What are the pathways to achieving net zero cities in Asia?

What are the pathways to achieving net zero cities in Asia?
The opening plenary at Cities: Possibilities 2021, panellists discussing pathways to net zero cities.

Singapore, 3 November 2021 – Some 90 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) is now covered by net zero commitments as the COP26 talks in Glasgow get underway. This sets the stage for COP26 to enable a profound sea change globally on climate action, said British High Commissioner to Singapore Kara Owen at the opening plenary of Cities: Possibilities 2021 on Wednesday. 

Organised by Eco-Business, the annual forum in its third edition convened over 600 high-level decision makers from the building, finance, and infrastructure sectors, policymakers, academics and civil society to discuss the latest developments in advancing Sustainable Development Goal 11 – creating sustainable cities and communities. 

Cities have come under the spotlight as countries draft policies to transition to net zero. On the first day of the UNFCCC climate talks, Ryuzo Sugimoto of Japan’s Ministry of Environment noted that cities and local governments set the pace on low-carbon changes and offer examples national governments can scale up.

To speed up large-scale emissions cuts by 2030—on the way to net-zero by 2050— the world requires a “decarbonisation domino effect”, with local governments often good testing grounds for what is possible, he said. 

At the Cities: Possibilities forum held at St Regis Hotel, Owen underlined the key role of cities. “I want to highlight the role that cities and states play in demonstrating the huge momentum behind achieving the Paris goals. The task is not just for national governments, so what can cities and states do now? They can set net zero commitments by 2050 with credible short-term strategies. They can mobilise key stakeholders to showcase place-based policymaking that works and that’s why today’s event is so important.” she said. 

During the hybrid in-person and virtual event, key stakeholders participated in a series of in-depth roundtable discussions on five themes – buildings, mobility, big data, AI & the cloud, food & agritech, and resources & the circular economy. Simultaneous action on these key drivers of cities is needed to keep global temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius and below. 

Delegates discussed the challenges and opportunities in achieving net zero cities and raising climate ambition in Asia. These included investment opportunities and technologies that will ensure quality of life for all while living within the planetary boundaries, even as demand for energy, food, water and infrastructure increases. 

“The commitments we’ve seen this week as COP26 begins is a strong signal that our global transition to a zero carbon economy is underway. Asia is the most rapidly growing region in the world and home to billions of people who are flocking to urban environments. It is against this backdrop that we hosted this year’s Cities: Possibilities forum, to gather decision makers for a conversation on specific actions we can take in five key sectors to get us to net zero cities,” said Jessica Cheam, founder and managing director of Eco-Business. 

The closing plenary at the event rounded up key points and recommendations from the roundtable discussions. Some key points that were highlighted include focusing on vernacular architecture—construction using local materials, leveraging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT), as well as increasing regulation such as green certifications of data centres. 

“As we transition to a low-carbon world, setting net zero targets is no longer an ambition. To align with global goals and build climate resilience, it is critical that we transform the way we live, consume, as well as manage resources and waste. It is only by tapping and investing in technologies and innovations will we be able to create possibilities for sustainable cities and communities,” said Esther An, Chief Sustainability Officer, City Developments Limited. 

Summing up the importance of cities in the fight for climate action, Khong Weng Fook, Managing Director of Canopy Sands Development said: “Cities are a primary focus when we talk about climate action today. The challenge that the developed world faces is in reversing the damage that has been done in existing cities. In emerging countries including Cambodia, the challenge is in building the right type of urban environments for their cities of tomorrow.”

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About Eco-Business  

Established in 2009, Eco-Business is an independent media and business intelligence company dedicated to sustainable development and ESG performance. It publishes high quality, trusted news and views in multimedia formats on business and policy developments around the world with a sustainability and ESG-focused lens.   

Eco-Business provides research and consulting on a wide range of issues which create strategic value for our partners and clients. It owns and creates thought-leadership platforms which inform policymaking, improve business practices and foster collaboration among different sectors. Eco-Business is headquartered in Singapore, with a presence in Manila, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Zurich, New York, and correspondents in major cities across the world. Visit us at www.eco-business.com.   

About Cities | Possibilities 

Cities | Possibilities is an annual premiere sustainable cities event organised by Eco-Business that convenes high-level decision makers from the building, finance, and infrastructure sectors, policymakers, academics, and civil society to discuss the latest developments in advancing Sustainable Development Goal 11 – creating sustainable cities and communities.   

In 2021, the third edition of the event – themed ‘Net Zero Cities’ – will feature a hybrid in-person and virtual event where key stakeholders will participate in a series of in-depth roundtable discussions to highlight the key challenges and opportunities in achieving net zero cities.  

The event will provide a timely platform for business, governments, and NGOs to collaborate on the shared goal of achieving sustainable cities with net zero carbon emissions.   

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