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Cities Pledge Net Zero Carbon New Buildings by 2030

The Science and Technology Facility at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab is a 100 percent net zero energy building where solar cell, thin-film, and nanostructure research are conducted, 2018, Golden, Colorado (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain.

The Science and Technology Facility at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab is a 100 percent net zero energy building where solar cell, thin-film, and nanostructure research are conducted, 2018, Golden, Colorado (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, September 4, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Nineteen pioneering mayors, representing 130 million urban residents, have committed their cities to cut greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring that all new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030.

By joining the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), the leaders of: Copenhagen; Johannesburg; London; Los Angeles; Montreal; New York City; Newburyport, Massachusetts; Paris; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; San Jose; Santa Monica; Stockholm; Sydney, Tokyo; Toronto; Tshwane, South Africa; Vancouver, Canada; and Washington, DC, also pledged to ensure all buildings in their cities, old and new, will meet the net zero carbon standard by 2050.

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment will officially launch at the Global Climate Action Summit <globalclimateactionsummit.org>in San Francisco, California on September 13, 2018.

A zero carbon building is one with zero net energy consumption or zero net carbon emissions on an annual basis.

Commitment signatories will track, verify and report publicly on building performance metrics with a focus on energy use and associated emissions. They will advocate across their supply chains for all suppliers and partners to establish and follow their own commitments to reach net zero by 2030.

Delivering on commitments made now will require a united effort, as city governments do not have direct control over all the buildings in a city. This commitment includes a pledge to work together with state and regional governments and the private sector to drive this transformation, and calls on national governments for equal action.

In June, WorldGBC celebrated the first three founding private sector signatories of the commitment, among them Majid Al Futtaim, a pioneer in shopping mall, retail and leisure destinations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Majid Al Futtaim, an Emirati holding company based in Dubai, has committed to eliminating operational carbon emissions from all its assets across 15 countries by 2030, including more than 12 malls and shopping centres, 12 hotels and three mixed-use living communities. Their corporate strategy drives emission reductions by requiring green energy leases for mall retail units.

The other two founding private sector signatories are Integral Group, a global engineering firm specializing in delivery of net zero buildings, and Signify formerly known as Philips Lighting – the lighting company for the Internet of Things. With a presence in over 70 countries, Signify has committed to net zero carbon for all its more than 300 buildings.

By setting ambitious absolute targets, the Commitment aims to maximize the chances of limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as specified in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, by reducing operating emissions from buildings.

Globally, almost 40 percent of energy related greenhouse emissions come from buildings, with 28 percent coming from the operations of buildings themselves. This equals the total emissions of China and the European Union combined.

In 2015, 82 percent of final energy consumption in buildings was supplied by fossil fuels, whereas to meet the Paris Agreement, this must become zero percent.

The WorldGBC definition of a net zero carbon building is a one that is highly energy efficient and fully powered by renewable energy sources, either on-site or off-site.

Urban buildings are some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and typically account for over half of a city’s total emissions.

In London, Los Angeles and Paris, buildings account for well over 70 percent of the cities’ overall emissions, creating an enormous opportunity for progress on bringing emissions down.

Currently, half a million people die prematurely each year due to outdoor air pollution caused by energy used in buildings, according to research prepared for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis by a team led by Diana Ürge-Vorsatz of the Central European University, Hungary – Fagship-Projects.

The Commitment has been orchestrated by C40 Cities, a global group of major cities committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level. This pledge from cities is part of the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment for businesses, cities, states and regions, which opened for recruitment in June.

Cities making this commitment will:

  • Establish a roadmap for our commitment to reach net zero carbon buildings;
  • Develop a suite of supporting incentives and programs;
  • Report annually on progress towards meeting our targets, and
  • Evaluate the feasibility of reporting on emissions beyond operational carbon, such as refrigerants.

In addition, 13 cities: Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Montreal, Newburyport, Paris, Portland, San Jose, Santa Monica, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Tshwane and Vancouver, have committed to owning, occupying and developing only assets that are net-zero carbon by 2030.

To achieve this, cities will:

  • Evaluate the current energy demand and carbon emissions from their municipal buildings, and identify opportunities for reduction.
  • Establish a roadmap for their commitment to reach net zero carbon municipal buildings
  • Report annually on progress towards meeting their targets, and
  • Evaluate the feasibility of including emissions beyond operational carbon, such as refrigerants.

C40 Cities Executive Director Mark Watts blogged earlier this year, “By 2030 the majority of privately owned buildings will need to have been retrofitted to high energy efficiency standards in all categories of cities except the two lowest income groupings, where the primary focus is on new build. In the two highest income categories, 95-100 percent of privately owned buildings will have been retrofitted.”

Watts wrote, “…it is possible for major cities to decarbonise fast and deeply enough to meet the Paris Agreement goals. But there is now an incredible urgency to get on track.”

