Systemic Efficiency – The Path to Net Zero Carbon Cities

More people than ever call the urban jungle their home. Not surprisingly, more than 60% of the CO2 emissions come from cities. Currently, they accommodate more than 50% of the world’s population, but this is projected to grow up to nearly 70% by the middle of the century. Meaningful change is needed to reduce the high energy consumption and carbon emissions which are responsible for driving up the global temperature. Achieving such ambitious goals is only possible if all the stakeholders come together and commit to accomplishing this mission.

What is Systemic Efficiency?

Even the best intentions and plans will go to waste if actions are disjointed and there is no consensus between stakeholders. Public and private sectors, policymakers and the civil society need to collaborate if the ambitious goal of net carbon zero is to become a reality. Switching to renewable energy and using more electric vehicles are two of the main priorities. Simultaneously, we must create a smart energy infrastructure, something that can be achieved by making everything more energy efficient.

Systemic efficiency refers to the comprehensive plan of creating a system that addresses all the major challenges in a holistic way. It consists of a combination of smart digital technology, energy efficient buildings, vehicles and infrastructure, wrapped up in a circular economy. Innovation will be the main catalyst for success, but in order for the plan to succeed, all the involved stakeholders must work together. A switch from the current urbanization paradigm is needed to create sustainable urban ecosystems.

Net Zero Carbon Cities

Decarbonizing cities should be the top priority, as many urban areas are major sources of pollution. This affects the well-being of its residents, while also casting a long shadow over the future of global energy demand. It is within city borders that three quarters of the world’s primary energy consumption happens. Such numbers are not sustainable in the long run, but coherent and sustained action can drive them down. At the horizon, we can see the promise of net zero carbon cities, yet the road ahead is long and twisted.

Systemic efficiency can pull together the available resources in an interconnected way. When they operate in isolation, even the positive impact is greatly reduced and unique opportunities are missed. Driving down the consumption of energy is the main objective, but the path to success goes through smart energy infrastructures. By engaging all the involved parties, available energy resources can be used at the optimal time, thus reducing consumption without affecting consumers.

Energy effective smart buildings will provide the grid flexibility needed to decarbonize cities without impacting the well-being of its residents. Such buildings will be able to feed the excess energy to the grid, therefore decrease the greenhouse gas emissions the arriving from building operations. The buildings of the future will use low carbon and high-performance materials that will replace existing technology. The priority is the integration of renewable energy with smart buildings and energy infrastructure.

Offsetting Costs Through Job Creation

Systemic efficiency will produce meaningful and sustainable growth for the cities willing and capable of adopting this new paradigm. Any transition involves certain costs, but in this case the job creation and economic benefits outweigh the immediate expenses. When applying the concept to modern cities, the perks reverberate across the environmental, economic and societal levels. Switching to smart buildings and infrastructure will lead to job creation and health benefits that are impossible to quantify in money.

In order to achieve the goal of carbon neutral cities, cooperation between all the stakeholders is vital. No single entity is capable of overseeing the process, as system efficiency relies on the support of all the parties involved. If done properly, decarbonizing cities will lead to the desired long-term benefits, as well as short-term gains. It will create meaningful and sustainable value for society, while greatly reducing the carbon footprint of modern cities.