The Most Eco-Friendly Cities In The World

Earth Day Every Day In Sustainable Cities

Innovations in technology and environmental friendliness are not mutually exclusive — in fact, the smarter a city is, the more eco-friendly it can (and should) be. Since we’re always talking about the most well-connected smart cities, here is a list of cities that are doing great things for the planet, too.

sustainable cities leaders

These aren’t in any particular order, as they make various rankings every year on different lists by many organizations. There are some usual suspects, but hopefully, some cities that surprise you as well.

All 10 cities are notable for their recycling and composting programs, bike friendliness, sustainable construction, clean-tech advancements, and energy conservation.

Oslo, Norway

Several Scandinavian cities consistently rank as the greenest in the world, and one of them is Oslo, the most populous city in Norway. For many years, sustainable environmental practices have been part of this city’s plan. The government has a committee focused specifically on strategies for sustainable development, and aggressively protects wild, natural areas from development, which reduces its carbon footprint.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is one of the cleanest cities in the world and has a lot of environmental planning initiatives. The city has a goal to be free of fossil fuels by 2050. According to research from HouseTrip, 93% of residents walk, bike, or take public transportation to work.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, with a great infrastructure built for bike routes. Amsterdam is also one of the cities that conserves the most water, according to HouseTrip research. The city also has an array of eco-friendly hotels. In 2014, Cisco signed an agreement with Amsterdam to make it a green and hyper-connected place, the “Internet of Everything” city and one of Cisco’s showcase metropolises.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver is known as one of the greenest cities in North America, and is definitely the most eco-friendly in Canada. The government enacted a Greenest City 2020 Action Plan several years ago, and though many people drive, it has plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 33% by 2020, and is a world leader in its use of hydropower.

Curitiba, Brazil

On the South American Siemens Index of green cities, this is the only South American city that ranks above average in eco-friendly rankings. Curitiba has long had a rapid-transit bus system and great recycling program, and plans to build a better bus system and more bike routes. Compared to other cities in the region, it’s faring pretty well for its carbon footprint.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, Africa’s second largest city, is making some great progress environmentally. About five years ago, the country built its first wind farm, and has a goal of generating 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. It’s also very bike-friendly and has a lot of environmental initiatives in the communities.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen consistently ranks as Europe’s greenest city, with most residents living near and using public transportation, and half of them riding a bicycle for their commutes. Though it’s large in size, this makes the city’s carbon footprint relatively small. Citizens also compost and recycle, and work hard to conserve energy. Copenhagen has a plan to be carbon neutral by 2025.

San Francisco, California

Of course, San Francisco is one of the greenest cities in North America, with a 77% recycling rate and wide city regulations on recycling and composting. The city is extremely bike-friendly and is constantly ranked as one of the best cities for organic, sustainable food. The Bay Area is also the headquarters of many environmental and cleantech startups, an area of technology which is growing rapidly.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis has been on several green city lists throughout the past few years. The city has a program called Minnesota GreenStep Cities, which enacts sustainable practices and programs across the state. And with 92 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street paths, good air quality, and a nice park system, Minneapolis is both clean and eco-friendly and becoming more known for its energy conservation every year.

Freiburg, Germany

The city of Freiburg, Germany, which is on the edge of Black Forest close to Switzerland and France, has been on lists for green cities since 2008. Germany is a world leader in renewable energy, especially solar. Freiburg takes great measures to reduce energy consumption, particularly with residential homes. Apparently, home builders plan to use almost no energy and less than 40 gallons of oil to heat homes.

Sustainable City News via http://www.techrepublic.com/article/green-tech-the-most-eco-friendly-cities-in-the-world/

Cities In Brazil Cancel Carnival Due To Severe Drought

Drought Linked To Climate Change, Deforestation

Cities in the southeast of Brazil have called off Carnival this year due to a serious drought that has plagued the region for months and shows no signs of abating.

Brazil is famous for its Carnival, a week-long street festival where people party day and night, bringing Samba music and elaborate colorful costumes to the street, to mark the beginning to Lent. This year’s Good Friday, which marks the beginning of Carnival, lands on Friday, February 13.

