of new energy solutions, new smart technologies, new approaches to city management and operations, and the development of platforms on which partners can support cities in their transformation to a zero carbon economy.

I will be moderating the Energy Transition and Smart Cities session at SCEWC, where we will be examining how cities are addressing these issues, including perspectives from the cities of Vienna and Zurich. It should be a very informative discussion. Please let me know if you would like to continue the conversation during the event.