TECHNOLOGY TRENDS Urban Systems

The world is urbanizing rapidly. Since 2007, more than half of the global population has been living in cities. This figure is predicted to rise to 60% by 2030. Cities are hubs of vital energy and opportunity and drivers of economic growth, but also create strains on infrastructure, contribute to air pollution, increase urban sprawl and account for about 70% of global GHG emissions. Rising inequalities, which were also exacerbated by COVID-19, have been most profound in densely populated urban areas, increasing the already dire need to build urban resilience to the impacts of climate-related disasters and combat social and economic losses.

Key statistics on cities and climate change:

  • The world’s cities occupy just 3% of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 70% of carbon emissions.
  • 95% of urban expansion in the next decades will take place in developing world.
  • 90% of urban growth is forecasted to happen in Asia and Africa in the next 30 years.
  • Rapid urbanization is exerting pressure on fresh water supplies, sewage, the living environment, and public health.

Technology and innovation are needed to address the myriad of considerations that go into planning for more sustainable cities.

Inside our cities Energy efficiency in buildings

Buildings are an integral part of the urban infrastructure. According to the OECD, however, buildings account for 28% of global emissions, and an even larger share of emissions in large cities. During the 2000-2017 period, global energy-related emissions from the building sector increased by 25%. Improving energy efficiency in buildings can substantially reduce energy consumption and emissions while lowering household energy costs and creating jobs. The CTCN has worked extensively with countries to develop climate resilient infrastructure and green buildings for low-carbon societies. It collaborates with industries, organizations, and research institutions to generate and implement energy efficiency technology solutions, including the formulation of national electricity grid codes, rehabilitation of district heating systems and other technology solutions on national, industry and community levels.

E-mobility

E-mobility innovations are racing ahead with recent advances in new energy vehicles, including battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicles, and alternative fuels (biofuels and e-fuels) for internal combustion engines. It is important to remember that the switch to alternative vehicles is not enough to move the dial on climate change if the source of electricity used is based on fossil fuels. The transformation of the mobility sector requires a coinciding energy sector transformation away from a carbon-intensive grid and toward renewable and more sustainable energy sources. Persisting e-mobility challenges that continue to prevent scale-up include a lack of mobility infrastructure such as charging and refuelling stations, access to renewable energy for charging, battery lifespans, and prohibitive costs to governments for building the appropriate infrastructure.

As the pandemic touched every aspect of our lives, the transport sector was no different. Cities were forced to innovate, as citizens became more concerned about both health and safety, and more focused on social distancing. With the return to cities, a renewed interest in public transit could be taking hold, ushering in a new era of excitement over e-bikes and e-scooters, and new plans for improved public transportation. Many cities are investing in new infrastructure, and with the emphasis on sustainability, technological innovation will be essential in designing these new mobility systems.

The CTCN brings together a diverse array of stakeholders to provide technical assistance on developing sustainable transport systems, including the deployment and scale-up of e-mobility transitions and feasibility studies for sustainable land transport. The Centre is supporting countries like Papua New Guinea, where national policy on EV is being drafted for land transport, alongside a roadmap for its deployment and upscaling. In Zimbabwe, the CTCN is providing similar support to assess market readiness to deploy e-mobility systems.