Smart Cities: A Key Climate Crisis Solution?
A google search for “what is a smart city?” had nearly three billion results. A smart city is a wide concept that is becoming more and more important in a warmer world. In this article, we try to explain what is a smart city, how it can help to combat climate change? and finally, we put our map featuring the startups to create more sustainable and resilient cities in Turkey.
Rising Population, Crowded Cities
More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and this number is expected to rise to almost 5 billion by 2030 (1). According to projections of the UN, combined with global population increase, urbanization could add another 2.5billion people to urban areas by 2050. 90% of this increase will take place in Asia and Africa. The rising population coupled with climate change, food, and energy insecurities, and inequalities pose real threats to urban areas. We need more sustainable cities.
On the one hand, cities are the main contributors to climate change. Urban activities are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Cities use a large proportion of the world’s energy supply. According to the UN, Urban Areas are responsible for around 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions (2). Transportation and buildings are among the largest contributors.
Urban Areas are responsible for around 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions (UN).
On the other hand, urban areas are very vulnerable to the catastrophic risks of climate change. Cities are at the frontline of the risks created by climate change. Urban climate change-related risks Include; rising sea levels, storm surges, heat stress, extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, drought, water scarcity, and air pollution (3).
Even if cities are a major source of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, they also offer many solutions for the mitigation of climate change. There are many city areas with mitigation potential: Buildings, Energy, Transport, and Industry. Innovation and planning in these sectors have major potential to deliver emission cuts. Smart Cities are the future of urbanization for a more sustainable urban life.
What is a Smart City and how it can help to mitigate climate change?
There are many definitions of a smart city proposed by different organizations. According to the European Commission “A smart city is a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital solutions for the benefit of its inhabitants and business (4).” According to European Commission, a smart city should offer smarter urban transport networks, upgraded water supply, waste disposal facilities, and more efficient ways to use the energy in buildings.
The importance of sustainable urban areas is seen in one of the SDG’S. SDG 11 aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable(5). The United Nations General Assembly adopted the SDGs in 2015, and they serve as a framework for countries to build a brighter and more sustainable future for all.
According to IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report: Mitigation Of Climate Change; Cities and other urban areas offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions. Lower energy consumption (such as by creating compact, walkable cities), electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources, and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Cities may reduce emissions significantly by using energy, building, mobility, and planning solutions and innovations.
According to Markets and Markets, the global smart cities market size will reach 837 billion USD in 2026. Urbanization, growing demand for healthier environments, fast, efficient transportation, and efficient energy consumption are the main drivers for the growth of the smart cities market (6). In Turkey also, there are many startups that are working to create sustainable and resilient cities. We searched for the Turkish startups that are working to create smart city solutions and mapped them.
You can reach our 2022 renewable energy startups map here!
Creating sustainable cities, and mitigating climate change is a team play. One actor can not solve the problem. Governments, NGOs, corporates, SMEs, startups, and other actors in society need to collaborate. Digitalization and technology may help to create energy-efficient buildings, smart mobility, planning solutions, and more. Building bridges between the actors and understanding the risks are essential to creating liveable cities in a warmer world.