The journey to Net-zero: The role of Sustainable Cities

In 2019, Governments across all nations of the UK committed to the Net Zero target as recommended by the Climate Change Committee. Achieving the net-zero target by 2050, however, will require an unprecedented transformation of our infrastructure including energy, transportation, and utilities. These are currently the largest contributors to the UK’s emissions.  

Some of the changes that will be needed include:  

  • A lower demand for carbon-intensive activities  
  • Extensive electrification, particularly of transport and heating, 
  • A major expansion of renewable and other low-carbon power generation 

One of the ways that Net Zero will be achieved is by addressing the emissions within cities via low emission schemes. These are at the heart of making sure the targets are met as, despite only covering 3% of the earth’s surface, cities are responsible for more than 70% of all carbon emissions.  

Therefore, the need for integrated energy solutions through a mixture of urban planning and policy decisions will be critical. There are examples of sustainable cities across the globe such as:  

  • Sydney’s launch of a Better Buildings Cup to create a norm-setting competition among large companies to reduce their carbon footprints. 
  • London’s ultra-low emission zones.  
  • New York has rolled out a grading system to give A-F grades to most/least efficient buildings 
  • Hongkong has set itself a target of being Carbon Neutral by 2050 with thriving green building movement and is committed to making its vast number of skyscrapers more energy efficient.  

So, what does this show? There is no ‘one size fits all’ – each city’s needs must be at the heart of developing and delivering an integrated solution which will only be effective through collaboration of all involved. This includes governments, the private sector, and local communities. The urgency has never been greater; making cities sustainable places to live and work for future generations is imperative if we are to move closer to a net-zero emissions world.