Environmentalists target urban areas as a leading source of climate change. Since the United Nations established the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries develop emission regulations for various industries. In cities, energy professionals try to lower greenhouse gasses by monitoring operational emissions.
The emission-reduction measures having the largest impact on global sustainability levels occur in buildings. High-rise and high-density structures produce the most atmospheric pollution in cities, followed by the transportation sector. Sustainable urban spaces minimize pollution generated by buildings using various green technologies and features.
The Key Features of Sustainable Cities
There are a few sustainable city features that contribute to declining global emissions. Direct urban pollution derives from heating systems like boilers and furnaces. Water and space heaters contribute to nearly 42% of New York City’s carbon emissions.
Net-zero features help minimize heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) pollution by using renewable energy sources. Copenhagen is tackling buildings’ emissions by sourcing heating energy from wind turbines. The devices produce zero emission when generating electricity and can power electric heat pumps.
Another cause of buildings’ emissions is lighting sources. Many individuals construct structures with limited access to windows, which makes it difficult to use natural light. Cities replace their incandescent lights with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to reduce emissions.
LEDs are about 75% more energy efficient than other bulbs on the market. They significantly decrease a city’s reliance on fossil fuels, and they last nearly 25 times longer which minimizes production emissions. Another key feature of sustainable cities is an efficient transportation system.
Urban areas can reduce global emissions by creating accessible public transportation systems. Some cities are also replacing their gas-powered taxis with electric versions to eliminate tailpipe pollution. When regions adopt the sustainable features, they can contribute to declining emission rates.
Urban Energy Use and Emissions
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is essential because the energy demand is increasing around the globe. The current consumption rate increased by nearly 2.1% since 2017. As cities require more power, they may produce more carbon emissions. One of the best ways cities can monitor this is through energy providers having GHG lifecycle emissions analysis conducted in order to understand how what their emissions will look like for years to come.
The top three sustainable cities are targeting atmospheric pollutants to lower global emission levels. Adelaide is an eco-friendly city in South Australia that is adopting a low-carbon economy. The region plans to reduce heating, lighting and transportation emissions to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Copenhagen is another low-emission city with similar climate goals. They converted 10% of employment opportunities to green positions. The city also adopted bioenergy as a leading power source to minimize emissions and maximize efficiencies.
San Francisco is reducing emissions by 40%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2025. Lower urban pollution by high rates can effectively contribute to global conservation. Other cities can assess the green leaders to adopt emission-reduction techniques.
How Can Cities Shrink the Global Footprint?
Urban regions may shrink their footprints to enhance global conservation efforts by encouraging alternative transportation methods. Cities may install more bike paths to reduce residents’ reliance on gas-powered vehicles. Researchers evaluated an 11% decrease in urban emissions after installing bike paths.
Cities in the north are using solar technology to increase the accessibility of emission-less transportation in the winter. Solar bike paths use energy from the sun to power heaters which remove snow and ice from the route. They also use the clean electricity to power path lights, increasing riders’ safety at night.
Cities can also shrink their carbon footprints by installing smart building features. Smart thermostats target HVAC emissions by maintaining energy-efficient indoor temperatures. The technology uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to access weather predictions in real-time.
When the thermostats detect outdoor temperatures similar to set indoor conditions, they shut off the power supply to prevent energy loss. They also use motion detection sensors to adjust indoor temperatures based on occupancy levels. When urban areas improve their sustainability features, they may significantly decrease emissions and protect the global environment.
Enhancing the Sustainability of All Spaces
Society can achieve global sustainability by incorporating emission-reduction systems in urban and rural areas. While cities contribute to high building pollution rates, rural regions produce agricultural emissions. Broadening society’s approach to climate change prevention and including all regions can effectively shrink the world’s carbon footprint.
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co.