Sao Palo drought and water crisis
Is Brazil’s drought and water crisis caused by Amazon deforestation?

At least 15 cities and towns in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais and San Paolo have already called off all or parts of their Carnival festivities because of the region’s water crisis. Both states have been suffering from drought for more than a year, with the water situation worsening. This has been the regions’ worst drought in at least eight years.

In December, authorities warned that the city of San Paolo in San Paolo State – Brazil’s largest and most populous city – had already tapped into its emergency water reserves and had merely two to three months left of guaranteed water supply. Though Carnival is still set to go ahead in San Paolo, many city counselors have called for its cancellation. However, other cities in the state have chosen to air on the side of caution.

“We have canceled the street Carnival to stop tourists coming to the city, so the city is quieter during Carnival. We don’t have good conditions to have a big celebration and one of the reasons is the water crisis,” said Marcelo Daniel, the Secretary of Culture in the town of Araras, San Paolo.

Larger areas such as Oliveira, Minas Gerais also canceled their Carnival celebrations, which usually attracts about 20,000 tourists.

“Never in the history of our city has something like this happened,” said Antônio Penido, chief of staff and president of Oliveira’s Carnival Commission. “With broken hearts, we made the decision.”

Brazil’s worsening drought has been linked to both climate change and deforestation in the Amazon. According to Antonio Nobre, a leading climate scientist at Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE), these two issues combined are drastically reducing the release of billion of liters of water into the atmosphere by rainforest trees, reducing rainfall in the south.

reforestation and climate change solution
Reforestation can help turn the tides of climate change.

Sustainable Cities News via: http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/312-16/28497-brazils-cities-cancel-carnival-because-of-drought

Sao Paulo Water Crisis A Symptom Of Deforestation In Amazon

Another Symptom Of Amazon Destruction, Privatization

In Brazil’s biggest city, a record dry season and rising demand for water has led to a punishing drought. It has actually been raining quite heavily over the last few days around Sao Paulo but it has barely made a drop of difference because of climate change.

The main reservoir system that feeds this immense city is dangerously low, and it would take months of heavy rainfall for water levels to return to normal.

Sao Palo drought and water crisis
Is the Sao Palo drought and water crisis caused by Amazon deforestation? This is Sao Paulo’s supply of drinking water.

So how does a country that produces an estimated 12 percent of the world’s fresh water end up with a chronic shortage of this most essential resource – in its biggest and most economically important city?

It’s interesting to note that both the local state government and the federal government have been slow to acknowledge there is a crisis, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That might have been a politically expedient position to take during the recent election campaign, when the shortage of water in Sao Paulo was a thorny political issue, but the apparent lack of urgency in the city and wider state now is worrying many.

At the main Cantareira reservoir system, which feeds much of this city’s insatiable demand for water, things have almost reached rock bottom. Huge pipes suck out what water remains as the reservoir dips below 10 percent of its usual capacity. The odd local villager wanders around the dry bed of the lake hoping for a temporary windfall as fish flounder in the few pools that remain.

Deforestation and drought in Brazil
Deforestation kills more than trees.

In the town of Itu, not far from the slowly diminishing reservoir, Gilberto Rodriguez and several of his neighbours wait patiently in line. All of them are carrying as many jerry cans, empty plastic drinks bottles or buckets as they can muster. For weeks now they’ve been filling up with water from this emergency well. Twice a day Gilberto heaves the full containers into his car and heads home.

Every other house on the short drive seems to have a homemade poster pinned to the gate or doorframe. The same message, or plea, is written on each one; “Itu pede Socorro” – “Itu needs help.” Gilberto and his wife almost break into a laugh when I suggest to them that, according to Sao Paulo’s state government, the situation is manageable and there’s no need for water rationing.

“There’s been no water in our pipes now for a month,” says Soraya. “It’s not as bad as this in every community but we’ve had water rationing here since February.”

