Technology Record - Issue 30: Autumn 2023

168 Eighty per cent of cities face significant climate hazards – such as extreme heat, rainfall, drought or flooding, according to environmental data charity CDP. Its 2022 Protecting People and the Planet report also highlights that these issues are expected to threaten at least 70 per cent of the population in 28 per cent of these cities. Vital resources are also at risk from climate change, with water supply, agriculture and waste management considered among the greatest dangers. Nevertheless, the right action can lead to positive change. Eighty-five per cent of cities taking people-centred climate actions are driving public health, social and economic benefits, such as better air quality, greater physical and mental health for citizens, increased food and water security, reduced costs and more business innovation, according to the report. Also, 75 per cent achieve environmental benefits, including more green spaces and enhanced water and soil quality. At the root of these improvements is digital technology. “Various new technology tools can promote sustainability by optimising resource usage, monitoring environmental impacts, and facilitating renewable energy adoption,” says Jeremy M. Goldberg, worldwide director of critical infrastructure at Microsoft. Swedish city Helsingborg, for example, is using ClimateView’s Microsoft Azure cloud-based ClimateOS solution to help it reach net zero by 2035. The softwareas-a-service platform aggregates climate-related data from multiple sources and analyses it to deliver insights into the largest sources of emissions in Helsingborg, enabling city leaders to collaborate with municipal organisations and other stakeholders to predict the impact of possible solutions and develop an effective carbon emissions abatement plan. Elsewhere, city leaders are “beginning to reorder their urban planning” to overcome issues caused by rising temperatures, says Jose Antonio Ondiviela, Western Europe government and smart cities director at Microsoft. He cites examples of projects to construct climatic shelters for vulnerable citizens, plant ‘forest crowns’ to lower the temperature of cities, develop asphalt alternatives to reduce heat radiated by roads and pavements, and use technologies to enable efficient temperature regulation in buildings. Meanwhile, other municipalities aim to become ‘sponge cities’ by upgrading their infrastructure to more easily absorb excess water to reduce the risk of severe flooding. Barcelona in Spain, for example, has built expansive underground spare tanks to capture excess water, while the Netherlands is designing green infrastructures that filter and drain the water to the subsoil. Some cities are also building new water storage and distribution systems to cope with summer droughts and wildfires. In Porto, Portugal, municipal water utility company Águas do Porto (AdP) has used Bentley Systems’ OpenFlows solutions – which run on the Microsoft Azure cloud – to build a federated digital twin. This helps it manage water supply, wastewater drainage and treatment, stormwater drainage, surface waters and coastal water quality for around 500,000 people in the city. Civic leaders are exploring how artificial intelligence, the cloud and digital twins can transform how they manage traffic, pollution, water provision and more, while placing citizens at the core. Microsoft’s Jose Antonio Ondiviela and Jeremy M. Goldberg explain BY REBECCA GIBSON FEATURE new urban era with AI Creating a