Smart City Summit 2024: embrace urgency of climate action and transformation

Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0


Langdon Morris, leader and senior partner of Innovationlabs, urging city leaders to act swiftly in the face of climate change.

With his book "Net Zero City" as a backdrop, Morris delivered a compelling keynote address at the 2024 Smart City Summit & Expo. Morris emphasized the imperative for cities to transition rapidly to net-zero emissions.

In his address, Morris highlighted the optimism inherent in envisioning a successful net-zero transition, contrasting it with the dire consequences of inaction. He commended city leaders for their role in attracting populations and fostering economic growth and underscored the challenges posed by urbanization, including excessive reliance on oil, water scarcity, and climate-related disasters.

"Net zero is not just an engineering or architectural problem; it's a governance problem," Morris emphasized, urging leaders to adopt a systematic approach to tackle the multifaceted challenges. He outlined five critical elements: governance, urban design, infrastructure engineering, economics, and cultural and social aspects.

Central to Morris's message was the importance of data-driven decision-making. He advocated collecting and analyzing vast amounts of data across various sectors to inform effective strategies. Morris introduced the concept of an "urban twin," akin to a digital twin for entire cities, to model energy performance and guide decision-making.

Morris stressed the need for a comprehensive roadmap tailored to each city's unique circumstances, aiming for net-zero emissions well before the widely accepted target of 2050. He urged city leaders to adopt a phased approach—assess, plan, act, and accelerate—emphasizing the critical role of leadership in driving transformative change.

"The urgency of the net-zero transition cannot be overstated," Morris concluded, urging city leaders to embrace their role as catalysts for change. "Humanity has never faced a challenge of this magnitude. Your leadership is essential in charting a path toward a sustainable future."

Taiwan's context

In Taiwan, the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions is the energy sector (>90%), particularly emissions from power generation (48.6%). With the ongoing trend towards electrification in the future, electricity demand is expected to rise steadily. Hence, the development of zero-carbon electricity is prioritized in clean technology research and development efforts.

Dr. James C. Liao, President of Academia Sinica, presented insights from a comprehensive study focusing on science and technology solutions to achieve natural emissions in Taiwan.

He emphasized the predominant role of energy usage in contributing to CO2 emissions. Electricity generation emerged as the largest source, accounting for approximately 50% of emissions, with natural gas playing a significant role.

Proposing a paradigm shift in energy generation, Liao introduced five pioneering technologies aimed at leading Taiwan toward a net-zero emission economy. Among these, methane pyrolysis to power stood out as a promising solution. By extracting hydrogen and solid carbon from methane, this innovative approach offers a clean energy alternative devoid of CO2 emissions.

Furthermore, Liao underscored the untapped potential of geothermal energy in Taiwan. Despite possessing vast geothermal resources, Taiwan has only scratched the surface of harnessing this renewable energy source. Liao's team has embarked on exploring deep-well geothermal energy, aiming to unlock its vast potential for sustainable power generation.



He also highlighted the prospects of ocean current energy, particularly in the Pacific Ring of Fire region. With advanced turbine technology, harnessing the formidable force of ocean currents presents a promising avenue for clean energy production, albeit with engineering challenges to overcome.

Taiwan's advancements in solar panel technology, focusing on enhancing efficiency to maximize energy output while minimizing land requirements, are relatively mature. Liao envisions a significant leap in solar energy conversion efficiency by developing multi-junction solar cells, paving the way for the widespread adoption of solar power.

Lastly, Liao elucidated the role of biomass as a carbon sink, emphasizing the importance of leveraging photosynthesis to capture and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. By harnessing native plants with rapid growth rates, Taiwan aims to cultivate a sustainable source of biocarbon for carbon offsetting purposes.