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has launched a major initiative to support the development of zero-energy building. Led by Gregory Hayes, the CEO of United Technologies, and Eric Olsen, Chairman of Lafarge, the organization has the support of large global companies and the expertise to mobilize the corporate world and governmental support to make zero-energy building a reality.

Their first report, a survey of key players in real estate and construction, indicates that the costs of building green are overestimated by 300 percent.

Climate and carbon, human health and high technology are among the top trends expected to drive the global green building market in 2018.

Green Building Council of Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Romilly Madew said, “In 2018, the UN will undertake a global stock take of emissions reduction actions and progress, and signatories to the Paris Agreement will be required to demonstrate their progress towards accelerating emissions reductions.”

Romilly says this stock taking will “undoubtedly reveal the leaders and laggards on climate action, and will put pressure on national governments to step up.”

Terri Wills, CEO, World Green Building Council, said, “Achieving net zero carbon buildings at the mass scale required is complex, multi-faceted and challenging.

“Whether developed as a new standard, adapting an existing certification scheme, or developing a compliance pathway in collaboration with national government,” said Wills, “these voluntary standards provide an opportunity for companies to embrace net zero carbon buildings as business as usual.”

Featured Image: Tokyo, Japan, a city of 13 million people, is one of the cities that has committed to having all new buildings operating at net zero carbon by 2030. July 26, 2018 (Photo by diamory) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Two Experiments With a Car-free Future

Kaohsiung light rail service at Kaisyuan Rueitian Station, Nov. 9, 2014 (Photo by billy1125)

Kaohsiung light rail service at Kaisyuan Rueitian Station, Nov. 9, 2014 (Photo by billy1125)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, October 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Imagine you live in a society that has opted to live without cars, not for environmental reasons or due to a fuel shortage but simply out of choice.

PostCarWorld, a study into the role of cars in Swiss society, found that Swiss people could be ready to move past cars, although they would be leaving behind a means of transport that has long been synonymous with modern life.

And, this shift to a car-free culture may even be economically viable, finds the research done at ETH Zurich, a university for science and technology.

The research results were presented at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) on October 3.

“We’re shifting from an object-centered world, in which cars are an extension of our private property, a myth, a dream, to a service-oriented world, which is based on a whole new approach to mobility,” explains Professor Jacques Lévy, a geographer and head of EPFL’s Chôros Laboratory, who directed the four-year study.

Jacques Lévy is a professor of geography and urban planning at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). (Photo courtesy Hesam University) posted for media use.

Jacques Lévy is a professor of geography and urban planning at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). (Photo courtesy Hesam University) posted for media use.

At the presentation, Lévy gave an honorary lecture followed by the opening of an exhibition showcasing his laboratory’s research and the results of the PostCarWorld research.

The idea for this study had been brewing for several years within the research institutes of EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering before it finally got the green light for funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Sinergia program, which supports pioneering, cross-disciplinary research.

Geographers, architects, urban planners, economists, transport and mobility engineers, political experts and sociologists from EPFL, ETH Zurich and the Università della Svizzera italiana all collaborated on the study.

Can you imagine getting around in a world without cars? That was the initial question put to 1,000 Swiss people, including experts in urban planning and mobility, as well as members of the general public.

“In asking Swiss people to imagine a car-free future, we were really aiming to find out more about what’s happening right now and about people’s complex relationship with cars,” said Lévy.

This relationship has been complicated by the rapidly shifting and highly contradictory status of cars in Switzerland.

While most Swiss people are prepared to consider alternatives to buying a car, change is slow, and people still enjoy driving.

But as leasing, car sharing, carpooling, public transport and telecommuting gain ground, people no longer need to own their own car to have that sense of freedom.

The researchers observed a renewed focus on public spaces within cities.

“There was a consensus among the urban planners we interviewed. They all want to rethink our streets and place more importance on shared spaces,” Lévy said. “Cars will have to adapt to this multimodal world in which pedestrians are reclaiming their rights and public spaces are no longer taken over by cars.”

Their final observation was that cars are responsible for the urban sprawl around us that, once it reaches a certain size, hinders a city’s growth.

As part of the study, EPFL’s TRACE Laboratory came up with the idea of building fast moving walkways that allow people to get around town quickly without a car. This invention has already caught the eye of the European Commission.

“We have not come up with a turnkey solution,” says Michel Bierlaire, the director of EPFL’s Transport and Mobility Laboratory. “But this study proves that the concept is credible and that a car-less, pedestrian-centric city is conceivable. This is a useful starting point for urban planners to evaluate the feasibility of accelerating moving walkways.”

Also at EPFL, a study was conducted into the mobility of those living in the Lake Geneva region. It showed that building strategic public transport links could attract people to them over the long term.

The disruptive influence of driverless cars was also analyzed. The researchers concluded that these cars will play a unique role in how we get around since they are not designed to replace human-driven cars.

