Driving the climate transition with digital tools and local digital twins

A smart, green city

Lucia Garrido
Communications Specialist

In the quest for climate neutrality, cities wield significant influence, accounting for a significant share of energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and having a direct impact on the well-being of their residents. As Europe strives to achieve the Green Deal's target of reducing emissions by 55% by 2030,cities are emerging as key players, leveraging innovative approaches and digital technologies to drive the transition towards a sustainable future.

Mission Cities

 At the forefront of this movement is the Climate-Neutral & Smart Cities Mission, a collaborative initiative supported by the NetZeroCities project, aimed at delivering 100 (+12) climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030. This mission not only sets ambitious targets but also establishes these cities as hubs for experimentation and innovation, paving the way for broader European adoption by 2050.

The Climate-Neutral & Smart Cities Mission represents a crucial step towards achieving cities’ climate goals. By integrating digital technologies and local digital twins, cities can unlock new opportunities for sustainable growth and innovation.

The twin transition

One of the fundamental principles underpinning this mission is the recognition that the green and digital transitions are mutually reinforcing. As cities work towards their climate and environmental goals, digital technologies play a catalytic role in driving the green transition forward. Digital tools prove instrumental for cities to provide cleaner air, safer transport, and reduce congestion and noise.

From monitoring and tracking emissions to simulation and forecasting, digital technologies provide precise insights and enable informed decision-making. They enable cities to monitor environmental parameters in real-time, responding quickly to emerging challenges.

Simulation and forecasting  improve efficiency and promote sustainable practices by anticipating wear and identifying opportunities for repair and upgrade. Virtualisation, including e-books and video conferences, contributes to reducing environmental impact by promoting dematerialisation, while information and communication technologies empower consumers to make sustainable choices.

Cities are taking action

Innovative approaches are shaping urban landscapes across Europe. From Barcelona to Rotterdam, cities are implementing strategies that leverage digital twins and other digital tools to achieve sustainability goals while enhancing urban livability.

In Barcelona, the first phase of development of their digital twin aimed to assess the city's compliance with service provision and facilitate the transition towards a 15-minute city concept. The platform, spearheaded by the Barcelona City Council and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC), demonstrates a proactive approach towards enhancing urban connectivity and sustainability.

Similarly, in Bologna, efforts are underway to develop a local digital twin to address contemporary challenges and drive concrete change. By leveraging data and knowledge, the city aims to tackle environmental, economic, and social challenges while fostering responsive territorial governance.

Helsinki stands out for its pioneering work in building a 3D city model and digital twin, enabling advanced analyses and simulations to optimise solutions. The model hosts the Energy and Climate Atlas provides information about the building stock and the emissions reduction potential in heating.

Meanwhile, Rotterdam's Roadmap Next Economy and the Ruggedised project are transforming large districts of the Dutch city into low-carbon, resource-efficient areas through smart integration of energy systems and the development of a 3D city operations platform. These initiatives, driven by the city's commitment to sustainability, showcase the transformative potential of digital technologies in building resilient and sustainable cities.

In Amsterdam, the 3D city operations platform facilitates real-time monitoring and communication of energy usage.

As Europe embarks on its journey towards climate neutrality, cities serve as testbeds for innovative solutions. The Climate-Neutral & Smart Cities Mission, underpinned by digital innovation, marks a paradigm shift in urban sustainability

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