Have you considered living and studying in a city that really cares about climate change, so that you can make a difference too?
Cities are home to more than half the world’s population and produce almost two thirds of the global carbon emissions that cause climate change. “Cities are real hot spots of innovation, business and human life on earth so it is crucial that they are acting [to improve the situation],” Kyra Appleby, global director of Cities, States and Regions at non-profit group Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), told Bloomberg.
Here are five examples of cities racing to slow climate change. They all are also home to universities where you can combine gaining a Master’s degree and experiencing a planet-friendly lifestyle.
Canberra (Australia): everyone contributes
Imagine being asked by the government to stop driving petrol-powered cars and using gas for heating. This is what happened to the citizens of Canberra, Australia’s capital, which aims to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2045. "This is not about making it the community's problem,” said Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Climate Change for the Australian Capital Territory. “But we are also being very clear, we want to partner with people," he added. There will be "car-free days", with the first one planned for 2020.
Oslo (Norway): electric vehicles
The European Green Capital of 2019 does not make compromises when it comes to tackling climate change. "We count carbon emissions in the same way as we count money," Oslo's mayor Raymond Johansen told Deutsche Welle. "All parts of Oslo need to report back how much they can reduce their emissions, on very clear significant goals."
The Norwegian capital plans to cut carbon emissions by 95% by 2030, despite being one of Europe's fastest growing cities. Authorities have taken all kinds of measures to discourage commuters from driving to work. Biogas produced from bio-waste and city sewage fuels city buses and waste lorries. Electric cars are growing in popularity, not only in Oslo but in the whole country. Here is an example: almost 60% of all car sales in Norway in March 2019 were electric vehicles. The incentives offered by the government help a lot. Buyers of zero-emission cars don’t have to pay sales, import and road taxes.
Reykjavik (Iceland): 100% renewable power
What comes to mind when you think of Iceland? The land of fire and ice? Its geysers? The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa? Well, here is another interesting feature – a capital city using 100% renewable power.
Older residents of Reykjavik, population 123,000, still remember the time when the city was struggling with coal smoke. The pollution is now a distant memory mainly due to geothermal energy. And to think that the shift to a low-carbon present was driven mainly by locals. In 1907, a farmer took steam from a hot spring that ran below his farm to build a primitive heating system. A few years later, another farmer improved on the system by using not steam but hot water. Municipalities soon took up the initiative and started distributing hot water to heat homes. Drilling technology used in the oil industry enabled drilling for hotter water, which meant more heated homes.
Reykjavik is the undisputed leader in clean energy, but other cities are also making progress. Paris currently gets 35% of its energy from clean sources and almost 60% of the energy San Francisco uses comes from renewables.
Singapore: the garden city
The sovereign island city-state is taking climate change very seriously, partly because of its vulnerability to rising sea levels. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently said: “These are life and death matters.” Climate threats, he added, should be treated with “utmost seriousness”.
Singapore is known as the “garden city”. The idea to turn the city into a green paradise dates back to 1967. It started with an extensive tree-planting programme – more than 55,000 new trees had been planted by the end of 1970 and more than 1.4 million by the end of 2014. Today, Singapore is also known for its green buildings, which are energy efficient and don’t harm the environment. Green building has been mandatory since 2008.
Utrecht (Netherlands): on foot and by bike
Netherlands is known as a bicycle friendly country – there are more bicycles than residents in the country. In cities such as Amsterdam and The Hague up to 70% of all trips are made by bike.
Utrecht, however, wants to take things a little further. Merwede, a new proposed neighbourhood, will be specifically designed for pedestrians and cyclists. It will be home to 12,000 people who will have a fleet of shared cars and bicycles at their disposal. To reduce the number of vehicles in the neighbourhood to a minimum, three households in Merwede will have to share one car. Marco Broekman, the architect whose firm led the design for the urban plan, told Fast Company: “By having this car-free area, we can design spaces without the straightjacket [or] rules of the car.” The project has been underway since 2016 and includes 6,000 dwellings, green public spaces, and habitable rooftops.
Consider the environment when choosing where to study. Why not?