Smart city sustainability opportunities missed, report finds

smart city sustainability
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A new report has identified a widespread lack of smart city policies implementing sustainability and protecting the environment.

The Environmental Industries Commission’s (EIC) ‘Strategy to reality: getting smart cities to deliver for the environment’ report examines the degree to which smart city initiatives capitalise on opportunities to maximise sustainability. Researchers found a widening discrepancy between the growing pressure on cities to implement environmentally sound policies and the proportion of smart city activity which is focused around sustainable issues.

The report into smart city sustainability strategies found a number of challenges, including:

  • While all the cities studied had comprehensive sustainability strategies in place, very few of these were tied to smart city policies – aside from programmes for smart energy management, on average each city only had one other ‘smart’ initiative aimed at protecting the environment;
  • Cities which had declared emissions reduction targets for 2020 through the Carbon Disclosure Project were still on average 47% short of reaching their goals; and
  • The amount of smart city policies focused on the environment has remained stagnant at 23% for the last five years.

The EIC’s report identifies several factors in the lack of smart city sustainability commitments, citing a lack of communication between local authorities’ environmental and technological departments; as well as the inherent difficulty of integrating smart city measures into existing public procurement and business model frameworks.

Matthew Farrow, Executive Director of the EIC, said: “Many cities face entrenched environmental challenges: low recycling rates, poor air quality and a struggle to meet emissions targets.  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.”


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