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Urban Development Spurs Growth in Emerging Economy Cities

Andrew Burger headshotWords by Andrew Burger
Investment & Markets
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Reducing pollution and waste in cities around the world has become an ever more important priority in recent decades, particularly in developing and less developed countries. With more than half the world's population now living in cities and urban areas, the Urban-LEDS project is helping local governments in emerging economy countries devise and implement plans that lower urban greenhouse gas emissions, conserve resources and improve quality of life.

In a recent progress report, Urban-LEDS announced that all eight model cities, as well as several satellite cities, participating in the project have conducted or are finalizing greenhouse gas emissions inventories. That paves the way for these cities to craft practical, effective emissions-reduction projects.

In the northeast Brazilian city of Recife, the Torre Charles Darwin, a 35-story skyscraper, will be the first building in the city to have a green roof. In addition to a cover crop of 2.8 million square feet, Torre Charles Darwin will have a rainwater harvesting system that will be used to power the tower's air conditioning system.

Low-carbon development in emerging economy cities


Funded by the European Commission (EC) and managed by U.N.-Habitat and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, Urban-LEDS's overarching goal is to promote and foster “the transition to low emission urban development in emerging economy countries.” Collectively, 37 cities, towns and metropolises are participating in the program -- representing over 700 million people, or around 10 percent of the world population.

Launched in 2012 with a budget of 6.7 million euros (~$7.7 million), Global-LEDS will be operational for 42 months. Depending on the program's success, the benefits realized by city-dwellers in emerging economy countries could persist for decades.

Urban-LEDS projects in the eight model and additional satellite cities hinge on being able to accurately assess urban resource needs, use and emissions. Completing emissions inventories per city-based GHG accounting standards – as all eight model and several satellite Urban-LEDS cities have done – is a key step forward.

Green roofs and LED street lighting

Urban-LEDS highlights the progress being made in its latest newsletter. Besides the first green roof in Recife, the Brazilian “model city” Fortaleza “now has a better understanding of where and how emissions can be decreased due to development of its first GHG inventory.”

The Fortaleza government recently launched an energy-efficient building pilot project in which 13 schools are participating. Highlighting how low-carbon development can stimulate sustainable local economic growth and job creation, the city government “is hiring construction companies and Acqua certifiers for the first pilot plant.”

In South Asia, the Indian Urban-LEDS model city of Thane has contracted an energy service company to audit 10,000 of 70,000 street lights.

Part of its broad-based emissions mitigation actions, a financial plan for installation of more efficient light-emitting diode (LED) street lighting is being formulated. That's expected to improve illumination levels and contribute to raising the energy efficiency of public power infrastructure, as well as reduce and enhance operations and maintenance.

In Rajkot, another Indian Urban-LEDS model city, planners are working up green building guidelines and training programs for sustainable transportation and industrial energy efficiency. These include a feasibility study for implementation of LED street lighting to be conducted by an energy service company.

These are just a few examples of the the low-carbon urban development plans and actions being taken in Urban-LEDS cities around the world. For more, check out Urban-LEDS latest newsletter and website.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post reported that more than 1,000 cities were engaged with Urban-LEDS. This figure refers to ICLEI's membership, and 37 cities are now engaged specifically with this Urban-LEDS program.

*Image credits: Urban-LEDS

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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