The Pivotal Role of Sustainable Smart Cities in achieving SDGs and realising Carbon Neutrality

   The 2022 analysis of cities’ service innovations found that the Energy & Environment sector has emerged as a significant field for smart applications – a notable change from the 2017 and 2019 reports. Many cities, as revealed in 2021, are now promoting carbon neutrality in their urban areas, setting in motion initiatives that harness technological innovation to meet strategic objectives like alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs: The goals aim at making cities carbon-neutral by 2030). The index report found that of the 31 cities surveyed, 18 (58%) have made the theme of energy or the environment a strategic pillar of their smart city planning. 

   In recent years, the theme of the Envrionment, Society & Governance (ESG) has emerged to prominence as an important destination for the private sector. Businesses have tried to make socially responsible investments (SRIs), aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and taking steps to create a medium-to-long-term Low-Emission Development Strategy (LEDS). Major corporations have taken the lead in this culture change, which has been driven forward by dedicating funds to SRIs. The emphasis has been on the environment and on the wider good of society, and on the effectiveness of governance in designing projects and making investments. Alongside businesses, the smart city projects led by both national and local governments inevitably make achieving carbon neutrality a priority. All levels of governments are motivated to ensure the safety of their citizens, as well as by a need to avert catastrophic climate change and abnormal, disastrous events like floods and heatwaves. European cities such as Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen and Stockholm have proposed specific SDGs or targeted carbon neutrality in the context of sustainability initiatives. For example, Copenhagen has set itself the goal of carbon neutrality by 2025, leading to being selected, amongst scant competition as the world’s greenest city in 2014.  

Urban Sustainability Has an Impact on All Sectors, Particularly on Infrastructure Services

   This report analysed 31 cities, classifying their smart city projects by service areas. It then noted which kind of development – infrastructural, service-specific or project-specific – most most affected urban sustainability. Within the Energy & Environment sector, the ratio of developments with some degree of impact on urban sustainability went up slightly to 42.7% (with direct impact 19.1%, and indirect impact 23.6%). Otherwise, the share of developments that influenced the Energy & Environment sector came out at 38% (with direct impact 18%, and indirect impact 20%), just as in the 2019 index report. Looking at the details, over 50% of smart city projects had a direct impact on urban sustainability, compared to 36% of infrastructure services. Just over 4% of app- and web-based services directly impacted sustainability, and the orders of indirect impacts were in the reversed order (Service 28%>Infrastructure 21%>Project 18%).

     Most infrastructural projects took a top-down approach under the leadership of national or local government. This implied that the projects were large-scale and few in number, although the share of infrastructural undertakings dealing with tthe Energy & Environment sector has shown a significant increase since 2019. One of the representative use-cases will be private initiatives, like BedZED [1], developed by Peabody Trust in partnership with Bioregional and ZEDfactory architects in the south of London. The village envisions a sustainable future with no use of fossil energy. Findings related to app- and web-based services and it’s impact on the Energy and Environmental area did not have significant difference. In this report, direct impact has slightly decreased or remained similar in comparison with the last two surveys(4% in 2022, 5% in 2019). This arises from the fact that most initiatives dealing with Urban Sustainability are infrastructure-based, initiated by the government with a limited possibility for citizen participation.


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