The car-crash scenario of a record dry season coupled with the ever-increasing demand for resources from South America’s biggest city seems almost to have caught the state water authority, Sabesp, by surprise. The authority, in turn, is being widely criticized for failing to plan and is now trying to manage a crisis.

Deforestation kills entire  ecosystems
Deforestation kills entire ecosystems.

Home to some 20 million people, the sprawling city of Sao Paulo continues to grow. But the failure of city services and basic infrastructure to keep pace merely exacerbates the problems, in particular the dwindling supplies of clean water.

Open sewers mean that Sao Paulo’s rivers are completely polluted. They’re now part of the problem rather than, as should be in times of drought, part of the solution.

Maria Cecilia Brito is part of the umbrella organization Alliance for Waters, which is belatedly trying to raise public awareness about the chronic shortages.

“People here were brought up to believe that water was a resource that would never end,” Maria Cedilla explains. “We were taking more water from the sources than those sources were able to replenish through natural means.”

But now one of Brazil’s leading scientists is suggesting that the causes of the drought may be even more worrying for Brazil in the long run. Antonio Nobre is one of country’s most respected Earth scientists and climatologists. He argues there is enough evidence to say that continued deforestation in the Amazon and the almost complete disappearance of the Atlantic forest has drastically altered the climate.

“There is a hot dry air mass sitting down here [in Sao Paulo] like an elephant and nothing can move it,” says the eminent scientist, who divides his time between the southern city of Sao Jose dos Campos and the Amazon city of Manaus.

reforestation and climate change solution
Reforestation can help turn the tides of climate change. Our sister company is ready to help.

“That’s what we have learned – that the forests have an innate ability to import moisture and to cool down and to favor rain. If deforestation in the Amazon continues, Sao Paulo will probably dry up. If we don’t act now, we’re lost,” adds Mr Nobre, whose recent report on the plight of the Amazon caused a huge stir in scientific and political circles.

Water shortages have the potential to harm the economy too, and that’s where the politicians in Sao Paulo and Brasilia just might start to act. Sao Paulo is by far Brazil’s richest state – the engine of the country’s economic growth – but if water and electricity, generated by hydroelectric dams, start running out the consequences for the economy could be dire. At a car parts factory in the north of the city I meet businessman Mauricio Colin. His aluminium plant needs about 15,000 litres of water a day to operate at normal capacity. Mauricio is already having to buy in extra water. He is worried about future supplies.

“The authorities know exactly what’s needed,” says Mauricio, above the din of his round-the-clock operation. “They have to invest in basic infrastructure because, without water, there are companies here who won’t be able to produce anything.”

Thus far public protests against the water shortages have been small – but the potential for frustration and disruption is there. Sao Paulo’s Water Authority has now acknowledged that unless water levels recover there may be power cuts and more water rationing. Everyone is praying for more rain, hoping that it’s not too late to reverse the effects of climate change and drought.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-29947965

Rockefeller Foundation Seeks Resilient Cities

Is Your City Resilient

The 100 Resilient Cities Challenge seeks to find 100 cities that are ready to build resilience to the social, economic, and physical challenges that cities face in an increasingly urbanized world.

We can’t predict the next disruption or catastrophe. But we can control how we respond to these challenges. We can adapt to the shocks and stresses of our world and transform them into opportunities for growth. If your city applies for the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, it could be one of 100 cities eligible to receive funding to hire a Chief Resilience Officer, assistance in developing a resilience strategy, access to a platform of innovative private and public sector tools to help design and implement that strategy, and membership in the 100 Resilient Cities Network.

sustainable resilient cities
Sustainable cities are resilient cities. The Rockefeller Foundation seeks role models and best practices.

The deadline to apply is September 10, 2014. The Finalists identified during the 2014 100 Resilient Cities Challenge will be eligible to receive:

  • Funding in the form of a grant to hire a Chief Resilience Officer;
  • Technical support to develop a holistic resilience strategy that reflects each city’s distinct needs;
  • Access to an innovative platform of services to support strategy development and implementation. Platform partners come from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, and will offer tools in areas such as innovative finance, technology, infrastructure, land use, and community and social resilience;
  • Membership in the 100 Resilient Cities network to share knowledge and practices with other member cities.

