What Does “Net Zero Carbon” Really Mean for Cities?

Environmental | June 23, 2022

Climate change is at the forefront of many people’s minds, what with recent weather anomalies such as winter tornados and other natural disasters. One of the potential solutions to climate change is reducing carbon emissions. For many, the goal isn’t just reduction, but elimination of carbon emission, called ‚Äúnet zero.‚Äù

The idea behind net zero carbon emissions is that, through the creative use of technology and sustainability practices, we can stop excess carbon from polluting the atmosphere. This, in turn, will help maintain the average global temperature.

Since modern cities are some of the biggest culprits in terms of carbon output, creating net zero carbon cities is a major focus.

Cities and Carbon Emissions

The World Economic Forum, along with more than 70 organizations, is promoting a multi-year initiative called Net Zero Carbon Cities. With 8 billion people on the planet, who mostly live in cities, creating smart strategies for climate change is essential. The number of global city dwellers is expected to go up in the future, with more than two-thirds of the world population set to live in urban landscapes by 2050.

Because of the vast number of people that are and will be living in cities, transforming them into net zero carbon cities must be a top priority. Without better technologies, cities can be a major source of air pollution and carbon emissions.

Cities can also contribute to the heating of the planet even without carbon emissions. How? The lack of trees and addition of asphalt, concrete and other hard surfaces end up trapping and exacerbating heat from the sun. The worst city areas with no trees can become hot, hellish “urban heat islands” that can be critically dangerous to residents during a bad heatwave.

Cities also have other impacts on the environment, from the waste that gets thrown down storm drains to the trash that gets put into landfills (even landfill trash, by the way, contributes to climate change because of the methane it produces).

The New Vision for Net Zero Carbon Cities

To transform cities to net zero carbon will take a combined effort of government, private business and citizens. Each must do their part in order to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas transmission. However, it’s not just important to control climate change. These changes into a new way of being should also help create better jobs, enable citizen participation and improve health and wellbeing. The new systems should be resilient and, of course, renewable.

In essence, we’re looking to create a future city that is its own urban biosphere, one that works more in harmony with nature than simply displacing it‚Äîwhich is what cities of old used to do.

These new, transformed net zero carbon cities will have a number of features. These include:

‚óè Better roads and traffic systems that reduce congestion
‚óè Improved water treatment, sewage administration and recycling
‚óè More solar panels as well as greenery such as gardens on rooftops
‚óè Smart technologies that enable better use of resources and energy
‚óè Livable, walkable neighborhoods that offer ample tree canopies as well as mixed-use shops and residential areas
‚óè Bike routes to reduce the need for cars, at least among the young and fit
‚óè Better public transportation options that are greener, faster and safer
‚óè Workplaces that don’t require unnecessary travel and on-site work when remote work can accomplish the same tasks with fewer carbon impacts

Upgrading Energy Systems and Utilities

A key part of transforming cities will be upgrading energy systems and infrastructure. The old energy systems in the United States were typically centralized and one-way. But this is an outdated way of doing things. For example, since the advent of solar panels, we could potentially see a lot more energy generated from residential homes that could be sold back to energy companies. Thus, a more distributed model of energy development and management could be utilized.

Smart technologies along with the Internet of Things (IoT) will be an important part of net zero carbon cities in the future. These technologies can be used to track electricity usage and pinpoint areas of waste and overuse. These advances in technology will help urban planners and architects better design buildings and public spaces to be more energy efficient.

Finally, during this transition, we will see many more electric cars on the streets. Many governments are working towards completely eliminating fossil fuel motor vehicles in the next few decades. While this change will require the buy-in of the public, it will eventually be adopted by most. Additionally, self-driving cars may create an environment where individual ownership is no longer necessary for everyone, and cars will be able to be utilized as needed.

Overall, the future of net zero carbon cities is bright.

Townsend Tree is a provider of tree trimming, hazardous tree removal and debris clearing for utilities, governments and energy companies. We are committed to a net zero carbon future. Contact us today for more information on how we can keep energy systems up and running.