Thursday 20 June 2019

How other cities are cutting emissions

Paul Melia takes a spin around the world to discover alternative ways we could improve our green credentials

Pedal power: three in five Copenhagen residents cycle to work
Pedal power: three in five Copenhagen residents cycle to work

While Ireland is not doing enough to tackle climate change, it has taken some steps to reduce emissions, with notable successes.

More than 350,000 homes have been retrofitted, reducing emissions and lowering heating bills, and the national grid is among the first in the world capable of delivering 65pc of all electricity from variable sources including wind.

Given the response to date, the State needs to play catch-up. But where can it look to for models on how to cut emissions in as short a timeframe as possible?

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Not only is the Dutch city home to more than one million bikes, it also has ambitious targets to electrify its transport fleet.

A case in point is Schiphol Airport. Around 170 fully electric taxis serve the airport, with a plan to move the entire fleet away from fossil fuels over the coming years.

Many of the cars are the Tesla Model S and Model X, operated by the taxi group BIOS-groep. They complete more than 170,000 trips to and from the airport a year, proving that an electric fleet is suitable for city taxi fleets.

Stockholm, Sweden

The city aims to be fossil-fuel free by 2040, and generates biofuel from sewage, which is available at petrol stations across the city and used by taxis and cars. It plans to extend usage to trucks.

It is also looking to use waste heat from data centres, stadia and other buildings to provide heat for residents using a district heating system.


The sovereign city state in south-east Asia has capped the number of private cars allowed on its streets.

To own a car, you need a certificate of entitlement from the Government. Certificates are in short supply, and are auctioned off each year.

In 2017, the Government limited the vehicle growth rate to 0.25pc per year. It fell to 0pc in February this year, meaning the fleet cannot expand.

San Francisco, USA

The city sends less than 20pc of its waste to landfill, the rest is recycled or composted. By 2020, it aims to boost recycling, composting and reusing rates to 100pc and avoid sending anything to landfill or for incineration.

It has done this by having a mandatory composting law for homeowners and businesses, and banning plastic bags.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Routinely voted as being among the best cycling cities in the world, Copenhagen has invested in infrastructure including bridges, installed traffic signalling and built superhighway bicycle

routes. More than 60pc of residents cycle to work or education, and the Queen Louise Bridge carries an estimated 35,000 cyclists during rush hour.

Such is the success of the city's policies, congestion on cycle tracks is becoming a concern and further investment is needed.

Shenzhen, China

Last year, the city's bus company said it had replaced its entire 16,000-strong fleet with electric vehicles.

The city connects Hong Kong with mainland China, and it made the switch with the aid of subsidies, leasing the vehicles, and collaboration among bus companies to maximise use of the charging infrastructure, which is also open to private cars.

Dublin's bus fleet numbers around 1,000.

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