From pandemic to climate disaster = Futureproofing Our Communities With Climate-Smart Solutions

You woke up to a climate nightmare. Now what?

Flooding in New York, Germany, China and a thousand raging fires in paradise British Columbia – the subject of our own international climate headlines, as we suffered through one broken temperature record after another in this summer’s heat dome.

For much of the world, the summer of 2021 represents a painful awakening to the reality of an unstable climate.

One of the biggest questions worldwide before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference is how we could get our cities more resilient and sustainable? We need new innovative solutions and thinking to make cities worldwide a lot more sustainable and resilient than they’re now. The concept of “Climate-Smart” cities conducive to positive environmental outcomes has become central to today’s urban and rural development projects. From climate change, pandemics, and AI to the billions of dollars of federal funding for transportation, electrification, waste and water, broadband, we are making progress to futureproofing our cities. According to the UN’s Climate Action research, the Green Transition could generate as much as $7 trillion in investments with some 144 million new jobs created by 2030. Jobs in renewable energy reached 11.5 million in the previous year, and the Circular Economy model is forecasted to launch another 700,000 jobs in Europe alone by 2030. Countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Singapore have invested billions into the construction of Climate-Smart cities to re-invent their economies, encourage tourism and redefine the future of urban living. Because of the vast financial returns that Climate-Smart cities promise, in addition to the environmental benefits they provide, the idea of funding Environment-focused public housing has transitioned from being a “pie in the sky” idea into something lucrative and tangible. To develop true resilience, we must plan for self-sufficient, intelligent, and resilient communities of all sizes if we do not meet the carbon reduction goals set for 2050. Climate-Smart cities are the true meaning of resilience.

There are many Smart City projects to fight climate change. One of the most impressive examples of a Climate-Smart city initiative is that of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, called “The Line” and will be a part of Neom, the Kingdom’s automated $500 billion region. The City will be entirely powered by renewable energy. Known as the “revolution in urban living,” the Line will be a 170 km climate-first smart city with no cars, streets, or CO2 emissions, and where all residents can reach necessary facilities within a 5-minute walk. It is projected to generate 380,000 jobs and add a staggering $48 billion in GDP for the Kingdom. 

In addition to the KSA, according to the IMD’s inaugural Smart City Index, Singapore is the most innovative city in the world. In 2014, Singapore launched its Smart Nation strategy in tandem with forming digital-driven solutions that are conducive to improving the quality of life for citizens and benefiting companies. The nation is actively working on transforming itself into a test-bed for Smart City and Climate-smart city growth. According to the EDB, “Since 2020, the city has been home to SEA’s first industry-led smart city laboratory. Behind the Smart Urban Co-Innovation Lab are 30 companies, including Amazon Web Services, Cisco Systems, Schneider Electric and TPG Telecom. Together with local tech start-ups and international partners, the companies want to develop smart city solutions for Singapore and overseas.”

There is a reason why nations like the KSA and Singapore are investing heavily into Climate-Smart cities. The IFC estimates a total climate investment opportunity of $29.4 trillion across six urban sectors in emerging market cities by 2030. A report by the IFC on the matter reveals that investments into green buildings promise a market opportunity of $24.7 trillion. In comparison, carbon mobility solutions account for $1 trillion and electric vehicles account for $1.6 trillion. There is an additional $1 trillion opportunity in climate-smart water and wastewater management infrastructure. Moreover, research by Siemens shows that the opportunity for global economies that comes from revamping public transport infrastructure alone, in a way that reflects climate-smart growth, can result in $800 billion in revenue per year. 

In the USA, Lake Nona is another futuristic smart city located in Orlando, Florida. This community will house over 25,000 residents and 15 thousand employees when the final development phase is complete. Lake Nona has been designed to be sustainable and environmentally friendly from the ground up, with green building standards set by Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED). Residents will enjoy robust activities such as concerts, art festivals, farmers markets and family activities that are sure to make this neighborhood feel like home.