The actual form and amount of awards will be determined at the discretion of 100 Resilient Cities.

For more information and application information, visit: http://www.100resilientcities.org/pages/100-resilient-cities-challenge?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=20140827appclosingemailtwshare&utm_source=twitter&source=20140827appclosingemailtwshare

U.S. Mayors Pass Climate Change Resolution

Political Momentum For Change If Nothing Else

A bipartisan group of mayors from across the U.S. passed a resolution Monday that green lights projects to tackle climate change. The group approved a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Dallas that encourages cities to use nature to “protect freshwater supplies, defend the nation’s coastlines, maintain a healthy tree and green space cover and protect air quality.”

USCM resolution on climate change
US Mayors endorse natural solutions to climate change mitigation and resiliency.

The group included red-state Democratic mayors Lee Leffingwell from Austin, Texas, and Greg Stanton of Phoenix, Ariz. Republicans that signed the resolution include Carmel, Ind. Mayor Jim Brainard, and Betsy Price, mayor of Fort Worth, Texas.

“What’s so significant is that there was a unanimous vote on an issue that can be so divisive,” said Laura Huffman, director of Texas’ Nature Conservancy.

On top of infrastructure projects aimed at mitigating climate impacts, cities will look to combine tradition pipes with open spaces to build effective storm water collection systems. By tackling such projects, more parks, and recreation areas will be created as well the mayors said.

The overall strategy will address water, wastewater and stormwater runoff, heat island effects, preservation of open space and provide an inventory of emissions from fossil fuels for city operations to set reduction targets.

The move comes as climate change policies continue to divide lawmakers in Congress. As President Obama proposes more regulations curbing greenhouse gas emissions in the name of climate change, Republicans are seeking to block his standards using any means available.

Source: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/210273-us-mayors-pass-climate-change-resolution#ixzz35cbj80gP 

Obama Announces Billion-Dollar Climate Change Challenge

Plan Lacks Substance, Vision

Speaking at the commencement ceremony at the University of California Irvine on Saturday, President Barack Obama continued his advocacy to curb carbon emissions by committing $1 billion in competitive funding measures to address the effects of extreme weather, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

President Obama announces climate change task force
President Obama announces a climate change challenge that sounds more like an Olympic swimming event than urban planning and resiliency.

“The climate change deniers suggest there’s still a debate over the science, there’s not,” Obama said in his remarks. He compared those who reject the view that human activity is contributing to rising temperatures to someone who thinks the moon is made of cheese.

In May the White House unveiled a climate change report stressing urgency and a call to action. The effects of climate change globally are resulting in extreme weather, sea levels rising, seasonal allergies and a host of detrimental effects.

The report called “Weather from the White House” was aimed to start a conversation between the president and “local and national meteorologists.”

With average temperatures in the US rising, two degrees since 1895, and the expectations of 10 more degrees by 2100, the sea levels could rise by more than six feet putting coastline cities in jeopardy.

The report predicted economic and human repercussions from the changing climate and underscored “the need for the American people to prepare for and respond to [the] far-reaching implications.”

The president’s report is a compilation of the largest collection of US climate data ever assembled and included the work of approximately 300 experts.

The report recognized that the data has been accumulating for years and, “it is notable that as these data records have grown longer and climate models have become more comprehensive, earlier predictions have largely been confirmed resulting in the following according to the report”:

In addition to causing changes in climate, increasing levels of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities have a direct effect on the world’s oceans. Carbon dioxide interacts with ocean water to form carbonic acid, increasing the ocean’s acidity. Ocean surface waters have become 30% more acidic over the last 250 years as they have absorbed large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This ocean acidification makes water more corrosive, reducing the capacity of marine organisms with shells or skeletons made of calcium carbonate (such as corals, krill, oysters, clams, and crabs) to survive, grow, and reproduce, which in turn will affect the marine food chain.

