Written by Caroline Haywood, Four Green Steps
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 13:54
Cities are the economic and commercial hubs of the world and the most populous, so it makes sense that many GHG emissions are caused by people living an urban lifestyle. On the other hand, cities present us with an amazing opportunity – if we can reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) in cities, then we have the ability to reduce a large majority of the world’s emissions.
Cities are the most polluting places on the planet and account for approximately 70% of all carbon dioxide emissions! A lot of the world’s cities have recognised this and are undertaking some truly innovative actions.
Here's the top 8 different actions being taken by the world’s leading low-emission cities.
- Public transport: Cities are an ideal place to change the transport habits of citizens from private vehicles to public transport, due to their high population density and the relatively short distances of commute. Switching the fuel used in public transport vehicles to low or no-emission fuels is also a popular emission reduction action for cities, with biofuel or solar electric buses on the rise.
- Cycling infrastructure: Investment in bicycle infrastructure, such as dedicated cycle lanes, signage and bicycle racks and parking in cities is leading a cycling revolution!
- Energy efficiency measures in buildings: Reducing the energy consumption of existing buildings is vital to reducing GHG emissions from cities, as more than half of today’s buildings will still be in use in 2050. Measures to reduce the energy consumption of buildings, including changing to more efficient light bulbs, appliances and equipment, better insulating the buildings and adopting heating and cooling efficiencies, such as combined heat and power (CHP) systems or on-site renewable energy generation facilities have reduced the electricity bills and the carbon footprint of city buildings.
- Urban planning for compact cities: ‘Compact city’ policies aim to reverse the trend of urbanisation, as the design of sprawling suburbs locks in unsustainable development patterns for decades, particularly the need for a private vehicle. Planning ‘compact cities’ involves concentrating new developments around areas accessible by public transport, or vice versa, extended public transit options strategically to existing areas of development.
- Green building codes: Requiring new buildings to adhere to green standards is a strong measure that cities are adopting to transform to low-emission futures. Buildings constructed today will shape the energy use of cities for many decades to come, which makes laws requiring green standards so important. Legislation requiring all new buildings to be rated against a particular green building code, such as the LEED standard, provides builders with an incentive to construct greener buildings.
- Congestion planning: Many cities are adopting some form of urban access restriction for private vehicles. In London, for example, drivers are required to pay a £10 daily Congestion Charge between 7am and 6pm if they wish to drive in inner-city London.
- Landfill gas recovery systems: Many cities around the world have adopted landfill gas recovery schemes, which capture the methane gas generated by decomposing waste at landfill sites, and pipe it to facilities to produce heat and electricity.
- Streetlight upgrades: Finally, one of the most popular actions undertaken by city network members is the upgrade of streetlights to more efficient Light Emitted Diode (LED) and Compact Florescent Light-bulb (CFL) lights, and even solar-powered streetlights. For example, Los Angeles has dedicated to replacing 140,000 street lights to LED over a 5-year process!
What is your city doing to reduce its carbon emissions? Share your stories with us in the comment section below!
Images courtesy of Amina Tariq and Amsterdamized on Flickr
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