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Zero Carbon Emissions, beginning with the cities!

The zero-emissions society of the future is entirely possible. And it is not an "alternative" society or an experimental society model.

Flavia Garcia

Reflora Initiative

Published: April 20, 2022


The zero-emissions society of the future is entirely possible. And it is not an “alternative” society or an experimental society model. Decarbonisation is the new condition for the survival of life on the planet.

Most carbon footprints are defined by the society we live in as well as decisions made by municipal authorities: the transportation alternatives that urban planners create, the energy efficiency standards that states and municipalities set, the renewable energy resources requirements that states set, among other similar institutional decisions. On average, 20% of the carbon footprint comes from government purchase. Cities can take strong measures, such as requiring green energy, adopting energy efficiency requirements in buildings, banning non-recyclable cups and bags, and adopting green purchasing practices.

Some large cities in the world generate an amount of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of small countries.  This is the conclusion of a scientific study carried out by IOP Science, which points out that 18% of all global emissions come from just 100 cities.

 

Acting Locally with International Impact

According to the United Nations (UN), by 2050 at least 2.5 billion people will be living in big cities.

Carbon footprints are heavily concentrated in large cities, which means that local governments in these regions can play a significant role in reducing emissions nationally.

Analysis confirms that carbon footprints are highly associated with the per capita income of the population. People in the richest 10 per cent of the world, who earn more than $14,000 a year, generate about a third of global emissions. This means that concerted action in some large, rich cities could go a long way towards reducing global emissions.

According to the United Nations (UN), by 2050 at least 2.5 billion people will be living in big cities, therefore measures must be taken to control CO2 emissions as soon as possible.

There are some cities that are already taking steps to obtain a reduction and even total elimination of carbon emissions, Reflora has listed 5 cities that are on the ”good path”.

 

Paris

“Grand Paris”, the capital of France is one of the cities with the boldest plans in changing carbon emissions: it is forecast to be reduced to zero by 2050

“Grand Paris”, the capital of France is one of the cities with the boldest plans in changing carbon emissions: it is forecast to be reduced to zero by 2050.

To achieve this goal, measures have been established such as the exclusive use of green energy (wind, solar or biomass) and banning cars powered by diesel until 2024 and oil until 2030.

The Eiffel Tower will be submitted to a series of renovations on the first floor. Among them, the installation of solar panels and wind turbines, to enable the production of clean energy for self-supply. The energy consumption at the tower should also decrease a lot, as all the light bulbs will be replaced by LED models, which are more economical.

The numerous objectives proposed affect sectors directly linked to urbanisation: construction, transport, energy, food.

 

Copenhagen

 Cycling is a major priority in the city; on average, each citizen cycles more than 1.3 million km per week.

Copenhagen City Hall has decided to decrease the use of meat-based foods in public service. The city will change the proportion of animal protein in the composition of food served in public buildings, which serve about 70,000 meals a day. This means that spaces such as schools, kindergartens and hospitals will have more plant-based dishes, according to The Copenhagen Post. The strategy also includes reducing food waste.

The initiative is part of a Copenhagen commitment that aims to reduce its climate footprint created by food consumption by 25% by 2025.

“Reducing the climate footprint by 25% by 2025 is an ambitious goal,” says Tarjei Haaland, Greenpeace’s climate and energy consultant. “But we need to cut our high meat consumption and production if we are to reach the country’s climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030.”

With buildings representing almost 40 % of global energy consumption, renovation and retrofitting of existing buildings, rather than demolition and construction of new ones, is a prerequisite for achieving sufficient CO2 reductions to tackle climate change.

In Copenhagen, the refurbishment of a 100-year-old property in Ryesgade (a street in the capital that concentrates old buildings) has raised the level of sustainable urban adaptation. The renovation of the building resulted in a 71% reduction of CO2.

Cycling is a major priority in the city; on average, each citizen cycles more than 1.3 million km per week. It is believed that less than 40% of commuting trips are made on bicycles, which already prevents more than 20,000 tons of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere each year.

In addition, trains, buses and subways operate in a fully integrated system. On the other hand, the proportion of individual cars is one for every 2.8 inhabitants, and those who choose to travel by car have to pay higher taxes.

