Only 2 percent of the Earth’s surface make up our cities, but 50 percent of total world population live in cities. By 2030, 60 percent of world population will live in cities.
Cities consume 75 percent of the world’s resources, and produce 70 percent of carbon emissions. Carbon emissions come mainly from energy consumption in buildings and transportation. One will understand the critical need for good city management.
An expert on climate says civilization is a large heat engine, while another ruefully notes that we are years ahead of the climate change model. We hope that is not true, even if the temperature this summer is worse than last year.
We all must do something to mitigate climate change. One way is to work for making ours a smart city.
Strategize for smart growth
Successful cities strategize for smart growth while integrating environmental thinking into growth opportunities for all citizens.
They identify the city’s competitive advantages, and the mayor uses his/her convening powers and connections for trade delegations to come to his/her city. The city components consider investors and businesses as their clients and are poised to attract growth.
To get investments and support growth, the smart city invests in public safety, mobility and green areas. The city has job training facility centers for sectors of high job concentration possibilities.
A smart city collaborates with surrounding areas. Collaborative planning has the engagement and support of neighboring cities in the area to formulate and execute public policies on transportation, green spaces, land use, housing, and density requirements. An enlightened citizen’s advisory committee can give good feedback and put pressure for the execution of plans.
Build green districts
A growing trend is to build green districts that follow green building standards. Some American cities require new buildings to get sustainable building accreditation, and offer freebies like cheaper and faster application process.
These green districts have transit-oriented designs that encourage walkable districts. They have district cooling systems, rainwater management, renewable energy, shared waste sorting, gray water systems and affordable housing for all income levels.
Key elements of a smart city are:
- Efficient management of services and resources
- New tools and places for people, groups and institutions to interact with each other.
- Use and integration of new technologies
Smart city practices
Some smart city practices are the following:
Zurich sells garbage bags at US$4.25 each to discourage waste. The result was minus 40 percent garbage collection.
Bangkok requires a GPS unit for its garbage trucks to make sure garbage is properly disposed.
Delhi has a low per capita income but scored well in the green city index because of its high level of awareness in environmental preservation. They have eco groups in schools, universities, trades, with trained leaders that help the city live smart in areas of energy consumption, water use, waste and sanitation.
Manila, by the way, scored below average in the Siemens Green City Index for Asia.
Toyama City, Japan, which I visited recently during a UN-sponsored conference, is another example of a smart and resilient city. With its aging population, the city has tax revenues that declined resulting in an outdated transportation infrastructure. This caused the elderly to face isolation and health problems due to limited mobility. The city officials developed a long-term plan to revitalize the public transportation which encouraged the residents and business to transfer to areas along the transportation lines, renewing the city center and making it more pedestrian-friendly.
Barcelona’s vision of what it wants to become includes self-sufficiency with productive neighborhoods, integration of technology and innovation aimed at ensuring that the city dwellers enjoy a better quality of life and economic growth. These goals are achieved through efficient management of the city’s services and resources.
Singapore charges a congestion fee for vehicles according to traffic conditions during the day. This best performing city in the region has now a smart card innovation, an IBM-designed payment card that can be used to pay road tolls, bus travel, taxis, the metro, and even shopping. Singapore has cut down to 1.5 from 3 percent the annual growth in the number of new vehicles. Their NEWater system—wastewater collected and treated water that is good enough to drink—attests to their admirable national character.
Culture of corruption
We shall soon have newly elected government officials. The culture of corruption afflicts so many of us, and soon we expect payback time for election campaign donations, a system that breeds corruption.
We hope the new administration builds a high-performance team with a culture of accountability. We hope the new government forges stakeholders’ consensus in the area of environmental responsibility. We wish continued strength in our economy that gives priority to infrastructure spending especially in the city transport system, and green building standards nationwide.
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