As we all know, climate change is a reality and will dramatically impact our near future. More and more projects are being undertaken to fight against climate change in various areas. We start to understand that we have to act now if we want to have a chance to modify the effects and give our children the opportunity to live in a great world.
Amongst these areas, we can observe that cities are prominent actors in this fight. Since the last decade, many projects have started to change the relationship between cities and the environment. Cities understand that they can act as examples to drive environmental changes by rethinking urbanisation to give more place to nature, parks, bikes, etc.
This article shares some of the most interesting "city environmental projects" planned or have already been implemented worldwide. Enjoy!
1. 35km of new cycle lanes in Milan
Milan has been investing a lot in green initiatives over the past few years. In 2021 the city had built new cycle lanes and entered a new dimension: Milan became a "bike city". The Strade Aperte (Open Roads) project has made more than 35km of new bike paths, transforming central streets. And within 15 years, Milan should have one of the most comprehensive networks of protected bicycle lanes in all of Europe.
When complete in 2035, the network will provide Italy's most populous metro area with 750 kilometres of segregated lanes. The goal of this 250-million-euro project is to make cycling the first and easiest choice for getting around the Metropolitan City of Milan. The map above shows the "Super-cycles" corridors by 2035.
According to Milan's research, 50% of the city's PM10 and nitrous oxide pollution comes from transportation emissions, meaning that Milan's pollution problem is substantially a car and truck problem. No doubt that this project will bring some fresh air to the city of Milan.
2. Paris transformation for 2024 Olympic games
Paris plans to become Europe's greenest city by 2030. From removing cars from the city centre to vast urban forests, the French capital is transforming itself.
As Paris will host the 2024 Olympic Games, it plans to give many major sights a green new look. The area around the Eiffel Tower, for example, is to be turned into an 'extraordinary park' just in time for the games. The Place de la Concorde, will also be planted with new 'park areas'. And the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis will soon be home to a new 'eco-friendly' Olympic Village, Media City and Olympic aquatic centre. Riverside pools, built for the games and filled with cleaned water from the Seine, will subsequently be given over to public use.
But Paris has a bigger ambition than being ready for the Olympic games. A bigger project aims to turn Paris into Europe's greenest city by 2030. Its mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has placed green policies at the forefront of her campaigns ever since she was first elected in 2014; and unlike some other leaders around the world, she is also acting on them.
Around 1500 miles of bike lanes have been created across the city since Hidalgo was elected. Major roads, have been shut off to traffic entirely. The world-famous plazas of Madeleine, Nation and Bastille have already been redesigned to make them more pedestrian-friendly. From 2024, all diesel cars will be banned from the city, and by 2030 petrol cars will be as well.
By 2026, mayor Hidalgo aims to plant more than 170,000 trees across the capital. By 2030, Paris's most famous street, the Champs-Élysées, will be turned into an 'extraordinary garden' as part of a massive €250 million project.
3. The fantastic Earth Tower in Vancouver
Perhaps one of the most revolutionary high-rise urban developments for the next year, the Earth Tower in Vancouver, is going to make a significant impact in the city. At 40 stories, the mixed-use development will become the world's tallest hybrid wood tower, reducing the project's greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration. The project aims to be a zero-emissions building which means that it will not consume fossil fuels, such as natural gas, in operation. The project could also restore local biodiversity and provide exciting public areas.
Sections of the tower's south face will contain an outdoor garden accessible to residents of the specific area.
Why wood is a suitable material? Canada's Earth Tower will employ wood from sustainably managed forests as its primary structure. The tower will use locally manufactured mass timber. Using wood will set a new benchmark for sustainable building performance and wood construction. Goals of achieving zero emissions led the project to be part of the CaGBC (Canada Green Building Council) Zero Carbon Building Pilot program and exceed targets in the City of Vancouver's Zero Emissions Building Plan.
4. Brisbane, the smart city
Brisbane is one of the most environmentally friendly cities in Australia.
The city launched the "smart, connected" at the beginning of the '90s. The goal of the initiative is "to engage individuals, businesses, and researchers to create new methods of living sustainably through the innovative use of data". As they state, Smart and connected solutions can improve liveability through more personalised customer services, more efficient commuting and greater accessibility. These solutions can also enhance sustainability through efficient asset management and environmental monitoring.
Several sensors and equipment were deployed throughout the city. They gather information on lighting, air quality, noise, and climate, allowing researchers to learn more about how individuals in certain parts of Brisbane use these spaces.
The city has several ambitions for 2030 through its roadmap like clean air, biodiversity protection, low carbon, green transportation, and waste reduction.
Through the years, the program has released several significant and exciting items like the first electric vehicle charging station in 2012, real-time telemetry gauges to monitor flood levels and rainfall across Brisbane and send information via radio waves in 1990, Digital Brisbane 2.0 to empower residents and businesses to thrive in a globally connected, digitally enabled world in 2018 or the opening of the Capital, Brisbane's start-up and innovation hub in 2016.
Don't hesitate to visit their website for detailed information about what they've already implemented or plan to implement.
5. China's vertical forest city
An architect designed a forest city that absorbs around 20 tons of carbon dioxide every year while emitting approximately 10 tons of oxygen. Citizens have moved into the Easyhome Huanggang Vertical Forest City Complex, the first of its vertical forest towers to open in China at the beginning of this year.
Located in Huanggang in China's Hubei province, the plant-covered towers are a new kind of vertical forest that combine open and closed balconies.
Vertical forests are a building type invented by Boeri with facades covered with trees and plants. The structure of these Chinese complexes was designed so that the foliage on the balconies would "fit perfectly" into the facade design.
As Stephano Boeri says on his website, we have to consider that:
By 2030, 60% of the global population is projected to live in urban areas.
Cities consume 75% of the world's natural resources and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions.
Cumulative emissions of CO2, together with methane and other greenhouse gases, largely determine the global mean surface warming of the planet, causing ice melting, biodiversity loss and rising sea levels.
and also that:
Forests and trees – which are at risk of continuous erosion worldwide – absorb nearly 40% of fossil fuel emissions primarily produced by our cities every year.
Leaves and roots of a mature tree absorb CO2 through photosynthesis and help reduce the pollutants (responsible for a high percentage of respiratory diseases and premature deaths) present in the air.
If a single tree can bring significant benefits to the city and its inhabitants; an urban forest can be an extraordinary help to improve the city's quality of health and life.