The Danish city will introduce a smart transport system connected to municipal traffic signals, cyclists’ travel time is reduced by 10%, and passengers’ travel time is reduced by up to 20%. With this system, the city is promoting transport that helps improve the climate and continuously encouraging people to leave the car behind.

Copenhagen is determined to become the first city in the world to offset 100% of the pollutants it releases into the atmosphere. The aim is also to achieve this feat by 2025.

 

São Paulo

 62% of Sao Paulo’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the transport sector.

The big metropole recently presented the city’s Climate Action Plan, developed in partnership with the international network of C40 cities, the goal is to drive São Paulo to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

One of the 43 goals is to reduce the demand for cars and buses, increase the role of renewable sources and reduce the generation of solid waste.

The municipality also wants to encourage the green economy, redistribute job and income opportunities in the territory, increase carbon capture and reduce socio-environmental vulnerability.

62% of Sao Paulo’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the transport sector. One of the strategies for this sector is to reduce the demand for passenger and cargo transport services by reducing the need to move across the city.

It is also expected that the city’s buses will emit 53% less carbon dioxide and that in 2021 alone, the city will receive 660 new buses that emit fewer pollutants. São Paulo already has 17 buses that are 100% electric and this number is expected to increase.

The city will Promote the planting of native trees that are more resilient to climate change in order to protect biodiversity and promote improved thermal comfort in the city.

 

Barcelona

The statement of “climate urgency” of the county city, highlights the need for changes.

The city has a plan with a hundred measures to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among them banning polluting cars in the city center, eliminating short-haul flights that could be replaced by the train, and reducing ship traffic in the port.

The measure, which bans the circulation of vehicles without the environmental label, is already being applied since January 2021. The most polluting cars cannot circulate in an area of 95 km2, mobility is responsible for 40% of the greenhouse gases emitted in the city, according to city hall data.

In the transport sector, it is planned to increase the fleet of electric public transport, expand the cycling network and the exclusive pedestrian area.

The elimination of flights of less than 1,000 kilometers using trains as an alternative.

It is considered that the Barcelona-Madrid air bridge should be decommissioned and replaced by a high-speed electric train. It is estimated that this is an ambitious proposal that will avoid millions of tons of emissions caused by these flights.

Decrease the number of cruises that pass through Barcelona due to the impact this has on the city: more than 800 cruises and approximately 3 million passengers a year, in a city that does not reach 2 million inhabitants.

To avoid emissions from ships parked at the port, another measure is to reduce boat terminals and promote the electrification of the docks, following the example of ports such as Long Beach, in Los Angeles, United States.

According to recent studies, the activity linked to Barcelona’s airport and port generates a total of 12.9 tonnes of CO2 per year and the city overall is responsible for 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

The statement of “climate urgency” of the county city, highlights the need for changes in nutrition, suggesting reducing meat consumption, mainly due to the ecological cost of its production, and includes goals such as eliminating disposable plastics, building squares and green spaces, close traffic on important streets of the city on weekends giving space for leisure and putting an ending the use of diesel.

 

Lisbon

Lisbon will have several campaigns aimed at removing around 40,000 cars from circulation every day.

The city, winner of the European Green Capital award in 2020 and sets out a long-term strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with a view to achieving neutrality by 2050.

Lisbon will have several campaigns aimed at removing around 40,000 cars from circulation every day. This reduction represents an annual saving of 60,000 tonnes of CO2.

A reference indicator in the reduction of CO2 emissions and already in force for 7 years in the city, the ZER, Reduced Emissions Zone is the main measure applied to improve the air quality in the centre of Lisbon, through traffic restrictions imposed on older vehicles, and consequently, less pollution.

Since 2015 only vehicles built in 2000 or later, and/or meeting EURO 3 emission standards, may be used

The Portuguese city receives 10 million tourists per year, so one of the strategies is to increase the number of tourist resorts with energy efficiency, water and waste management systems, the elimination of single-use plastic in 50% of 4* and 5* tourist resorts.

 

By Flávia Garcia, Marketing y Media.