Thursday, March 5, 2009

Low Carbon Cities

Low Carbon Cities
by Alvin Mejia

Recently I had a chance to be part of an international workshop organized by Nagoya University, the Global Carbon Project and the National Institute for Environmental Studies on Low Carbon Cities – Understanding and Analyzing Urban Energy and Carbon. It gave way to fruitful discussions on energy use, energy modeling and urban development within the context of climate change.

The Workshop

One of the most thought provoking questions that were asked during the workshop is – “What is a low carbon city?” The term itself is a catchy phrase that connotes a very positive image, but how can we say that a city is a low carbon city? What are the parameters? Who should set them? What are acceptable reduction targets?
A comment during the workshop stuck into me – “…maybe we should be looking into sustainable cities rather than low carbon cities…” I guess there’s a whole lot to think about that comment. At the end of day, we should look back to where we have started. The whole world is working towards mitigating climate change and its adverse effects but sustainable development is the goal behind it all.
Sometimes “low carbon” and “sustainable” are equated since they both connote positive meanings, but the distinction between them would become very significant when it comes to decision points which involve complex development measures (an example would be the use of biofuels). There are always pros and cons in implementing different development measures, but the bigger picture should always be considered.

Bikes in Nagoya

It was my first visit to Nagoya and I found myself admiring the attitude of people towards biking and using public transportation. Everyone bikes. The only problem is that pedestrians may face the danger of being hit by a speeding bicycle from behind since the walkways and bikeways are not segregated. Nonetheless, it was a good experience seeing everyone – young and old – use (and can use) bikes as a main transport mode.

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