The World Smart City Awards (awarded November 2020) went to cities ‘for developed global strategies combining projects, initiatives and policy implementations for their citizens’. How is the Chinese city of Shanghai helping the world become a more liveable and sustainable place?
China itself is currently responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but recently pledged to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The nation doesn’t tend to set targets unless it plans to meet them – for example, it met its 2020 emissions goals three years early. An integrated smart cities plan will be – and already is – a key part of how it does this, because building houses and offices constitutes a large part of China’s overall emissions.
Already, hundreds of ‘eco city’ developments are cropping up across the country – as explicitly outlined in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). There have been several complications, however. Tianfu Park City, near Chengdu, boasts 70% blue and green space, but its construction involved controversial demolition and there are concerns it won’t attract enough residents.
Shanghai’s own ‘Smart City Plan’, which started in 2016, is now in its final year. At its core, it revolves around digitisation and the rollout of 5G and artificial intelligence to make the city better-functioning, greener and more liveable.
It won this year’s World Smart City Awards for meeting a series of ambitious digital infrastructure targets – as well as taking big steps in industrial and environmental strategy more generally.
Undoing years of heavy pollution and environmentally destructive policy will require a lot of work. What specifically does the mass rollout of 5G and other tech mean for Shanghai’s greener future? In itself, 5G uses less energy than 4G and transmits far more data. A good start!