Lévy says, “The balance is shifting. People living in downtown areas are aware that the cars polluting the air around them and creating noise come from outside the town, and that the fine particles they produce are deadly.”

“Certain public policies have changed, but the Swiss Constitution sends a mixed signal: it sets sustainable development as an objective but also stipulates that people must be free to choose their means of transport,” Lévy said. “But does this right to mobility conflict with other rights, such as the right to health?”

These contradictions are a sign that we are transitioning to a post-car society, say the researchers, who believe that a car-free world is much more likely now than it was 20 years ago.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan Puts Theory Into Practice

On the other side of the world in Kaohsiung, visitors are flocking to the Third EcoMobility World Festival and Congress to experience what a sustainable future for urban transport might be like.

They are arriving in a port city of 2.8 million residents in southern Taiwan, punctuated by skyscrapers, on the Love River, with walking paths and cafes along its banks, and cruise boats navigating its waters.

For the month of October, Kaohsiung is transforming the streets of its historic Hamasen neighborhood into a space dedicated to ecomobile vehicles such as bikes, public transport and light electric vehicles. The city has long been preparing for this event, together with neighborhood residents.

The EcoMobility World Festival, initiated by ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, is a month-long enactment of the future of urban mobility in a real city, with real people, in real time.

Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu says one of the most challenging – and most important – parts of making urban transport more sustainable is the change that needs to happen in our minds. Switching to ecomobility involves behavioral change that lays the groundwork for a new transportation culture.

Chu wrote a letter describing her plans for the event to fellow member cities of ICLEI, an international association of local governments that have made a commitment to sustainable development.

With this letter, she invited “all cities and mobility actors to this revolutionary experiment in our city, to share their expertise and work together on making sustainable urban mobility the norm in our cities.”

Mayor Chu also serves as chair of the EcoMobility Alliance, a network of 22 cities from around the world created in October 2011 in Chang¬won, South Korea.

Mayor Chu explained that despite a bike rental system with 159 stations and 750 kilometres of cycle paths, multiple public transport systems, including Mass Rapid Transit, high speed rail, the Taiwan Railway, city buses, ferries, solar boats, and light rail, her city suffers from air pollution due to petrol-based transportation.

“Today, over 90 percent of Kaohsiung residents use private cars or motorized scooters to go about their daily lives, contributing to air and noise pollution, traffic jams and accidents in the city,” wrote the mayor to her ICLEI colleagues.

“To demonstrate the transformative potential of an integrated sustainable transport system in Kaohsiung, we will make the Hamasen neighborhood, a frequently visited tourist area, exclusively open to ecomobile transport for the entire month of October,” wrote Mayor Chu.

“We want to improve air quality and create safer and more livable streets by increasing people- and environment-friendly transport options,” she wrote. “Through the Festival, we aim to demonstrate that ecomobility also supports the development of local economy by increasing access to local businesses.”

In parallel with the Festival, Kaohsiung hosted the EcoMobility World Congress on October 1-5, focusing on the three themes that will also be woven into the Festival experience: livable, shared and intelligent.

“By implementing shared mobility, cities can increase the mobility options available to their residents,” said Mayor Chu. “When coupled with intelligent transport solutions, they can ensure easy access to transport-related information by the residents.”

“The Congress will showcase examples from cities all around the world so that we all take home ideas on how to transform our urban transport systems,” she said.

To win the hearts and minds of residents, Mayor Chu and her government are working with over 150 local ambassadors to help residents understand and embrace the Festival, listening to their concerns and spending the time to answer their questions.

To ease the transition into the Festival, Kaohsiung made all ecomobile modes of transport available two weeks ahead of the event. Since September 12, the residents of Hamasen and people coming to the neighborhood to work or study were provided with parking space outside of the neighborhood area, and invited to use the wide range of ecomobile transport options available.

Two weeks before the Festival, 70 percent of the residents had received a public transport e-ticket, allowing them to use the bus, metro, ferry and light rail for free throughout the month of October.

Initial feedback is positive and encouraging say organizers. Students are finding it easier to commute to school, and residents are asking whether the variety of transport options will remain in place after the Festival.

Kaohsiung is treating the EcoMobility World Festival as an investment for the future of the city and its residents. The city is committing to ecomobility and planning for long term changes, but for now, city officials are concentrating on making this challenging experiment a success.


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An Atlas of Sci-Art Water Diplomacy

FountainRome

Fountain of the Naiads at Piazza della Repubblica, Rome, Italy. This was originally the fountain of the Acqua Pia, connected to the aqua Marcia aqueduct, commissioned at this site by Pope Pius IX in 1870. (Photo by David McKelvey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 9, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – No longer is it true that water is a free and infinite resource as people once believed. Today conservation is essential as one in every 10 people across the European Union experiences water scarcity, according to the European Commission.

In an effort to manage water wisely so that everyone in the EU, and especially city dwellers, will have enough, the Commission has just published the first “Urban Water Atlas for Europe.

