Improving waste management through decentralised composting and recycling
In Ethiopia, ineffective waste management threatens the environment and the health of local communities. Rubbish spills into local rivers, unmanaged waste releases harmful emissions into the atmosphere, and landfill mountains are prone to deadly landslides. Through an ambitious ten-year composting plan, Addis Ababa is tackling the problem of organic solid waste management and the safety issues experienced by local waste-pickers. By working with community-led micro-businesses, the city is increasing waste collection frequency, rolling out more community food bins and composting facilities, and improving recycling, all while creating safe jobs for low-income groups, including women.
Within just six months, 400 tonnes of natural compost and 31,000 tonnes of recycled materials have been generated. The compost recovers nutrients from food waste, which enhances soil productivity for more sustainable local food production and captures carbon from the atmosphere. As the Horn of Africa frequently suffers from crop failure, access to organic and locally-produced fertiliser is vital to reducing the risk of famine in Ethiopia, especially among its poorest residents.
Over the decade-long lifecycle of the project, Addis Ababa will rapidly increase composting and recycling rates through the programme. The project will result in cleaner air, reduced risk of respiratory diseases, and an expected 3% reduction in the city’s total emissions, creating a cleaner, more liveable environment for city residents.
Reducing gas consumption by 15% in 2022
Amsterdam is taking immediate action to reduce the city’s gas consumption by 15% by the end of the year to fight the impact of the European energy crisis, which has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. The European Commission recently advised EU nation states to reduce gas consumption by 15% – a full five months after Amsterdam had already begun the project – highlighting the city’s leadership in this area.
In less than 28 days, Amsterdam convened over 150 stakeholders, including businesses, churches and Schipol airport management, to brainstorm 100 ideas that meet this ambitious target and reduce energy poverty. As a result of the initiative, low-income residents are now offered home insulation solutions, energy coaching services and advice.
Other actions include reducing the base temperatures of public buildings by 3˚C; encouraging offices in the Central Business District to switch lights off at night; and identifying energy leaks at business parks and fixing them. As a result, the city has achieved a 3.6% reduction in gas usage in a matter of months.
Combined with the city’s Heat Transition Vision programme, which replaces fossil gas in the city’s heating system with clean and renewable energy alternatives, these actions bring Amsterdam closer to its goal of being fossil-gas-free by 2040 – a decade before the rest of the Netherlands.
New York City
NYCHA’s sustainability agenda
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has developed a sustainable plan to slash emissions across all sectors by 80% by 2050 whilst ensuring 300,000 residents are protected from the impacts of climate change, such as heat waves, storms and temperature rise.
The city is implementing transformative policies to decarbonise energy use in NYC residential buildings. These include deep retrofits to reduce energy consumption, and the installation of 30 megawatts of solar panels on residential rooftops, on top of the city’s 2025 100 megawatts solar target for municipal buildings, which will help clean up the city’s electricity supply.
A key part of the plan is moving away from fossil fuel use in heating and cooking through innovative electrification solutions. Through the Clean Heat for All challenge, manufacturers were invited to develop new cold-climate heat pumps, which can be installed in windows in around half the usual installation time, minimising disruptions for residents. The city will purchase 24,000 heat pumps to enable rapid, low-cost electrification of tens of thousands of multi-family buildings and provide reliable heat. Geothermal energy solutions are also being deployed, and gas stoves are being replaced with induction cookstoves in select buildings.
These actions create equitable job opportunities for public housing residents; over 300 city residents have been hired to complete the works, with an additional 40 enrolled in solar training programmes. NYCHA is also establishing the Clean Energy Academy to train 250 residents over four years in green jobs in the solar and building decarbonisation industries.
Seoul’s transformative electric vehicle programme
Seoul is tackling the twin challenges of air pollution and the climate crisis by slashing transport emissions, replacing 400,000 polluting combustion engine vehicles with battery electric vehicles by 2026. Seoul already has a Green Transport Zone, restricting access for the most polluting vehicles, and the city has made it mandatory for all new vehicles to be electric from 2025.
To support this transition, the city is rapidly rolling out electric vehicle charging infrastructure powered by solar panels, which are to be accessible within a five-minute walk of every resident. New charging sites have been created by repurposing lamp posts, bollards and petrol stations. Innovative “smart poles” have also been erected, which combine a fast-charging function, public wi-fi and the internet of things.
Seoul’s actions have already had a considerable impact, reducing transport emissions by nearly a quarter and doubling the number of clean, electric vehicles on the road. The city is providing subsidies for electric vehicles of up to 20%, with additional support available for vulnerable people and low-income households to ensure all residents have access to clean transport. By 2026, 10% of the city’s vehicles will be electric, which is expected to save drivers up to 72% in costs. The initiative will create almost 15,000 jobs and reduce emissions by approximately 43% compared with 2005 levels, improving air quality and protecting the public health of Seoul’s residents.