The Top Sustainable Cities Stories of 2013
It was a year of worsening news on both the climate front and global political efforts to reach agreement on curbing climate change; but of great strides forward by some leading cities and corporations on tackling the key challenges facing humanity in its increasing urbanisation.
1. The science of climate change became more confident
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)' Summary for Policymakers expressed "near certainty" that humans are causing climate change. It calculated how much more carbon we can put in the atmosphere and hold to keep the world's average temperature increase since 1990 below the 2-degree warming limit agreed to by world leaders. (Although some scientists predicted that even two degrees is too much.)
2. The war against global warming was shown to be profitable
PwC said in its annual Low Carbon Economy Index that the amount of carbon produced for every dollar of GDP must reduce by 6% each year until 2100 to curb the worst aspects of climate change.
Although challenging, this could be very profitable because of efficiency savings, argued WWF and McKinsey in their report advocating a 3% reduction in absolute emissions per year up to 2020.
3. Extreme weather events became more commmon
The Philippines faced the most powerful storm ever recorded to hit land. No single weather event can be blamed on climate change but the science of associating climate change with the increased frequency of extreme events was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which worked out that "high temperatures, such as those experienced in the U.S. in 2012, are now likely to occur four times as frequently due to human-induced climate change."
January saw Australian meteorologists adding new colors to weather maps to deal with temperatures ranging up to 54 degrees Celsius (129 degrees Fahrenheit).
4. Air quality in many cities got worse
Many cities in developing countries experienced severe air quality problems. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia climbed past the 400 mark around June and several Chinese cities experienced days with small-particle air pollution running 25 to 40 times higher than the World Health Organization's recommended limit. Partly as a result, the country is slashing Beijing's new sales quota for cars by 40%.
5. Nantes hosted this year's Ecocity World Summit
It was this year's European Green Capital. The event hosted the World Mayors Summit on Climate Change with over 50 mayors from 30 countries, and more than 20 regional and global networks of local and subnational governments which resulted in the Nantes Declaration of Mayors and Subnational Leaders on Climate Change: Local Government Climate Roadmap 2013-2015, a resolution to scale up climate actions, urge engagement on climate change at the global level, and enhance access to finance. They also presented a Sustainable Cities initiative.
2014 sees Copenhagen hosting the summit.
6. Smart cities continued to gain momentum
City planners sought more ways to transform their territories into eco-cities and smart cities. In September, ten cities including Singapore and Tokyo were recognised by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Siemens for excelling in various climate action initiatives, such as establishing energy efficient environments, building smart infrastructure and stimulating economic development.
C40 and Siemens also allowed the public to vote for their favourite projects in cities and these were announced in November as: Munich: 100% Green Power; Melbourne's Sustainable Buildings Program; Mexico City's ProAire Project on air quality; Singapore's Intelligent Transport System; San Francisco's Zero Waste Program; New York City's A Stronger, More Resilient New York plan; Copenhagen's CPH 2025 Climate Plan; Bogotá's TransMilenio + E-Taxis project; Tokyo’s Cap-and-Trade Program; and Rio de Janeiro's Morar Carioca urban revitalization strategy.
7. Many businesses committed to doing more than many governments
In 2013 many leading companies such as Diageo, ebay, EMC, Gap, GM, IKEA, Intel, Microsoft, Nestle, Nike, Portland Trailblazers, Starbucks, Swiss Re and Unilever signed up to CERES' Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) initiative, the Climate Declaration to take action on climate change. And Accenture's survey of 1000 CEOs around the world discovered that 83% agreed that government should play a critical role in enabling the private sector to advance sustainability.
31% even supported "intervention through taxation". NIKE, NASA, USAID, and the Department of State launched LAUNCH, an initiative to identify and accelerate innovations that help solve global problems with water, health, energy, waste, and systems.
8. Mobility emerged as a key issue for cities
Reducing car dependence and making city streets more people-friendly became a major drive for cities, as the most congested cities in Europe were announced by a prominent satellite navigation company: Warsaw, Marseille, Rome, Brussels, Paris, Dublin, Bradford-Leeds, London, Stockholm and Hamburg. The cities which are doing the most to combat congestion were named as Lisbon, Bern, Amsterdam, Milan and Rome.
The European SOLUTIONS [Sharing Opportunities for Low carbon Urban transporTatION] project picked six cities to showcase cutting edge case studies: Aalborg, Denmark; Barcelona, Spain; Bremen, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; Dalian, China; and Curitiba, Brazil.
9. Built environment successes were recognised
Four cities were announced as winners of the World Green Building Council's (WorldGBC's) Government Leadership Awards in partnership with ICLEI and UN-HABITAT under the theme Global Excellence in Local Green Building Policy: Vancouver for its Greenest City 2020 Action Plan; Abu Dhabi for its Estidama Pearl Rating System ; Christchurch for policies aimed at sustainably rebuilding itself after a series of earthquakes; and Seoul for its One Less Nuclear Power Plant project.
10. Flood protection also became a hotter topic
New York City released a $20 billion plan to get the city ready for more extreme weather following Hurricane Sandy, and many other vulnerable cities woke up to the need to protect people and property from intense rainfall and rising sea levels and storm surges. The European SMARTeST Project concluded in June with a Policy Statement on best practice.
We will be running a webinar on this topic in February - watch for news.
The SCC website has gone from strength to strength throughout the year, with traffic and readership doubling, indicating the increased interest in the topics we cover. We've added many more highly distinguished contributors to our roster of writers and advisors.
2014 promises to be a year of fascinating developments. We at SCC all wish you a very happy, healthy, and sustainable twelve months ahead!
David is Special Consultant of this website. He's author of Energy Management in Buildings, Energy Management in Industry, Sustainable Transport Fuels, Solar Technology, Sustainable Home Refurbishment, Solar Photovoltaics Business Briefing, and much more. Curently working on The One Planet Life.
He's also a novelist, script and comics writer, journalist, and editor. He was for 13 years news ...
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