The atlas shows how different water management choices, and other factors such as food preferences, waste management and climate change affect the long-term sustainability of water use in cities.

Detailed factsheets in the Urban Water Atlas for Europe present the state of water management in more than 40 European cities and regions together with several overseas examples.

Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, is responsible for the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which produced the new atlas.

“To foster innovative water management and its public acceptance, scientific and technological knowledge must be accessible for all. The ‘Urban Water Atlas for Europe’ presents scientific and technical information in an intuitive and creative way, making it easy for everyone to understand what is at stake and act accordingly,” he said.

The atlas was presented on April 27 during the meeting of ministers in charge of water management from the 43 members of the Union for the Mediterranean, hosted by the Maltese Government in Valetta.

The publication a result of the BlueSCities project, funded by Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation program.

In its introduction, the Urban Water Atlas for Europe reveals the pioneering concept on which it is founded – Sci-Art Water Diplomacy.

This concept first appeared in a pilot scheme in Jordan which led to the exhibition “Science and Art in Water – Water through the eyes of Jordanian children,” organized under the auspices of the Jordanian Minister for Education by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the partners of the Horizon 2020 Project, BlueSCities.

Schoolchildren from different countries were encouraged to consider the water problems facing their region and to describe their personal feelings through drawings. The children’s thought-provoking, yet innocent images called on society to progress

towards a more ecological, more sustainable and more peaceful future, perhaps far more effectively than any scientific treatise.

The colorful results of this exercise laid the philosophical basis for the Urban Water Atlas for Europe.

“This is another great example of how the JRC helps to deliver solutions to the challenges facing Europe’s citizens and the spaces they live in,” Navracsics said.

On the scientific side, there are two online tools linked with the atlas that can help cities manage water more sustainably.

The City Blueprint is an interactive tool to support strategic decision-making by making it easy to access and understand the results of studies and expert knowledge.

The City Blueprint given for each city is a composite index that displays 25 indicators related to water, waste and climate change in one infographic, summarizing at a glance how well a city currently manages its water resources.

This tool gives an overview of a city’s strong and weak points, and provides tailor-made options for making urban water services more sustainable.

This information is important to help identify priorities for further action and investment, but also to visualize strengths and weaknesses. The Blue City Index is the overall score based on these 25 indicators.

The City Amberprint is a tool for assessing a city’s progress towards becoming smart and sustainable.

Karmenu Vella, commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, “Water is an irreplaceable resource for society, but it is only renewable if well managed.”

He emphasized the critial role of cities, saying, “Home to three out of four EU citizens, cities have no other choice but to become water-wise, and better manage this precious resource. A strong water policy is also essential for delivering on Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development both in the EU and internationally.”

The atlas also presents the Urban Water Footprint of European cities, a measure of domestic water use as well as water use embodied in agricultural products consumed.

This measure aims to raise awareness of the large amount of water used to produce food and the variation in water needs among different diets. The atlas shows that healthier diets and lower meat diets could save as much as 40 percent of the water currently used to produce food.

The atlas also aims to encourage citizens to take an interest and get involved in water issues by combining the work of scientists, artists, politicians and municipal stakeholders with that of schoolchildren and teachers.

Some of the key messages in the atlas are, “Engage in true citizen engagement, employing a participatory and open approach,” and “create a legacy and a true connection between generations, from the youngest to the oldest citizens.”

The Urban Water Atlas stems from a collaboration of the Joint Research Centre with Fundació CTM Centre Tecnològic, the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, the (EIP) European Innovation Partnership on Water, and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities, NETWERC H2O.

It follows a long tradition of other atlases produced by the Joint Research Centre, including those on soils and soil management across the globe and the European Atlas of Forest Tree Species.


Featured Image:  Woman at a fountain at Catedral de Santa Eulalia de Barcelona, Spain (Photo by Clark and Kim Kays) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Cities Seek US$1 Trillion for Low-Carbon Construction

C40ForumWomen

Women at the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum, from left: Naoko Ishii, CEO and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility; Sue Tindal, chief financial officer at Auckland Council; Val Smith, director, Corporate Sustainability at Citi; Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor of London for Environment and Energy.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, April 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world’s largest cities are not sitting around waiting for national governments to hand them a climate-safe future. They are taking the initiative to build their own low-carbon opportunities.

To address climate change arising from urban development, there are over 3,000 low-carbon infrastructure projects in the planning stages across a network of 90 of the world’s megacities known as C40 Cities .

Cities have reported costs for just 15 percent of these projects, but even this small percentage amounts to US$15.5 billion in required investment.

There are 90 megacities in the C40 Cities network. They include: Durban, Nairobi, Lagos, and Addis Ababa in Africa; Delhi, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Tokyo, in Asia; Auckland, New Zealand in Oceana; Amman, Jordan in the Middle East; Copenhagen, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, Athens and Amsterdam in Europe; Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires in South America; and in North America, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Vancouver.

