The beautiful, terrifying cities of our world are the culmination of humanity at both its best and worst: all the innovation we aspire to, and all the excesses we must change. Our cities inhale the thoughts and dreams of 4.1 billion people, and exhale approximately 70% of our total global greenhouse gas emissions. UN projections show that urbanisation combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban populations by 2050.

We must only look as far as the wake of hurricane Harvey in Houston, or the floods across Bangladesh, India and Nepal to see the increasing risks of climate change to our most populated areas. As both the biggest culprits in creating emissions, and amongst the areas that will be most affected by a two degree warming trajectory, it is paramount that cities are steered towards low carbon and climate resilient urban development.

To address the challenges of growing populations and provide services to the increasing number of people living in cities, major investments are needed in the water, transport, waste and building sector. But while the task of making our cities sustainable is no easy feat, it is also by no means insurmountable. There are a number of initiatives that forward-thinking cities are fast adopting to reduce the impact of our global hubs.

Low Carbon City Lab: Supporting smart city initiatives

Climate KIC Europe’s Low Carbon City Lab (LoCal) is an initiative that aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 1 gigatonne per year and unlock € 25 billion worth of climate finance for cities by 2050. The platform’s partners provide cities with better tools for assessing greenhouse gas emissions, planning, investing and evaluating progress towards a low-carbon future. It’s a launchpad for cities to get the right resources for finding tailored solutions to their urban climate issues.

Teralytics, Telefonica, South Pole Group and the City of Nuremburg used the LoCal framework to launch an initiative that utilised smart-phone data to measure air pollutants in Nuremberg. The innovative monitoring method involved using mobile phone signals to gather quantitative information on traffic flows, the results of which informed targeted actions in regions with the poorest air quality.

The program involved innovative cross-sectoral and global collaboration. Telefónica Germany, as the largest mobile provider of Germany in terms of customer base, provided the anonymised mobile data. Using their specially developed algorithms, Teralytics converted this data into motion and traffic flows before it was passed on to South Pole Group who derived from these results the amount of different pollutants present. The results of the pilot project was compared to the already existing data on Nuremberg’s air quality that consisted of weather data as well as traffic data from traffic counts submitted by monitoring stations. The city was then able to make use of these findings to improve its own sustainability goals.

LoCal supports countless initiatives such as this in cities across Europe. Visit the website to read more about current programs and projects.

A case study: City of Adelaide and South Australia

After a tweet wager between entrepreneur and CEO of Telsa Elon Musk and Software Company co-CEO of Atlassian Mike Cannon-Brookes, and some behind-the-wings action from Adelaide premier Jay Weatherill earlier this year, the City of Adelaide was thrown into the sustainable cities spotlight. Tesla’s deal to provide the entire energy storage component of a 100MW/129MWh wind farm (within 1 year or free of charge) came after severe storms in late 2016 caused a widespread power outages across almost the entire South Australian state.

The Twitter-bet put Adelaide on the map. But well before coming under this spotlight, South Australia was adopting a leading role in the sustainable cities agenda; targeting net zero emissions by 2050 and prioritising investment in low carbon industries and renewable electricity generation. The state aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, achieve $10 billion in low carbon investment by 2025 and improve energy efficiency of government buildings by 30 per cent by 2020.

In 2015, the State Government and Adelaide City Council committed to a joint aspiration for Adelaide to be the world’s first carbon neutral city. The Carbon Neutral Adelaide program involves a range of targets and commitments, including introducing behaviour change programs to institutions and businesses, attracting sustainable investments, catalysing community-led action and scaling-up initiatives to reduce cost, support research and develop low carbon technologies.

Do you believe in smart cities? Don’t miss this year’s Climathon

The Climathon is an annual, global 24-hour hackathon for early ideation on climate solutions at the city level. It aims to find new solutions to local climate change problems, encompassing mitigation and local adaptation, accelerating the best local ideas into city level solutions and spreading the winning ideas to other cities globally. The Climathon runs in collaboration with Climate-KIC Europe and involves teams of innovators in over 100 cities across 44 countries. This October 27th 2017, cities will work across time zones to meet specific challenges, engaging on social media to exchange with other teams around the world and cross-pollinate ideas.

Climate- KIC Australia this year expands the Climathon to Adelaide, Bassendean, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney with each city responding to city-specific climate issues such as resilience to extreme heat and heatwaves (Melbourne), encouraging uptake of electric vehicles (Canberra) and local renewable energy production (Bassendean).

If you’re interested in seeing sustainable solutions come to life in 24 hours, register to attend a Climathon in your city here.