As home to more than half the world’s population, cities consume 75% of natural resources, produce 50% of global waste and account for between 60-80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The importance of developing sustainable cities is clear. Generating sustainable patterns of consumption and production will have to be guided to a significant extent by cities, and so effectively managed urbanization and use of resources are crucial.
Recent news on the launch of the Global Initiative for Resource-Efficient Cities (link to PDF) was a welcome step toward this goal. Announced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Rio+20 summit, this new program aims to facilitate the transition of major cities to a Green Economy and so contribute to global sustainable development.
The program builds on the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, launched in September 2011, which brought together governments, businesses and civil society to take action through the provision and development of sustainable energy sources, including solar energy. As a member of the high-level group contributing to the initiative’s direction, Suntech firmly believes that renewable energy is not only central to daily life around the world, but is also the first foundation for all aspects of sustainable development.
The inherent returns in this move aren’t just about protecting our environment – they can result in financial savings through cost efficiencies, improve quality of life for residents through lower pollution, and enable smoother growth in the future through more efficient use of resources.
This is not just an issue for developed cities – it’s also an opportunity for growing cities to build sustainability into their expansion strategies, including the adoption of sustainable energy sources such as solar. Cities in India, China, Thailand and others are in a situation where national investment in solar is growing and the cost of implementing solar power is falling, with projections showing a huge demand for photovoltaic panels in years to come. We see clear potential for these emerging markets to host significant domestic PV demand if governments maintain targeted support schemes and overcome market-specific deployment challenges – developing a clean and renewable energy resource to enable future growth in a sustainable way.
To support the UN’s work we continue to invest in R&D efforts that will enhance the performance of solar panels and reduce the cost of solar power. We see ever more efficient solar power as our contribution to sustainable resource use by cities, and we hope that leaders in urban areas worldwide will take advantage of the UN’s latest initiative to develop their own roadmap for sustainable development.