Skip to main content

Smart cities are means to reduce greenhouse gases in urban communities

By 13/08/2020No Comments

Cities are one of the most enduring aspects of human organization. They are the principal places where people aggregate to live, meet, exchange goods, deliver services, and share ideas. But did you also know cities are the world’s largest source of greenhouse gases? Cities have the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through adoption of advanced “smart” technologies.

Over two-thirds of the world’s energy is consumed in cities, and they account for more than 70 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Activities of people who are concentrated in a location, such as transportation, land use and industrial processes, are responsible for much of the emissions. The challenge for cities is thus whether to address these issues and develop sustainability strategies or become hamstrung in the future.

Cities dominate the residential and commercial sources of GHGs across all economic sectors.  As they are the principal engines of economic growth in Canada, cities must foster sustainable economic growth. Over the past 10 years, the 600 largest global cities are forecast to contribute 65 per cent of global GDP growth. Meanwhile, the economic climate continues to place huge budgetary constraints on cities, which are becoming limited in their ability to respond to these pressures.

Global GHG emissions by economic sector

Source: IPCC, 2014

Smart cities have a better chance of achieving success in the challenges of decarbonisation, enhanced resilience, ICT systems in silos and post-pandemic redesign than transactional cities, according to a study of trends and opportunities for smart city policy adoption currently underway by Global Advantage. Creating smart buildings, introducing intelligent transportation, adopting and applying open data, and retrofitting for the new normal are some major opportunities for cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Components of a smart city

There are generally 10 components to becoming a smart city:

  1. Fifth-generation cellular/mobile networks (5G)
  2. Artificial intelligence
  3. Big data
  4. Blockchain
  5. Cloud computing
  6. Global positioning system
  7. Internet-of-Things (IoT)
  8. Radio frequency identification tags (RFID)
  9. Supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA)
  10. Wireless sensors

These technologies offer promise as to their applicability to different communities and many are interrelated as one technology empowers another, so to speak.

For example, an intelligent transportation system involves the application of advanced and emerging technologies (computers, sensors, control, communications, and electronic devices) to save lives, money, energy and limit environmental damage.

Furthermore, cities which have invested in updating their energy grids to ‘smart grids’ have been shown to have more reliable, secure and efficient electrical infrastructure. Smart grids are energy networks that automatically monitor energy flows and adjusts accordingly to fluctuations in energy supply and demand and are considered an essential modernizing development for the security and reliability of a country’s energy network. Considering that urban areas consume 80 per cent of electricity generation, reducing waste while optimizing an electric grid’s operational management is of paramount importance for any smart city project.

Opportunities to transform

The benefits of smart cities include more efficient public utilities, improved public and private transportation, and reduced environmental footprint, all of which aid in the GHG challenge. Enabling applications provide a significant opportunity to improve energy, transportation, infrastructure and public health.

Canada still has a way to go regarding urban thinking about GHG emissions. The pandemic offers Canadian municipalities the opportunity to reassess and redesign existing city infrastructure and services. Coordinated leadership across all levels of government is required in order to shape the direction and pace of change within municipalities.


Global Advantage Consulting Group offers a variety of services customized to your organization’s needs. To see more about how our products can help shape your organization’s understanding of Canada’s research and develop innovation ecosystem, visit our portfolio of work here.