About Us | Lake Nona
Lake Nona

While building climate-smart cities is an incredibly costly endeavor, the latest data show that there is increasing interest on behalf of the private sector to get in on a piece of the action. According to the UN, 170 companies have made almost 400 individual commitments tied explicitly to supporting the SDG 11 commitment to building sustainable cities. Nearly 1,700 companies have committed to practically 3,000 actions addressing climate change. In addition to the Private Sector, the Financial Services Sector has also expressed interest in Climate-smart city growth. The Swiss bank Pictet debuted its first €652 million investment fund for smart cities. HSBC took a similar approach targeting stocks from its climate solutions database with a minimum market capitalization of $500 million. Not to mention on top of this that Guidehouse Insights “expects the global smart city technology market to be worth $101 billion in annual revenue in 2021 and to grow to $240 billion by 2030. This forecast represents a total spend of $1.65 trillion over the decade.”

With this in mind, here are some industry solutions for smart cities. 

Social infrastructure and communication technology concept. IoT(Internet of Things). Autonomous transportation.
Social infrastructure and communication technology concept. IoT (Internet of Things) Autonomous everything

Connected mobility. Connected vehicles are rolling out every year. They’re expected to grow exponentially by 2020 when 95% of cars sold worldwide will be fully electric or plug-in hybrid electric with connected car features. Connected mobility provides new opportunities for municipalities and private companies operating fleets of autonomous vehicles like Google Waymo’s ride-hailing fleet, which could move people more efficiently than buses or trains. Data from connected cars will be used to help plan for new roads, parking and other infrastructure.  

And we are going into the sky with connected air mobility, a much safer and efficient option than the disastrous roads. The Canadian Advanced Air Mobility Consortium is pulling together hundreds of new and traditional air service partners to begin testing in cities this year. This Open Data will be shared to optimize new super connected transportation networks.

Horizon Aircraft Canada

IoT automation.  IoT provides much new functionality in Smart cities, such as sensors that measure anything from temperature, humidity, wind strength and CO2 concentration. With this data, cities could possibly prevent or combat heat build areas in the inner city. IoT sensors on buildings can detect noise levels or sudden movements, which can then trigger actions like turning off an alarm system when all is clear or sending emergency services out when there’s motion at night, but no one responds. Even people with disabilities such as blindness may have their needs met through technologies like GPS navigation apps which use sound cues instead of visual signals. From waste management, public safety to affordable housing & economic development. 

All new regenerative and off-grid housing and living including food and transportation will be connected via sensors to an open source brain – the ReGen Village OS to constantly update in realtime with new exponential climate tech.

Smart City Toolkits. The World Bank has also developed toolkits with helpful information such as technical guidelines for assessing intelligent transport systems, financial instruments for investments in green energy production or decarbonization, financing models such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which supports countries in decarbonizing their economies and achieving sustainable development goals.

For example, they have a Smart City Investment Toolkit to help cities build capacity on climate change issues, sustainability planning & management practices by providing an overview of smart city technologies necessary to address these challenges ahead. It also reviews emerging international best practices and recommendations from other organizations working in this field so that municipalities can learn from each other’s experiences when designing new policies. 

The Smart Cities Council is a global organization that connects smart city pioneers and experts to share knowledge, ideas and best practices to create an international marketplace for the latest technologies. This provides free access to insight on how cities can be made smarter through data-driven efforts like infrastructure upgrades, transportation solutions and more. They have compiled a list of resources called “Smart City Toolkit,” which includes case studies about using technology for everything from parking management to open data projects. 

Here is one example from European Alpine Smart Village Collective.

Lastly, the ICTA partnered with the United Nations Office for Project Services and has been able to help create sustainable smart cities in over 30 countries, including Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and most recently Brazil. Rio de Janeiro helped develop a sustainability-focused Smart City plan that will integrate with their Olympic Games infrastructure investments to make them more environmentally friendly.

The numbers speak for themselves – with the incredible economic growth potential that Climate-smart cities provide for economies, in addition to the fact that not only the public but the private and financial sectors are highly aware of the need to invest in climate change solutions, the market opportunity and timing for Climate-smart city growth is inescapable. The world is looking for leaders in developing smart and healthy cities in the face of climate change, social inequity, rapid urbanization and health disparity.

With edits via Mark Minevich in Forbes

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