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Climate Smart Cities in Emerging Economies

The Climate Smart Cities program is working to deliver an evidence-based plan for rapid deployment of energy-efficient technologies, and investment in climate-resilient infrastructure at the local level. Plans have been published for four regions in England, and one is currently being developed for Kolkata, India.

Fast facts:

  • 99 possible energy efficiency, small-scale renewable and low-carbon measures identified for Kolkata
  • If implemented, would reduce energy costs by $430 million and carbon emissions by 16 percent by 2025
  • Plans for three more cities in the developing world are in the works

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The problem


Cities often lack the capacity to quickly develop measures that respond to climate change, thus leaving residents – especially those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale – vulnerable to climate change’s negative effects. The city of Kolkata in India is particularly at risk from climate change, due to its exposure to extreme weather, rising sea levels, and mass refugee migration from Bengal. In Kolkata, the life-sustaining freshwater supply is also especially at risk due to rapidly increasing population, rising industrial use, and changing monsoon patterns.

The solution


The Centre for Low Carbon Futures has teamed up with the Global Change Program of Jadvapur University to carry out Climate Smart Cities planning for Kolkata. Local city authorities and academics are compiling their case through analysis of current trends, reviews and menus of possible efficiency measures, arguments for the social and economic benefits of implementation, and a plan to finance them.

A series of public workshops allows the government, private sector, and civil society organizations to map the broader implications of potential measures to be adopted. The aim is to reframe the threat of climate change as an opportunity for green growth that protects natural resources and supports development for the city’s poorest.

Helping the planet

Possible options and recommendations emerging from the planning run the gamut in helping the environment - for example, creation of green spaces, pollution reduction, and better waste management.  The research also identifies easy-to-implement strategies to save water and energy, thus contributing to freshwater conservation and preventing climate change.

Helping people

Investment in climate-resilient infrastructure will reduce the impacts of extreme weather and foster development. Less pollution, better waste management, and more green spaces improve the quality of life for all city residents, while investment in public transport and better access to energy specifically aid the urban poor.

Spillover effect

The Climate Smart Cities methodology was originally implemented in producing “mini-Stern Reviews” for four urban regions in England, where they are currently guiding local investment decisions. The method was successfully transferred to Kolkata, and will also be used to develop such planning reviews for urban areas in Malaysia, Peru, and Indonesia.





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