Still, public reception of scientific evidence for global warming remains mixed among some political segments. Climate change is not a hot topic during elections, even though it should be. And some lawmakers refuse to accept the science and the Obama administration’s approach that it is a threat to the economy and life as we know it.

“The president’s plan is nuts,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said earlier in June.

In Saturday’s speech to university students, Obama acknowledged the challenges of making even incremental changes to policies in Washington; however, progress on climate change is a worthy goal and should not be put off for future generations to address.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/articles/president-obama-renews-call-to-combat-climate-change-1402773087

Johannesburg First C40 City To Issue Green Bonds

Strong Support For Sustainability Projects

The City of Johannesburg is proud to announce that today we had a successful auction of the first green bond COJGO1 maturing in 2024. The bond of R1.46 billion is priced at 185 basis points (1.85%) above the R2023 Government Bond, which is very competitive and is a reflection of the City’s improved financial position.

Johannesburg sustainable city
Sustainable cities are essential to a sustainable future.

Executive Mayor of Joburg, Clr Parks Tau says “This is the first green bond to be listed in the 2013/2014 financial year and marks a historic occasion, as Joburg is the first city in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group to issue the Green bond.”

The City is pleased to announce that the bond auction was a success and 150 percent oversubscribed.

“This clearly demonstrates investor confidence in the City of Johannesburg and commitment to environmental stewardship and climate change, while receiving a market related financial return. The City would like to thank all the investors that made this debut Green Bond a success” adds Mayor Tau

The Green Bond will provide the City with a funding source to improve and expedite the implementation of its climate change mitigation strategy and move the City towards a low carbon infrastructure, minimal resource reliance and increased preservation of natural resources. What distinguishes this green bond from any other general obligation bond is that the projects to be financed are green initiatives such as the Bio Gas to Energy Project and the Solar Geyser Initiative, as well as all other projects that reduce green house emissions and contribute to a resilient and sustainable city.

The City is not new to finding innovative funding mechanism as it also pioneered the first general obligation municipal bond in 2004. The City has successfully redeemed R1.9 billion since the inauguration of the municipal bond market including R900 million in the past 12 months.

Source: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2014/06/12/johannesburg-the-first-c40-city-to-issue-green-city-bond/option=com_content&view=article&id=9073:04062014-the-city-of-johannesburg-issues-the-first-ever-jse-listed-green-bond-&catid=217:press-releases-2013&Itemid=114

Urban Natural Resources Demand Cooperative Governance

Sustainable Cities Require Inclusive Planning

By Harini Nagendra, Bangalore From my office, on the 9th floor of a tall building in an academic campus in Bangalore, I have a birds-eye view of the city’s peri-urban surroundings. To the west, I can see a 6-lane high-speed highway choked by traffic, full of people frenetically commuting from their homes in city to their jobs in the globally famous Information Technology campuses located just outside. To the east, I am fortunate to witness a completely different picture. A tranquil marshy wetland and freshwater lake, with dozens of cows grazing and cooling down in the water while the mid-day sun blazes overhead, accompanied as companions by hundreds of cattle egrets feeding on the insects that annoy the cattle. This idyllic picture of cooperation, mutualism, and rural bliss has evolved and been sustained over centuries in Bangalore. (Bangalore’s lakes are not natural, but were created and maintained by local communities, with a history that can be traced as far back as 450 AD.) Yet even this picture is marred by construction and dumping of large mounds of debris onto the wetlands at one side of the lake.

sustainable cities
A sustainable world requires greener cities.

Such contradictions of livelihoods and lifestyles, urbanity and rurality, shared cooperation and rampant self-interest, may be typical of many Indian cities but are certainly not unique to India. Certainly, the situation I have just described in Bangalore could be familiar to people in many other countries, even continents. Conflicts such as these just described have given rise to, and are exacerbated by, some of the worst inequities that the world has ever experienced. A recent Oxfam report, released on the occasion of the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, quotes a staggering figure: the world’s richest 85 people now collectively own as much money as the world’s poorest 3.5 billion! In a world that seems to be moving towards increasing self interest, and growing private control of the environment and natural resources, how can we ever hope or plan for a better future?