Roughly one in every 12 people in the world lives in a C40 city, and these 90 cities generate about one-quarter of the world’s wealth, as expressed by GDP, or Gross Domestic Product.

These numbers highlight an enormous opportunity for collaboration between cities and the private sector to invest in sustainable projects, and also the need to accelerate investment and development in sustainable infrastructure to deliver a climate-safe future.

Rachel Kyte, chief executive, Sustainable Energy for All, an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General, has said, “Buildings account for one-third of global energy use and with cities growing rapidly, there’s an urgent need for partnerships that help cities and citizens use energy better.”

Recent C40 research, contained in the report “Deadline 2020,” estimates that C40 cities need to spend US$375 billion over the next four years on low carbon infrastructure in order to be on the right track to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement on Climate that took effect in November 2016.

Under this agreement, world governments pledged to keep Earth’s temperature increase to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Deadline 2020” estimates before 2050, C40 cities will need to invest over US$1 trillion on new climate action and in renewing and expanding infrastructure to get on the trajectory required to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.

But how are the megacities to attract this mega-investment?

On April 4, the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum gathered over 200 delegates from cities, investors, national governments, academics, private sector experts, civil society groups and technology providers to identify the key barriers in financing sustainable urban infrastructure.

The Forum was hosted in London by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Greater London Authority, with the support of the Citi Foundation and World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

City action can deliver 40 percent of the Paris goal,” Mark Watts, executive director, C40 Cities, said at the Forum.

Participants looked at unlocking finance for low-carbon investments in cities. They agreed that cities must improve project development information in order to accelerate climate action, a conclusion articulated in a new report, “The Low Carbon Investment Landscape in C40 Cities.

They recognized that accessing and attracting finance are some of the biggest barriers that mayors face in delivering their climate change plans, especially in developing countries and emerging economies with a lack of expertise in securing investment.

To help solve this problem, the C40 Cities Finance Facility was launched during COP21, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where the Paris Agreement on Climate was approved by world governments.

The C40 Cities Finance Facility will provide US$20 million of support by 2020 to help unlock and access up to US$1 billion of additional capital funding, by providing the connections, advice and legal and financial support to enable C40 cities in developing and emerging countries to develop more financeable projects.

For developing markets, public-private partnerships are key to getting sustainable projects off the ground,” said Val Smith, director, Corporate Sustainability at Citi.

But the financial industry tells C40 Cities that they are experiencing a lack of corporate understanding of the low carbon technology being deployed.

They lack understanding of the financing models cities use to fund low carbon infrastructure and, in addition, financiers are seeing inadequate capacity within city governments to form partnerships and collaborate on sustainable infrastructure projects.

CDP’s Matchmaker program aims to overcome these challenges by engaging cities early in the project development process and standardizing how these projects are disseminated to the market.

CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, is a not-for-profit that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, CDP says they have seen a 70 percent increase in cities disclosing their carbon emissions.

CDP says this year’s disclosures reveal that many cities are actively looking to partner with the private sector on climate change. Cities highlighted a total 720 climate change-related projects, worth a combined US$26 billion, that they want to work with business on.

Matchmaker will publicize these low-carbon infrastructure projects to CDP’s growing number of investor signatories that currently represent over US$100 trillion in assets.

And these are by no means all of the opportunities for sustainable investment in urban low-carbon construction.

On April 4, at a meeting of the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York City April 3, five new cities and districts committed to improve their buildings by adopting new policies, demonstration projects and tracking progress against their goals.

They joined the Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA), a public-private collaboration that now includes over 35 global organizations and 28 cities in 18 countries.

The cities and districts joining the BEA are Kisii County, Kenya; Merida, Mexico; Nairobi City County, Kenya; Pasig City, Philippines; and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

World Resources Institute (WRI) leads the BEA, convening businesses, nonprofits and multilateral development organizations to support local governments in implementing policies and programs that make their buildings more efficient.

Jennifer Layke, global director, Energy Program, World Resources Institute, encapsulated the push for sustainable construction, saying, “People want schools, homes, and offices that are healthy and comfortable without the burden of high energy costs due to inefficiency. Prioritizing efficiency in buildings can save money and reduce pollution. Our new Building Efficiency Accelerator partners are signaling their intent to avoid the lock-in of decades of inefficient development.

Supporting these new members are ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the India Green Building Council, the Kenya Green Building Society, Pasig and WRI Mexico.

We must transform our urban systems to meet the challenges of sustainability and climate,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, a funding organization. “Through this partnership, we can provide awareness raising, policy advice and technology transfer directly to sub-national governments ready to take action.”

