In terms of smart cities, Europe is the model to follow, but Australia is not far behind with three of its major cities listed among the Top Ten Smartest Cities in the Asia/Pacific region.
LEED accredited professional and climate strategist Boyd Cohen, Ph.D., recently published his annual rankings of smart cities.
To create his rankings, he created a tool he called the Smart Cities Wheel, which was inspired by the work of the Center of Regional Science at the Vienna University of Technology, Siemens’ work with the Green City Index, and Buenos Aires’ “Modelo Territorial,” among others.
The Smart Cities Wheel is based on six main categories; smart economy, smart environmental practices, smart governance, smart living, smart mobility, and smart people. Within each of these goals, Cohen included three key drivers through with cities could achieve the objective.
“There are over 100 indicators to help cities track their performance with specific actions developed for specific needs,” he explained.
Cities were grouped in four regions, including North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Latin America. The results showed that Europe has the smartest cities in the world; they are denser, have better public transport, larger commitment to cycling and walking, and a stronger focus on sustainability and low-carbon policies.
Copenhagen placed first among European Cities, followed by Amsterdam, Vienna, Barcelona, Paris, Stockholm, London, Hamburg, Berlin, and Helsinki.
Copenhagen, which placed first for the second year in a row, has established a reputation as the world's greenest city, leading the Siemens Green City Index for Europe. The city has also been selected as the European Green Capital for 2014.
Copenhagen has one of the lowest carbon footprints per capita in the world - less than two tons per capita - and also has the most ambitious carbon reduction plan of any major city in the world, aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. In addition, 40 per cent of all commutes in the city are conducted by bike.
Cities in the Asia/Pacific region, including those on Cohen's list, are on their way to being smarter, but none of them have truly arrived. The Asia/Pacific region has unique challenges and opportunities, Cohen explained.
For instance, China’s cities are growing at an unprecedented rate, putting stress on their infrastructure and creating significant congestion and air pollution challenges.
He said Australia and New Zealand offer a very high quality of life, but, in general, they provide poor access to quality, efficient, and green public transport and their cities are often more sprawled out than many North American cities.
“Australian and New Zealand cities will need to grow up more than out, and invest more in multi-modal transit options for their citizens as they continue on the smart cities journey,” he said.
The 10 Smartest Cities in Asia/Pacific are:
Seoul is the smartest city with respect to digital governance and open data. Currently, the city has more than 1,200 public open data sets and it has been innovative in the use of digital tools for supporting citizen participation, such as the OASIS Online Policy Suggestion System that allows the public to make planning suggestions online.
A “smart city” prototype was built next to the Seoul airport. The project shows a city that is 40 per cent green space, offers universal broadband service, integrated sensor networks, green buildings, and an innovative underground system of tubes for transporting kitchen waste from buildings straight to a processing facility which will convert the waste into energy.
Singapore is a clean, organized, technologically advanced city with excellent public transport systems and a strong commitment to sustainable development. The city has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any major city in the world; around 2.7 tons of carbon dioxide per capita.
Last year, Singapore introduced the Gardens, a park of 18 high-tech artificial trees which do everything from house PV panels to provide ambient cooling within a park.
Japan has established a strategy for 2020 including eight measureable goals for the future. These include increasing resilience to natural disasters such as earthquakes, generating local renewable energy, creating 1,000 hectares of new green space, and encouraging a number of programs for citizen engagement and social inclusion such as sending youth on study abroad programs, creating new jobs for the disabled and supporting the creation of new spaces for childcare.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government was the first city in the world to establish a city-based cap and trade program, which is a pollution control program that caps total emissions of certain pollutants, and allows emitters to trade available allowances on an open market as part of compliance activity. Since the program was established in 2010, it resulted in a 23 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.
4: Hong Kong
Living in one of the densest cities in the world, Hong Kong residents have embraced non-motorized and public transit.
Hong Kong is considered one of the most innovative cities in the world. The Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Commission, established in 2000, supported the creation of five research "clusters" focusing on automotive, ICT, logistics, nanotechnologies, and textiles. Since its creation, the commission has facilitated the generation of more than $3 billion in research and development projects across the five target clusters.
Auckland has always been among the most liveable cities in the world and it is also home to two-thirds of the top 200 companies in the country.
Earlier this year, the city committed to being one of the first nine cities to partner with Microsoft in the launch of their CityNext platform which aims to transform municipal government and support innovation through the use of information and communication technologies and big data in areas such as transport, energy usage and buildings.
Sydney used the resources and attention of hosting the Olympic Games as a way to green the city. The Sydney Olympic village is a 90-hectare mixed-use development project which entailed the implementation of renewable energy solutions such as the installation of 12 PV cells on every home, a building waste recycling system which resulted in the recycling of up to 90 per cent of waste wood concrete and bricks, and of course new public transit connectivity.
More recently, Sydney has been experimenting with several clean and smart technology projects. Some of the smart home technologies they are testing include fuel cell and waste heat recovery for hot water, electric vehicle use and charging, smart meters and in-home water reuse and recycling.
Melbourne also has made progress toward becoming a more sustainable and smarter city. The city set an ambitious goal of a 100 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2006 levels. In 2003, the city completed one of the largest urban solar projects on the roof of Queen Victoria Market, and in 2010, it launched the 1200 Buildings Program to encourage the retrofitting of major buildings throughout the city. Aside from the carbon reductions, Melbourne aims to drive $2 billion in private sector investment and the creation of 8,000 green jobs.
Apart from improvements to transport and liveability, Osaka has been testing smart home technology since 2011. In collaboration with Osaka Gas, the city's Smart Home project implemented a combination of clean energy solutions and a home energy management system (HEMS), resulting in an 88 per cent reduction in power consumption over comparable homes in Osaka. Next steps include the integration of an electric vehicle and a conversion to 100 per cent solar power for home heating.
Kobe has been working to green its building stock through the Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency Program (CASBEE). Kobe currently counts 450 green certified buildings through the CASBEE program. Over the past decade, the city has also sought to transform its municipal water and waste management practices, shifting its strategy from waste-to-landfill toward recycling and reuse of waste and wastewater.
In 2009, Perth began a three-year project entitled Perth Solar City which aims to encourage industry, business, governments and the public to change the way they produce, use and save energy.
The project involved a range of smart and clean technology pilots including the installation of more than 9,000 smart meters, installing new solar capacity in 1,800 homes and delivering free energy efficiency consultations to more than 3,500 homes. In 2012, citizens participating in Perth Solar City achieved a total of $1 million in energy savings.