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How smart city ecosystems can help to tackle the climate challenge

Florent Andrillon

The World Climate Summit 2019 will take place in Madrid on December 8. This year, it feels as if the world is finally waking up to the huge threat posed by climate change. Protesters have taken to the streets worldwide. They are demanding that both government and business act fast to deliver the necessary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required to keep our climate in balance.

Even before these protests, we were beginning to see a shift in the approach to increasing and rapid global urbanization. This shift cannot come fast enough. With two-thirds of the world’s population living in cities, power demand in developing countries is outstripping supply – and fossil fuels remain the energy source of choice. Further, in our new opinion paper Sustainable Business Revolution 2030  published to coincide with Capgemini’s sponsorship of the World Climate Summit, we note that the cities worldwide occupy just 3% of the Earth’s land, but account for 60–80% of energy consumption and 75% of CO2 emissions. The world’s growing cities are at the leading edge of the global sustainability agenda.

This is clearly unsustainable if the world at large is to achieve the 2030 emissions reduction target set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). At Capgemini, we don’t believe this target to reduce global net human-caused emissions of CO2 by about 45% from 2010 levels can be met by 2030 without a complete and urgent rethink of the way cities are managed. That’s because the growing urban population will continue to put huge pressure on urban transport systems and energy grids at peak times. Residents will also demand appropriate housing infrastructure, secure public spaces, and modernized public services.

Collaborative ecosystems

So, what’s the answer? How do modern urban authorities respond sustainably and innovatively? The solution is to become smarter and better cities: places where technology can progress towards sustainable development goals; and where platforms and data solutions help city leaders regain control over their infrastructure and better coordinate ecosystems of different stakeholders.

These sustainability-centric ecosystems will be pivotal to the transformation of the urban environment in the coming years. No single organization, whether a government body or commercial enterprise, can tackle the climate challenge alone. Instead, in tomorrow’s smart cities, local governments will bring on board citizens and external partners, integrating diverse sector expertise, technologies, and business models to further develop the smart city landscape. For example, we expect to see more energy providers using their smart grids to power green urban initiatives, such as the roll out of electric vehicle charging station infrastructures. And partnerships with digital innovators will transform urban transport with the development of open platforms and applications enabling travelers to plan their journeys more sustainably, using intermodal and shared transport options.


The power of data

We are already seeing the smart cities concept taking shape across the world, with different approaches and focus depending on the geographic areas and citizens expectations. Indeed, Capgemini has been at the forefront of smart city development. We’ve worked in partner ecosystems to bring the vision for 2030 and beyond to life in cities such as Dijon in France and Dusseldorf in Germany. As a result of our partnership with Netexplo and Unesco, where we analyzed several smart and inclusive cities and regions across the world, we are convinced that city decision makers can seize the opportunities offered by smart cities to improve lives worldwide. For example, we are increasingly seeing urban authorities using technology to manage and analyze data. In 2030, information about energy, air quality, and traffic flow will be collected via various IoT sensors and devices. Smart connected digital platforms will enable authorities to manage the data captured on energy, air quality, and traffic flow to monitor environmental impacts, keep traffic flowing, manage parking, and improve the quality of life for citizens.

Urbanization is a big factor in the escalating climate challenge. But with new policies, partnerships, and innovative use of digital technologies, it will be possible for public authorities and citizens to create smarter, better cities.

To find out more about smart city ecosystems, download our opinion paper Sustainable Business Revolution 2030.