- Category: Business
11 Aug 2009
- Published on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 11:58
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Green-tinged utopias have been the dream of most people pushing for a greener and more sustainable future for everyone. No wonder why there are so many new projects around the world for developing all sorts of high-tech innovations like zero-emissions transportation systems and green buildings as well as policies such as recycling.
The long race towards that dream is just getting started, with many projects yet to break ground. Much has been proven but there is still a lot to prove. Sometimes, cities and their governments outdo their countries in implementing policies aiming at a low-carbon environment.
Most cities share common traits: a high volume of people, traffic congestion and trash and air pollution, to name just a few. Seventy-five percent of the world's energy is consumed by the world's cities. Striking a balance in managing energy demands without compromising the city's and the environment's fu¬ture is among the biggest hurdle Green cities are facing.
Laying initial goals
In the 1990s, industrialized countries around the world joined together to address global warming and climate change. Together they drafted and approved the Kyoto Protocol. This agreement aims to reduce the effects of climate change through the reduction of six recognized greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, the major pollutant.
Nations that have joined the pact since it was adopted in 1997 agree and are legally bound to the goal of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% below their reported 1990 levels within 2008 to 2012.
At the forefront of achieving the goal of not relying too much on fossil fuels is renewable energy. Deploying more of them is recognized as the primary method for meeting reduced emissions levels. Efforts include the adoption of solar and wind power, sustainable agricultural practices and the promotion of energy efficiency in industries down to our homes.
Out of this revolution to meet growing energy demands without jeopardizing nature came amazing cities and plans known around the world not only for their adoption of green practices but also for their innovation and leadership.
Malmö is home to about 280,000 people, making it the third largest city in Sweden with a middle Age ambience. But it's not the Middle Age aesthetic that stirs environmentalists around the globe, its Malmo’s innovative use of renewable resources and its goal to become a leading “eco-city.”
¬Sweden is a leader in green electricity solutions—most of the country's electricity comes from nuclear and hydropower. Cities such as Malmö are contributing to the greening of Sweden with plans to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 25% between 2008 and 2012, far exceeding the 5% goal set by Kyoto.
Its strength lies in the neighborhoods across Malmö that are transforming into sustainable, eco-friendly communities. Western Harbour, a former shipyard and now an urban jungle, runs on 100% renewable energy from sun, wind and hydro power, as well as biofuels generated from organic waste. Its buildings are constructed with sustainable materials and designed to be energy efficient. Its streets are pedestrian and bicycle-friendly—40% of commuters go by leg power.
It also has Augustenborg, a district that has been going green over the past decade, known for its green roofing—botanical roof gardens that reduce runoff and add insulation and vegetation to an urban neighborhood. It is also home to the world's first emissions-free electric street trains, as well as more than a dozen recycling houses processing about 70% of collected waste.
Vancouver is a coastal city, home to more than 560,000 people, and was named the world’s most livable city by the Economist magazine. It has proved to be not only the most livable, but also Canada’s model for using renewable energy sources.
This city touts an ambitious 100-year plan for clean and green living. Also, this city already leads the world in hydroelectric energy which currently makes up 90% of its power supply. It also plans to¬ reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to levels 20% lower than reported in 1990 during the formation of the Kyoto P¬rotocol. Fossil fuels will be reduced with city investments in wind, solar, wave and tidal energy systems in the making.
Vancouver hasn't been shy with implementing emerging technologies. Solar-powered trash compactors have sprung up around the city, each the size equivalent of a normal trashcan but able to hold five times more waste. This means fewer smog-spewing garbage trucks on the roads.
In 2010, China has plans for Dongtan City which is of stark contrast to the nation’s coal hungry existence. Environmentalists everywhere are expecting a lot from this bold idea.
Dongtan is being built on the Chongming Island on the Yangtze River, and if all goes well, it will be 100% carbon neutral, which means it generates just as much clean energy on its own as it consumes. All buildings will be equipped with green roofs, and will be built as a unit of the marsh it lies upon, rather than clogging or disrupting the marsh as new construction typically does.
Harnessing all of its energy from the wind, sun and biofuels, the new Chinese city will cover less than half of the building site in order to leave the rest for agriculture or wetland preservation. All waste will be recycled in order to eliminate the use of landfills, and human waste will be processed and used for compost or energy. Like all good eco-cities, personal car use will be discouraged and citizens will be pushed to self-commute on bike or on foot, or to ride the massive public transport infrastructure.
Masdar, Abu Dhabi
One of the more fascinating projects in the world of green urban planning is found in the windswept deserts of Abu Dhabi. Construction is under way on a green oasis planners say represents one of the most ambitious urban building projects ever.
The United Arab Emirates and British architectural firm Foster + Partner envisions Masdar City to be zero-carbon, zero-waste, self-contained community meant to house 50,000 people. They have already launched the first of seven building phases to be completed over the next eight years. This US $22-billion megaproject will include cutting-edge solar power and water treatment systems, nonpolluting underground light rail, and a small research university operated in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Most notable about this urban development is the banning of gas-powered automobiles in a region that has plenty of it. A personal rapid transit system will replace cars in the green metropolis, running on batteries powered by solar energy. Lately, the project’s promise was given a new status through the selection of its home country to be the global headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency or IRENA.
These amazing cities are only a snapshot of the green initiatives of urban areas around the world. Others around the globe are growing bolder as they work to reduce their energy consumption, adopt environmentally friendly urban development practices, find more sustainable energy sources and embrace green living lifestyles—each greening the world one city at a time.
- Oliver M. Bayani