Following the example of Elinor Ostrom, who received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics for her pioneering work on the commons, we need to enlarge our discussion of models of urban governance to include a third alternative to the commonly espoused twin pillars of private and government administration, i.e., that of the community.

Research from case studies in diverse contexts across the world has now proven clearly that multi-level collaborations between local community groups, civic society actors and government administration are essential for the effective, equitable and sustainable governance of natural resources. For such collaborations to be effective, they should however enable the scope for negotiations on an equal slate between different groups, such as high income apartment owners and slum residents, that are likely to have very different power structures. Developing the platform to allow negotiations at an equal level is particularly challenging in cities given the underlying context of high economic growth, which puts natural resources at stake. The imbalance between power structures becomes every more stark when natural resources are monetized, whether in the context of fracking and industrialization in China and the USA, or ground water withdrawal and water privatization in Latin American and Indian cities.

Effective governance is the key, obviously. Yet, to address these thorny challenges requires an adequate appreciation of the complexities of politics and political science, which is often lacking in approaches adopted by governments, influential think tanks and international policy makers.

Clearly, in today’s information age, lack of information does not constitute a barrier. More likely, it is the lack of dialogue, exacerbated by the imbalance in power, that creates barriers to cooperative governance for inclusive cities. It is the same lack of dialogue and imbalance in power between the urbanized landscape to the west of my office (with its character shaped by the shared use of large roads by high speed traffic), and the rural landscape to the east (with its character shaped by the shared use of wetlands by cattle and people), that leads to the dominance of the road over the lake, of the need for speed and linear growth over reflection and an appreciation of the cycles of life. Such an imbalance in appreciation, in ideology, almost inevitably leads to the disappearance and decay of these commons in urban areas. Cities thus become oceans of gray in a quest for endless economic growth, swallowing up all the little islands where commoners once thrived and flourished in respectful contestation and adaptive dialogue with nature.

Our studies, as well as practical experience with community governance in the context of Bangalore’s lakes, has strongly highlighted the role for dialogue between communities and city government in providing the conditions that are inductive for effective co-management. This is particularly important in high growth urban contexts, which face political economic challenges of rent seeking, corruption and economic profit-making that can bias planning towards short term profit seeking, at the expense of long term sustainability. Fortunately, Bangalore seems to doing well in this regard, with a number of lake communities coming forward to reclaim derelict lakes in their neighborhood, supported by civic action in the form of Public Interest Litigations and an active judiciary that places pressure on city administration. Such initiatives cannot be taken for granted, however, and are few and far between at the national level in India and indeed, in most countries with fast growing cities. Our only hope for scaling up such action is to enable outreach at a mass scale, through interdisciplinary education that crosses boundaries, engages with students, local communities, policy makers and private actors, and facilitates respectful contestation across groups of actors joined in the common goal of seeking equitable pathways towards greater urban sustainability. Engaging with problems of sustainability in an equitable, fair and just manner will require the fresh perspectives engendered by such discussion. Source: http://www.thenatureofcities.com/2014/05/28/the-cooperative-governance-of-urban-commons/

Cities Sued By Insurance Company Over Climate Change

Failure To Prepare For Heavier Rainfall Leads To Landmark Case

Last month, Farmers Insurance Co. filed nine class-action lawsuits arguing that local governments in the Chicago area are aware that climate change is leading to heavier rainfall but are failing to prepare accordingly. The suits allege that the localities did not do enough to prepare sewers and storm water drains in the area during a two-day downpour last April. In what could foreshadow a legal reckoning of who is liable for the costs of climate change, the class actions against nearly 200 Chicago-area communities look to place responsibility on municipalities, perhaps spurring them to take a more forward-looking approach in designing and engineering for a future made different by climate change.

Chicago flood
Chicago floods are on the rise. Farmers Insurance says Chicago failed to prepare when warned.

“Farmers is asking to be reimbursed for the claims it paid to homeowners who sometimes saw geysers of sewage ruin basement walls, floors and furniture,” reported E&E News. “The company says it also paid policyholders for lost income, the cost of evacuations and other damages related to declining property values.”

