How well are cities using smart technology to tackle environmental challenges?
A new report from the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), the trade association for the UK environmental services and technology sector, notes that environmental issues are becoming ever more prominent, with many cities now having Net Zero targets and setting ambitious goals in areas such as resource use and the circular economy. At the same time, cities are increasingly developing smart and digital strategies.
Yet despite many individual smart environmental initiatives, the smart strategies of most cities underplay the value of smart green tech, says Michael Rudd, co-chair of the EIC Smart Cities Taskforce and partner at law firm Bird & Bird.
According to the report, cities that have recorded 2020 emissions targets though the Carbon Disclosure Project are on average still 47% short of meeting those targets. The report also looks at city recycling rates and air pollution.
The authors highlight a disconnect between cities’ environmental policies and their smart city strategies. All of the 12 cities analysed had comprehensive environmental strategies but, aside from smart energy management initiatives, on average they only had one other smart environmental initiative.
And the proportion of smart initiatives focused on environmental problems (23%) has not increased over the last five years.
Among the factors holding back the adoption of smart environmental technologies are:
- Siloed approaches in city governments;
- Compliance-led environmental policy making;
- Difficulty of developing business models for smart environment innovations; and
- Procurement methodology.
“Many cities face entrenched environmental challenges: low recycling rates, poor air quality and a struggle to meet emissions targets,” said Matthew Farrow, executive director of the EIC. “We need to leave no stone unturned in the battle to clean up our cities, and despite the enthusiasm for the smart city agenda, smart environmental applications have real potential that is not being fully utilised.
“Cities need to join-up their smart strategies with their environmental ambitions and look again at their procurement practices.“