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Featured Image: Duke Energy Center in Charlotte, North Carolina is a LEED Certified Platinum building, the highest sustainability rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. (Photo by U.S. Green Building Council) Posted for media use

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167 Nations Adopt New Urban Agenda

quito

Ecuador’s capital, Quito, population 2.1 million, is distinguished by the Cathedral of Quito, first opened in 1567. (Photo by Al Tuttle) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

QUITO, Ecuador, November 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, has wrapped up in Quito, Ecuador, as delegations adopted the New Urban Agenda, a new framework that details how cities should be planned and managed to best achieve sustainability.

bancorrea

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, attends the opening of the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, HABITAT III, with Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN) posted for media use.

Up to 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, experts project.

 Hosted by the city of Quito from October 17-20, and attended by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Habitat III conference drew around 36,000 people from 167 countries.

 Habitat III brought together mayors, local and regional authorities, civil society and community groups, the private sector and urban planners.

The New Urban Agenda is contained in the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All. It states, “By 2050 the world urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanization one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. As the population, economic activities, social and cultural interactions, as well as environmental and humanitarian impacts, are increasingly concentrated in cities, this poses massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources…

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Joan Clos, secretary-general of the Habitat III conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, Oct. 31, 2016 (Photo by Mark Garten / UN) posted for media use.

We have analyzed and discussed the challenges that our cities are facing and have [agreed] on a common roadmap for the 20 years to come,” said Joan Clos, secretary-general of the conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, usually called UN-Habitat.

 Clos, who was mayor of Barcelona, Spain from September 1997 to September 2006, said the New Urban Agenda should be seen as an extension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by 193 UN Member States in September 2015.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the power of cities and towns to be the engine for sustainable growth in the future, a concept further emphasized in the New Urban Agenda.

The ambitious New Urban Agenda is guided by these interlinked principles:

  • (a) Leave no one behind, by ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including the eradication of extreme poverty, by ensuring equal rights and opportunities, socio-economic and cultural diversity, integration in the urban space, enhancing livability, education, food security and nutrition, health and well-being; including by ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, promoting safety and eliminating discrimination and all forms of violence … and providing equal access for all to physical and social infrastructure and basic services as well as adequate and affordable housing.
  • (b) Sustainable and inclusive urban economies, by leveraging the … benefits of well-planned urbanization, high productivity, competitiveness, and innovation; promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all, ensuring decent job creation and equal access for all to economic and productive resources and opportunities; preventing land speculation; and promoting secure land tenure and managing urban shrinking where appropriate.
  •  (c) Environmental sustainability, by promoting clean energy, sustainable use of land and resources in urban development as well as protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, including adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature; promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns; building urban resilience; reducing disaster risks; and mitigating and adapting to climate change.

On the sidelines of the Habitat III formal discussions, dozens of side events and parallel events brought partners together to debate the more intricate areas of urbanization, such as the right of women and youth to the city, the importance of public space and how to finance the New Urban Agenda.

Among its 175 sections, the New Urban Agenda states, in Section 66, “We commit to adopt a smart city approach, which makes use of opportunities from digitalization, clean energy and technologies, as well as innovative transport technologies, thus providing options for inhabitants to make more environmentally friendly choices and boost sustainable economic growth and enabling cities to improve their service delivery.

 Section 75 states, “We commit to strengthening the sustainable management of resources – including land, water (oceans, seas, and freshwater), energy, materials, forests, and food, with particular attention to the environmentally sound management and minimization of all waste, hazardous chemicals, including air and short-lived climate pollutants, greenhouse gases, and noise – in a way that considers urban-rural linkages and functional supply and value chains vis-à-vis environmental impact and sustainability, and strives to transition to a circular economy, while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration, restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges.

Above all, Clos said, the New Urban Agenda is, “A commitment that we will all together take the responsibility … [for the] direction of the development of our common urbanizing world.

To further reach out to cities, foster the exchange of best practices and the development of urban strategies, the European Commission has launched a new web portal for cities.

Answering a need expressed by numerous cities, the new portal provides up-to-date information on EU policies such as climate change adaptation, mobility or circular economy that directly impact cities and urban areas.

Urban stakeholders can also get clear information on financing opportunities under the different EU funding instruments and on events related to urban development.

The new portal is intended to help cities to address challenges such as affordable housing, energy efficiency or accessibility, by making the most out of EU funding opportunities.

In addition, the new Urban Data Platform, hosted on the Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies operated by the Joint Research Centre, provides a single access point to common indicators on the status and trends in over 800 European urban areas – on demography, economic development or access to services.

This database will enable urban authorities and stakeholders to compare data, benchmark and monitor, which is one of the aims of the New Urban Agenda.

European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic said, “Over 70 percent of the EU’s population lives in urban areas; it is here where the transition to a green economy is being decided.”

Cities play a crucial role in the activation of citizens and consumers and in promoting change by investing in energy-efficient renovation of buildings, making transport more sustainable, raising citizens’ awareness, implementing new technologies, supporting vulnerable consumers and much more. Therefore we are launching instruments which will enable cities to experiment with new ideas and see if they are feasible and useful,” Šefcovic said.

Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu presented the EU’s Urban Agenda at Habitat III in Quito.

In partnership with UN Habitat, the Commission has released the State of European Cities Report. It supports the New Urban Agenda by assessing the performance of European cities with regards to its priority themes: jobs and skills, fight against poverty, shift towards a low-carbon economy.

At the heart of the EU’s Urban Agenda, 12 partnerships allow cities, Member States, EU Institutions, NGOs and business partners to work together on an equal basis to find common solutions to improve quality of life in European urban areas.

Four pilot partnerships have already started: on the inclusion of migrants, coordinated by the city of Amsterdam; on air quality, coordinated by the Netherlands; on housing, coordinated by Slovakia; and on urban poverty, coordinated by Belgium and France.

By January 2017, four new partnerships will be launched: on circular economy coordinated by Oslo, Norway; on digital transition coordinated by Estonia; Oulu, Finland; and Sofia, Bulgaria; on urban mobility coordinated by the Czech Republic and Karlsruhe, Germany, as well as on jobs and skills coordinated by Romania, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Jelgava, Latvia. The Commission will report back to the Council on the partnerships by the end of 2017.

To transform our world, we must transform its cities,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement commemorating World Cities Day, which is observed each October 31 since 2014.

Local action is essential to realizing the potential of these global agreements,” Ban said. “On World Cities Day, let us renew our resolve to confront urban problems and forge lasting solutions. Together, we can show how success in cities inspires change across the world.


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Ranking the Top 10 Global Green Cities

Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (Photo by Jean Baptiste Roux) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

 SINGAPORE, August 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News ) – Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose city is the greenest of them all? The mirror held up by the corporate strategy consulting firm Solidiance reflects the answer in a new report  that compares the performance of 10 global cities and their green buildings.

To rank these cities’ green building performance, Solidiance developed a set of criteria across four categories. Three focused on the total number of green buildings, their performance and their initiatives, while one category examined each city’s supportive infrastructure, which has a lot to do with fostering a healthy green building movement.

After assessing the 10 Global Cities for green building performance, Paris was determined to be the leader, followed by Singapore and London

Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong came in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions, while New York, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai filled in the other four slots.

 “Singapore can certainly be considered a leader in the field of green building. The city target for 80 per cent of buildings to achieve BCA Green Mark standards by 2030 is ambitious but achievable, and the Singapore Green Building Council will play a key role in delivering this,” said Terri Wills, CEO of World Green Building Council, United Kingdom.

 Singapore is the “standout leader” in the Green Building Codes and Targets assessment Solidiance reports. While all the Global Cities have outlined city-level green building codes, only three cities have achieved their green building targets. Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai are the only cities with both a green building code and green building targets set out by the city.

Paris and Singapore took the top spots by excelling in all four assessment categories: city-wide green building landscape, green building efficiency and performance, green building policies and targets, and green city culture and environment.

They were the only cities that ranked within the Top Five in every category.

Both Paris and Singapore have strong building efficiency and performance, which shows that both local and international certification standards are yielding high-performance on green buildings.

 London benefits from high yield of green buildings in the city, which can be linked to the fact that the United Kingdom was the first country ever to introduce a green building certification system.

Paris fell just slightly short of Singapore in the absolute number of green buildings in the city, and by not setting out a clear city-wide green building target.

Although Sydney, Tokyo, and Hong Kong performed well on the green city culture and environment criteria, Sydney and Hong Kong were negatively affected with the poor results they achieved on their green building landscape and performance.

Sydney, with 67, had the fewest absolute number of green buildings in the city.

Finally, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai were the last cities on the Top 10 list. These three cities are among the most recent to join the green building movement, and Solidiance analysts expect that these rankings will change in the future as these newer ‘green building cities’ are setting ambitious targets in order to catch up to other cities’ levels.

Dubai launched its local green building standard last among these 10 Global Cities, in 2010, resulting in fewer locally certified buildings (8th), and only launched its green building regulations and specifications in 2012.

Despite the slow start, Dubai ranks 5th in internationally certified green buildings (104), and has a total of 147 internationally and locally certified green buildings erected on its cityscape. Dubai already ranks 6th for ‘green buildings as a percentage of total buildings’

The current green building development has been focused on new buildings but is shifting towards existing buildings,” said Vincent Cheng, director of building sustainability at ARUP, Hong Kong, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. “For significant progress, the focus of stakeholders in Hong Kong should shift from new to existing buildings which make up the bulk of the building stock. Potentially, more effort can be made to incentivize sustainability for existing buildings, promote microgrid/ renewable systems to reduce dependence on coal-powered electricity, and divert waste from precious landfill space.

When considering the limited number of years that Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai have been working to green their built stock, the achievements of these cities are profound, especially when considering the large number of highly internationally-certified buildings currently standing within these cities,” says Solidiance, explaining the rankings.

Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of the Emirates Green Building Council, United Arab Emirates, states in the study, “It is important to note that a building can be sustainable and incorporate green best practices without having a certification behind it. Certifications, however, are useful tools for measurement and can serve as guidelines for best practice. Nonetheless, Dubai does not have a specific certification or rating systems such as Estidama in Abu Dhabi, but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is used and recognised broadly.”

By contrast, Singapore stood out as a pioneer in the industry by setting forth a comprehensive and bold set of policies and targets for greening the city’s built block.

As a city that has committed to greening 80 percent of its built stock by 2030, Singapore proved to be one of the most ambitious on the list of cities evaluated.

Finally, the assessment of the city-level green initiatives established that both Sydney and Hong Kong have set higher than average carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets amongst the 10 Global Cities, and have also proven themselves as they perform noticeably well with low CO2 emissions city-wide.

 Paris, Sydney, and Singapore take the highest ranking spots with regards to each city’s green building efficiency. This is due to the three cities not only being very low CO2-polluting cities in general, but also because they each have a very low percentage of emissions which can be attributed to the city’s built-environment.

Roughly eight to 10 million new buildings are constructed each year, worldwide, and now more of them are greener than ever before. Solidiance finds that the number of green buildings is doubling every three years as a response to the current accelerating demand for sustainability.

 Michael Scarpf, head of sustainable construction at the Swiss building materials giant LafargeHolcim told Solidiance, “Singapore and London are the cities which have the highest green building activity, and Costa Rica, France, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are the countries that witness high demand for green building materials.

Buildings are the largest energy-consuming sector, accounting for more than 40 percent of global energy use and responsible for an estimated 30 percent of city-wide emissions, calculates Solidance, which points out that buildings also hold the most promise for global energy savings.


 Featured image: Montparnasse Tower views: Les Invalides, Paris, France (Photo by David McSpadden) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Dirtiest Air in World’s Poorest Cities

MonroviaVehicles

By Sunny Lewis                                                                                           Follow us at: @Maximpactdotcom

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 12, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The poorest cities on Earth have the worst air pollution, data revealed today by the World Health Organization shows.

More than 80 percent of the people living in cities that monitor pollutants in their air are exposed to levels up to 10 times higher than limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO), that UN-affiliated global health agency said today, releasing the latest figures.

The highest urban air pollution levels were found in low-and middle-income countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia regions, where annual mean levels often measured as much as 10 times WHO limits.

While all regions of the world are affected, residents of low-income cities are the most impacted.

WHO’s latest urban air quality data shows that 98 percent of cities in low-income and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.

In high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56 percent.

“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant-director general, Family, Women and Children’s Health.

“When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations – the youngest, oldest and poorest – are the most impacted,” Dr. Bustreo said.

DakarSenegalAirQuality

At sunset, hazy air lingers over Dakar, Senegal, one the world’s 10 poorest cities. (Photo by Jeff Attaway) Creative Commons licence via Flickr

WHO researchers compared a total of 795 cities in 67 countries for levels of small and fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) during the five-year period, 2008-2013.

PM10 and PM2.5 include pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon. They penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health.

In the past two years, the database – now covering 3,000 cities in 103 countries – has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.

As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.

Ambient air pollution, made of high concentrations of small and fine particulate matter, is the greatest environmental risk to health, say WHO executives. It causes more than three million premature deaths worldwide each year.

“Urban air pollution continues to  rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” says Dr. Maria Neira, WHO director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “At the same time, awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.”

 Most sources of urban outdoor air pollution are beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management.

Yet it is possible for cities to clear the air. More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third in low  and middle income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than five percent in five years.

The successful cities reduced industrial smokestack emissions, increased their use of renewables, like solar and wind, and prioritized rapid transit, walking and cycling networks.

“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” says WHO’s Dr. Carlos Dora. “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution-related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”

Analysis of the data reveals that during the 2008-2013 period:

  • Global urban air pollution levels increased by eight percent, although there were improvements in some regions.
  • Urban air pollution levels were lowest in high-income countries, with lower levels most prevalent in Europe, the Americas, and the Western Pacific Region.
  •  In the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions and low-income countries in the Western Pacific Region, levels of urban air pollution has increased by more than 5 percent in more than two-thirds of the cities.
  • In the African Region urban air pollution data remains very sparse, however available data revealed particulate matter (PM) levels above the median.

The world’s 10 poorest cities, by UN ranking, are the capitals of sub-Saharan African nations. They are lacking in the most rudimentary of supplies, and clean water, public transportation and overcrowding are major issues. While the UN categorizes these cities as being among the poorest in the world, they are still expanding rapidly.

During the World Health Assembly, May 24-30, Member States will try to map out a better global response to the health effects of air pollution.


 Main Image: An aerial view of Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia, one the world’s 10 poorest cities. (Photo by Christopher Herwig / United Nations) Creative Commons licence via Flickr

Featured Image: 123rf stock photos