While the smart cities around the world are coping with emission aftermaths and implementing ways to become carbon neutral, Hungary has come forward with a lofty vision to build a zero-carbon city from scratch.
Actually, Hungary is not the first country to envision constructing a zero-carbon city from the ground up. Over a decade ago, in 2008, UAE was the world’s first nation to begin constructing the world’s first-ever zero-carbon city in its desert, near the edges of Abu Dhabi – the Masdar City. It is a different topic that the city is still half way behind in reaching the goal.
So, coming back to the subject, Hungary’s zero-carbon city boasts to be a turning point of eco-living in Europe and the rest of the world. Go on to know about the massive project and whether it is truly possible to build a zero-carbon city.
It Will Takes €1 Billion For The New Zero-carbon City
Hungary announced plans to build a zero-carbon city which is going to be a carbon neutral greenhouse-filled farming city powered by renewable energy.
The project is called the ‘Hegyeshalom-Bezenye project’ as the new city will rise on a 300-hectare barren land that lies between two villages namely Hegyeshalom and Bezenye located in north-west Hungary. The site was selected as it lies on a strategic location that shares its boundaries with Budapest, Vienna, and Bratislava.
The green plan beginning on land equivalent to 500 football pitches will be backed by the German developer Fakt who will spend €1 billion ($1.13 billion) on the project, German energy supplier E.ON, Hungarian construction company KESZ Group, and of course the Hungarian government. The investment and partnership in developing the project are said to be one of the largest in terms of greenfield financing.
To let you have a clear picture of the zero-carbon agriculture city, it will have schools, shopping complexes, railway station, a conference centre, housing facilities, hotels, and thousands of jobs for the residents. Specifically, the small city will have 1,000 homes and 5,000 permanent jobs in the greenhouse sector.
In addition, the plan also includes the development of logistics and processing units, greenhouse and cold storage facility. It will also be home to the construction of the largest inland fishery in Europe.
Agriculture will be at the heart of this new city with a substantial space dedicated to it. A complex of greenhouses will be created to sustain year-round cultivation of herbs and vegetable like aubergines and tomatoes. As stated by István Nagy, Hungary’s minister of agriculture, the development would presage an “epoch change for agriculture”.
In order to prevent dropping the region’s water table, the project will bring sustainable water management practices in place. It will have geothermal plants for cooling purposes as well as biogas and solar energy to power the city.
The energy supplier, E.ON will ensure the energy requirements are fulfilled and that only renewable energy – of nearly all types – are used for the zero-carbon city.
Currently, the German electric utility company is assessing the overall requirements of the project considering the core agenda of carbon-neutral renewable energy and intelligent energy networks.
At the Austrian World Summit held in Vienna recently, the Hungarian President János Áder stated that Hungary will be 90% carbon free by 2030. Further by 2050, the country will work on bringing a balance between carbon emissions and carbon removal. When the Hegyeshalom-Bezenye project is implemented successfully, it can be emulated, especially by those heavy dependant on fossil fuels, to create a zero-carbon environment.
As said by Nikolai Ulrich, board member of FAKT, the project will reflect, “How a scrap of land and vision can create a green business and community venture of scale.”
Can We Really Build Zero-carbon Cities? As Per NASA It Is A ‘No’
The term “zero carbon” used by smart cities to nourish healthy and green future is broadly conceived. NASA says, “carbon is the backbone of life on Earth.” If we go deeper into the explanation, every living being on the planet, including humankind are made of carbon. We eat carbon, our homes, transport systems, and other infrastructure system are made of carbon. Hence, talking about making cities zero carbon is practically inconsistent with logic.
So what does it mean when smart cities say about achieving “carbon neutrality” by 2050? This can be understood by learning about carbon footprinting.
Emission of carbon begins at different points that make up the production, transportation, consumption chain of goods and services. But, how the carbon is emitted taking the efficiency factor is the basis. And this depends on the viewpoint of each smart city. Be it manufacturers, service providers, corporate organisations, public institutions, or customers, each and every individual’s and system’s actions impact carbon footprint beyond the political boundaries.
In general, to count carbon emissions, the governments follow guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This comprises a region-based approach wherein only the direct emissions and reductions occurring within a city or country are taken into account. This includes even those from the production of the energy consumed. As carbon is a term that stands on behalf of all the greenhouse gases, this approach corroborates reports of failures and success all over the globe. However, this is only one way to apportion carbon emission and that is where the problem arises.
Therefore, another approach called “consumption-based” is more frequently implemented by environmental NGOs like WWF. It also often used by some parts of the UK government. This approach adds the total emissions from good and services consumed by country, city, or an individual – no matter in which place it occurred. For instance, when this approach is followed, eating imported meat involves taking the shipping emissions, the plastic or other material used in its packaging and the emissions from the source i.e the animal itself into account. So, all the included factors take place outside the typical footprint. One of the latest research analysis revealed that a number of major cities around the world emit 60% more carbon when this method is implemented.
So, the bottom line is that the vision of zero-carbon does not cover everything – it might just treat in the way of decarbonising energy and in-boundary emissions.
How Can Smart Cities Achieve The Low-Carbon Goal?
Working towards the zero-carbon or the low carbon future definitely has benefits for urban as well as rural residents. New Climate Economy found through its study that $1 trillion invested by cities each year on 11 kinds of low carbon projects would bring back $17 trillion in net present financial value through 2025, only from the direct energy savings. A follow-on study showed that the social and economic benefits of spending on the improvement of citizen health, generation of jobs, elimination of poverty and inequality could give back over $17 trillion value.
Coming to the main point, smart cities need to concentrate on three factors:
- Optimisation – making urban infrastructure including buildings and transportation more efficient.
- Electrification – Switching from fossil fuels to electricity for transportation as well as buildings.
- Decarbonisation – Focusing on motivating zero-carbon energy sources for generating electricity. This should include both distributed, like rooftop solar panels, or centralised like wind farms.
In the end, having a vision just like Hungary’s zero-carbon farming city could take the leverage of benefits to a higher level.