Andrew Logan, an insurance expert with Ceres, told E&E News that there is likely a longer-term agenda in mind with this latest effort, and that the company “could be positioning itself to avoid future losses nationwide from claims linked to floods, sea-level rise and even lawsuits against its corporate policyholders that emit greenhouse gases.”

While these suits are the first of their kind, Micahel Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School in New York, told Reuters that there will be more cases like them attempting to address how city and local governments should manage budgets to prepare for natural disasters that have been intensified by climate change.

“No one is expected to plan for the 500-year storm, but if horrible events are happening with increasing frequency, that may shift the duties,” he said.

Insurance companies are becoming increasingly concerned, and more vocal, about the rising costs of climate change. With large fossil fuel companies reluctant to take greenhouse gas mitigation efforts in the face of potential profit losses, the behemoth insurance industry could provide a counterbalance to the energy industry when it comes to incentivizing near-term emissions cuts, or at least adaptation to the effects of climate change.

“Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming,” reported the New York Times.

However this acceptance of the scientific consensus is yet to infiltrate the industry’s actions at large. A recent Ceres survey found that only 23 of the 184 insurance companies currently have a comprehensive strategy to deal with climate change.

“Every segment of the insurance industry faces climate risks, yet the industry’s response has been highly uneven,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, in a statement with the report. “The implications of this are profound because the insurance sector is a key driver of the economy. If climate change undermines the future availability of insurance products and risk management services in major markets throughout the U.S., it threatens the economy and taxpayers as well.”

Last year a study for the Federal Emergency Management Agency found that sea level rise is projected to increase coastal flood-hazard areas in the U.S. by 55 percent by 2100. If adaptation measures are not implemented, the study projects that the number of coastal flood-insurance policies will increase by 130 percent over the same time period. While flood insurance is overseen by the controversial National Flood Insurance Program, this is an example of the increased role of insurers in the face of climate change as well as the increased burden on insurance companies and taxpayers to cover the costs.

In another sign that the insurance industry may be ready to galvanize action, Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest and biggest insurance market, recently called on insurers to incorporate climate change into their models.

“Insurers have an important role to play in mitigating the impact of the changes in climate which have already occurred, through closer coordination with other industries, notably construction,” wrote John Nelson, chairman of Lloyd’s of London, in an op-ed for The Guardian. “There need to be policies to drive up standards and make sure we have resilient homes, that we use better materials. All these and strong forward planning will be key to this effort. Here, too, governments must play their role in enshrining standards in legislation.”

According to the Munich Re insurance group, global weather-related losses and damage have risen from an annual average of about $50 billion in the 1980s to close to $200 billion over the last decade.

While climate change models try to anticipate changes decades in advance, insurers are responsible for selling policies one year at a time. A report last year from the Geneva Association, an insurance industry research group, encourages companies to use forward-looking models when addressing areas impacted by climate change, rather than the more traditional historical precedent.

“In the non-stationary environment traditional approaches, which are solely based on analyzing historical data, increasingly fail to estimate today’s hazard probabilities. A paradigm shift from historic to predictive risk assessment methods is necessary,” reads the report.

Source: http://www.nationofchange.org/landmark-class-action-farmers-insurance-sues-local-governments-ignoring-climate-change-1400596231

Ericsson Announces Collaboration With UN Habitat To Improve Cities

Sustainable Cities More Livable

At the close of its second think-tank event called the Networked Society Forum (NEST), Ericsson announced its commitment to promoting industry-wide collaboration to improve city life.

Sustainable resilient cities
Sustainable cities are essential to a sustainable future. Our new network will help connect them for greater sharing and learning.

 

The theme of NEST was “Reinventing Urban Life,” and for two days, a range of leaders from government, planning, public opinion, and telecommunication, including Don Tapscott, Steven Levitt, Jimmy Wales and more, joined Ericsson President and CEO Hans Vestberg and one hundred ICT industry leaders to consider how the combination of mobility, broadband and cloud could offer solutions in aspects of urbanization.

