Author: Huw Thomas (pictured), Magway development director
Climate change has been a hot topic for the last few years, with figureheads such as Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough inspiring change. However, there is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the topic of sustainability to the forefront. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) introduced the idea of an environmental tipping point 20 years ago, and it is now estimated we are only 10 years away from crossing the threshold into irreversible environmental damage.
How can sustainable cities help fix this?
If we carry on as we are, the environmental damage we have inflicted could be irreparable by 2027. The UK government has been pushing for change, with regulations such as London’s low and ultra-low emission zones, and government legislation aiming to cut emissions by 78% by 2035.
These changes are bringing light to the importance of the climate crisis and moving us in the right direction, but it isn’t enough. Sustainable cities could be the key to prevent us from reaching irreversible damage.
The notion of smart cities is already developing. Improved connectivity, IoT devices, and smart buildings have dominated the smart cities conversation for several years, but with the environmental challenges we face clear in the results of the latest IPCC report, we need to look at evolving smart cities into sustainable cities.
Sustainable cities focus on the wider notion that cities can develop a symbiotic relationship with their hinterland to become sustainable and self-reliant - almost like an industrial ecosystem.
Where do we start with sustainability?
One place to start is with the material that makes up a city.
Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and additive manufacturing or 3D printing are starting to hit the spotlight, alongside smart energy grids, carbon neutral construction materials, and integrated, zero-carbon delivery systems. If we change the materials the city is made from, then our base is already sustainable, then we move to the inner workings of a city.
According to the Department for Transport, road transport contributes to around a fifth of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions and is officially cited by Public Health England as one of the biggest environmental threats to health in the UK, with up to 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure.
It’s time we find another, sustainable delivery system, as the retail industry is responsible for a colossal carbon footprint. Alongside consumer demands changing as awareness of sustainability rises, the Government is also passing legislation ensuring logistics companies adjust their sustainability goals to fuel greener transport systems.
The Magway System
The Magway system could solve a multitude of problems stemming from urban retail deliveries.
Here, we are developing an all-electric zero-emissions delivery system that can replace commercial road vehicles such as HGVs.
Powered by magnetic waves and travelling through dedicated pipe networks, Magway doesn’t rely on battery power and can, when connected to a renewable energy source, be carbon free.
By removing retail and delivery vehicles from the roads, Magway enables the delivery of goods at a high capacity, even up to the last mile, without releasing any emissions into the atmosphere.
In short, smart cities are our way to progress towards sustainable cities. As the conversations at COP26 have shown us, we need to make a change before we hit the environmental tipping point where there will be no return.
The development of more sustainable cities must be prioritised to create healthier living environments for society, acting as a stepping stone so we can then progress to becoming absolutely carbon neutral.