The big triple hook of low carbon cities
Leaner, greener, friendlier, more equitable and more sustainable cities: that’s the aim, and it is achievable. We are on the road to great things, really, if we can get past the world’s three big current roadblocks: the steep upward slope we must climb to climate healing, the essential need for a steady global recovery from the wide swathes of Covid-19 wreckage, and the wait for a go-ahead for green, sustainable, inclusive development in urban areas around the world.
Cities are powerful and we need to harness that power
With 56% of the world’s population living in urban areas, cities are human-powered economic engines: they produce 80% of the global GDP, the end value determiner of all finished goods and services that have been produced, to a total amount of close to 76 billion USD. In case your eyes crossed from all that cash money, it’s… a lot.
Cities are also efficiently scaled hubs of opportunity and development, with access to a wide variety of job opportunities, and are home to vibrant, growing, diverse communities and the full gamut of social and cultural amenities.
As a side effect of all that power they also are significant emitters, and are responsible for 70% of global CO2 emissions based on energy usage. And that has to change, it has to improve, so that we can all continue to live and thrive on this planet and in her beautiful, grimy, sprawling cities. We can do better. Cities are a vital part of the solution.
With Covid-19 recovery plans in the works in many places, this is the time for national governments to step up and do the work to make cities low-carbon, sustainable and inclusive cities. It is national governments that hold the key to this type of transformation. They are, at least officially, drivers and controllers of major policy, and can mobilise resources at scale.
That said, we are powerful too. It is up to governments, yes, but they are meant to represent the people. That’s us. So this is the time for everyone to focus on what’s needed and get loud about it. Whether you personally have access to and influence local or national government where you are, or whether you’re an average citizen who hasn’t even considered yourself part of the decision-making process, your opinion does count, and your voice can be heard.
Next big steps: we’ve already started
We know how, we know what we need to do, and we know where to start. In fact, we already have. Corporations and individuals changed their behavior drastically during Covid-19. More remote work, less international travel, and less entirely avoidable nonsense has already shown us where we can find our arsenal of tools to fight climate change.
However, the net impact of Covid-19 shutdowns and cutbacks will be nothing more than negligible unless we take them a lot further and see them as more than temporary measures, because the world’s population is already exploding and is expected to reach up to 10 billion by 2050, most of that baby boom happening in cities.
We must take a very serious look at our personal daily routines and the way we run our businesses. And we must transform our workplaces and homes so that a better human experience, improved public health, and constantly improving sustainability are their core objectives. Unfortunately much of the world has limited or nonexistent building codes. Buildings must modernize, no two ways about it. Urban emissions increase the intensity and unpredictability of weather patterns, and create a vicious cycle of colder and hotter weather setting off more energy expended on heating and cooling, and so on and so on.
The one-two-three punch
How can cities move power and change to the places it will have the most impact?
Cities must be made low-carbon, resilient and inclusive. There are currently available low-carbon measures that must be adopted, and they are feasible. We can do this. We need to cut emissions from buildings, all forms of transportation, and reduce usage and wastage of materials. This will create shared prosperity as well as moving the world forward to meet and even surpass the international agreements made to lower emissions. It is also important to develop and encourage the development of climate-resilient infrastructure and urban area expansion and growth. Introducing measures that support marginalised communities will make cities even stronger and more inclusive. While benefiting vulnerable communities, that also benefits everyone, in a more than moral sense. The worst waste of all is not material, it is human. And that’s a cost none of us can carry any longer.
We got this, now let’s go get this.
At Vonder, we understand that when we all pull together, we can build community that benefits us all. Co-living and sustainability are key to moving forward in our ever-changing world.