IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

TRANSITION TO A LOW CARBON CITY

8th June, 2023 Environment

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Context

  • In 2020 itself, people living in cities dumped around 29 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  • Apart from being a concern for climate change, this poses a serious health hazard to all.

Implications of rising CO2 and Need for low-carbon cities/net-zero cities

  • This may lead to extreme weather events, can lead to the loss of lives and livelihoods, property and resources, and overall social wellbeing.
  • By 2050 seven billion people will be living in cities, and that will accentuate the concerns regarding worsening climate, sustainability.
  • Global warming may have adverse impact on health like damage in lung tissue, heightened complications for asthma patients due to increase the ozone concentration.
  • It may affect food security and can lead to the resource conflicts.
  • This transition to low carbon cities will help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

What should be done?

  • Sector-coupling approach to decarbonise urban systems.
  • It means that multiple sectors like energy, buildings, transportation, industry, and urban land-use are taken in totality and checked for mitigation and adaptation options.

Energy

  • Use of clean energy and related technologies which are becoming cost effective day by day thus enable scaling up of investments in this sector.
  • Work on both fronts i.e. on the demand and the supply sides.
    • Mitigation options on the supply side - phasing out fossil fuels, more promotion to renewables in the energy mix etc.
    • Mitigation options on the demand side – reducing the demand for materials and energy by using avoid, shift, improve framework; less demand of fossil fuel energy etc.
  • Also implement of carbon-dioxide removal (CDR) technologies should be made mandatory.
  • Setting up renewables-based district cooling and heating networks.

Transportation

  • Placing of work places closer to residential complex help in reduced transportation emissions.
  • Electrifying public transport and discouraging use of private vehicles.
  • Promotion of as active transport like bicycling and walking.

Building and Infrastructure

  • Use of energy-efficient services and infrastructure.
  • Shifting to low-emission construction materials.
  • Designing new buildings with a mandate for net-zero energy and retrofitting existing buildings.

Carbon footprints

It refers to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, produced in tons, released due to various direct or indirect activities of individual, organization, event or product. It also include other greenhouse gases emissions.

It includes direct emissions, such burning of fossil-fuel domestically and in industry, transportation, and indirect emissions such as use of fossil fuel for electricity generation, consumption of products etc.

 

Sustainable development

It is a way of life related to the preservation of planet and optimal utilization of resources. It means a development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Benefits of energy-system transitions

  • It can reduce urban carbon dioxide emissions by around 74% and also significantly reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases.
  • It can provide new and better employment conditions.
  • It increases knowledge intensity of firms and promote skills development.
  • Food security and sustainable living and livelihood options.
  • Protection of Bio diversity.
  • A life style which is beneficial for health of humans and nature

Greenhouse Gases

Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. It keeps the earth’s temperature at an average 14˚C. for example Carbon dioxide, Methane, Nitrous oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride etc.

Without this greenhouse effect of these gases, temperatures can reach as -18˚C, which may threated sustainability of life on earth. However excessive use led to global warming and climate change.

Challenges/Concerns of Transition

  • Groups of people or communities of developing economies depends on fossil fuels and has limited access to renewable energy options. Hence they could be affected disproportionately. For eg Nigeria, Angola, and Venezuela.
  • In developed countries, it may lead to inequity due to high energy costs and associated povery/low incomes.
  • There is an inherent issues of energy justice and social equity which has severe implications for -economic well-being of people, livelihoods and economic development.
  • Concerns related to Justice concerns are land evictions for large-scale renewable energy projects, the marginalisation of few communities, increased gender gaps etc.,
  • There need to be a focus on energy-transition policies that are socially and environmentally fair.
  • As a city’s requirement is different, spatial form, land-use pattern, level of development etc. to be given a special focus.

Addressing the social equity and justice concerns

  • Proper governance and planning should be done at governmental level and institutional capacity to be built to address the root causes of energy and environmental injustices
  • Multiple stakeholders should be encourage to participate in discussions or planning related to in energy governance and energy-efficiency,
  • In renewable energy sector there should be a promotion to increase in investments,
  • Indigenous and traditional knowledge and local lived experiences should be used.
  • Overall a wholesome approach representing voices of different communities should be adopted.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Given the serious implications of rising carbon footprints, discuss the need for transition to a low carbon city. Also suggest measures to achieve the same.  (250 words)

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