Tarak Malhotra Staff Reporter, The Pawprint
Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Goals (SDGs) to be achieved in 2030 is the development of sustainable cities and communities. The SDGs were set in 2015, leaving these goals to be achieved in a 15 year agenda. Among these goals are the pursuit of quality education, the preservation of life below water and the reduction of poverty rates.
Many perceive cities to be the center of pollution due to high population and use of carbon. However, as we advance into a new decade, countries are looking to take major steps into a greener future not only nationwide, but worldwide. The UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) claim that cities are responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions, in large part to the heavy use of transportation, as well as population growth.
This percentage is only set to increase as time goes on due to the rapid rise in urban living. While cities are the principle cause of these issues, they also have the capital to fund solutions.
Cities in different countries are pushing for a greener future, but Europe is at the forefront of the world’s effort. Over time, and especially in the last quarter-century, cities in places like the United Kingdom have prided themselves on their contributions to a greener future. European countries not only have the funding for such projects, but also the initiative.
Congestion, increasing rates of urban living and rising CO2 levels are just some of the reasons why cities are always subject to environmental improvement. All those facets of city living have been around for a while and it is their constant presence that pushes mayors and government officials to begin initiatives and refine their air, roads and waterways. A sustainable city would mean one without an expiration date, and features like low oxygen levels in the atmosphere are what limit a city environment-wise.
New challenges emerge for cities every day which then tasks them to advance in terms of infrastructure, technology and the environment. The rapid decrease in rural living is thought to be due to cities offering more opportunity for its citizens, but the ever-rising population has a price to pay in terms of their health and well-being. Those living in rural areas are not subject to issues like those living in urban areas, as oftentimes rural areas are significantly less congested and polluted.
Cities are aware of these issues and many in different continents are refining laws to ensure a greener future. Places like Paris and Antwerp are taking significant strides in terms of travel, as the use of trucks and large diesel cars are prohibited in and around the city. European countries are following Paris and Antwerp and many are taking the leap into the introduction of electric vehicles (or EV.)
Most of these changes are gradual. However, countries like Finland are hoping for drastic change. So drastic in fact that the Finnish government aims to have over 250,000 electric cars on the roads within the next decade. A lot of EV charging stations have been implemented in countries not only throughout Europe but internationally. Companies like Tesla have begun chains of charging stations in places like Canada and the United States.
Advances are not only being made in transport but in the reduction of carbon levels. London among other cities like Paris and Brussels have implemented “zero emission zones” (or ZEZs), which limits traffic to pedestrian, bicycle, delivery vehicle and EV traffic as opposed to motor traffic.
To support these electric vehicles, there has to be a surge in clean energy. Like wind or solar power. Vasteras, a city in Sweden, is getting its energy from recycled trash. They have asked their supplier, Mälarenergi, to replace the coal and oil from their fueled mix with recyclable trash. Mälarenergi provides heat for over 98% of the city’s residents, so the sudden shift from traditional oil to more clean energy reduced city-wide carbon levels in large part to the reduction of fossil fuel usage.
To conclude, Europe is on track to produce a greener future, and it is fair to assume that countries in different continents around the world will follow their initiative and implement their solutions. Some ideals like the introduction of electric vehicles may be hard to implement in countries that lack the capital, but ideas like ZEZs in London are applicable globally. The world is looking on track to complete this goal within the next decade.