“With one million people moving into cities every week, urban life represents some of the world’s greatest challenges and opportunities. ICT is an integral and natural part of everything we do in this urbanized world, and Ericsson has once again gathered a leading group of thinkers and doers to help point the way forward for our industry,” Vestberg said.

Ericsson released its 2013 Networked Society City Index report, which looks at how cities benefit from ICT in order to achieve sustainable progress. The report ranks Stockholm, London and Singapore as top three cities, all showing high ICT maturity and good triple bottom line performance. At NEST, Ericsson invited city officials including planners and politicians as well as leaders in the business world to join the City Index endeavor, hoping to spread the study base from 31 cities to the 450 cities of the world that host populations of one million or more.

“To solve systemic issues of traffic congestion, CO2 emissions, trash collection, residential crowding, and more, collaboration is the only way we will bring workable solutions to cities,” said Vestberg. “ICT cannot solve anything by itself. If we can bring together representatives from public and private domains, we will surely find unexpected, innovative ways to have a positive impact on city life.”

Another initiative announced at the event was a planned three-year partnership with UN-Habitat, the agency mandated by the United Nations to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities. For the next three years, Ericsson and UN-Habitat will embark on collaborative research and specific initiatives which aim to provide valuable insights for city leaders and policymakers.

“Ericsson’s role will be to contribute with technology and to be the ICT advisor. We expect to gather case studies on improving living standards, incorporate a big data element to track urban trends, and improve public awareness of the post-2015 sustainable development goals[1]. We also hope to engage other thought leaders in the industry in this work going forward,” said Vestberg.

Dr. Joan Clos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director, said: “Over the next thirty years, the urban population of the world will increase by at least 2.5 billion people. How we plan and manage our towns and cities will have an economic, social and political impact and will be directly connected with reduction of poverty and the increase of equity. We need key partners to bring innovation to solving the world’s urban challenges, and welcome this future partnership with Ericsson as a concrete step in that direction.”

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In vast research including some reports from Ericsson ConsumerLab, traffic and transportation are regularly cited by residents as the most challenging issues in a big, growing city. EU research estimates that about 1% of GDP annually is lost on traffic congestion. A study from the US calculates that 70 million hours per year are spent finding a parking space. And globally, inadequate road safety is estimated to cost USD 518 billion, the equivalent of 1-2% of an average nation’s annual GDP. Traffic accidents kill nearly 1.3 million people each year and an additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled.

Dr Catherine Mulligan, Research fellow at Imperial College Business School, explained: “There is growing evidence that digital and energy infrastructures are needed for intelligent transportation systems, enabled by common connectivity, device and service enablers.”

To create a concerted effort to enable creation of safe, sustainable and efficient transport systems in the market, Ericsson is launching an Intelligent Transport Initiative. The intent is to reach stakeholders from road authorities, research institutes, public transport operators, logistics providers, and service providers to analyze connected transport from several aspects.

“Mobile communication is expected to reach 9 billion subscriptions by 2019. This would never happen without unity and collaboration across the entire ecosystem. We need a similar drive now that we will see industries such as transport take advantage of mobility, broadband, and cloud. We’ve seen wonderful innovations by leading companies but in order for these ideas to scale across the globe, we need to collaborate,” said Vestberg.

Some of the major trends in transport are autonomous driving (driverless vehicles) and the uptake of electric vehicles. During 2014, Ericsson will lead a study across several disciplines to increase understanding of how an intelligent transportation system can best be provided. This work will look at aspects like innovation, safety, quality of service, business models and value chains, and standardization will be analyzed. Ericsson will hold a series of subject-focused roundtables throughout the year. The expected result aims to propose actions to stimulate progress, eliminate barriers and generate new business.

“Together with global experts and industry leaders, we aim to inspire, develop and create actionable ideas that can expand opportunities for our industry, at the same time making a tangible contribution to society at large,” Vestberg said.

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ericsson-announces-key-collaborations-to-improve-city-life-2013-11-19-121842037?reflink=MW_news_stmp