UAE continues to make strides towards achieving its 2050 net zero goals, initiatives ranging from shifting to low-carbon energy to adopting green transportation methods as the country formulates specific green measures and timetables to fulfil its goals. Undoubtedly, transportation has significantly contributed to elevating the level of air pollution which has consequentially resulted in a mounting concern about the detrimental effect of transportation on the environment and social sustainability.
In many ways, global warming and modern transportation go hand in hand. The life-changing technological advances that resulted in new modes of travel are the same technologies that have contributed to the wide-scale pollution of the planet. As machinery began to replace manual labour, the use of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, for power increased, making the transportation sector the second major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge is to promote healthy and sustainable transport alternatives to prevent the negative effects of transport systems on human health.
An important way to do this is to ensure that health issues are clearly on the agenda when transport plans are being formulated especially at the design stage of any sustainable infrastructure which is of vital importance in rural and urban areas. Similar to sustainable developments, which are being designed to be more resource-efficient and longer lasting, there are also methods to build roadways to be sustainable, resilient, and benefit the surrounding community and ecosystem. This includes integrating land-use and transport planning which both are key in enabling activity to help reverse the trend towards automobile-based urban sprawl by starting with what is called a “green infrastructure”.
A green infrastructure should integrate health, environment and other social concerns which requires high-level commitment to intersectoral cooperation, from the power grid to water management to traffic and transit that should be upgraded to support lower emissions and better air quality. In addition, infrastructure designs and urban landscaping should set the footprint for a diverse ecosystem, support urban farming, and green mobility.
In the recent years, GCC countries have directed their efforts towards adopting smart mobility technologies creating advancements in logistics practices, transportation system efficiency and environmentally friendly urban mobility. This is where the retrofitting and redevelopment to smart green cities is crucial as it illustrates a new planning paradigm for sustainable transportation that incentivises communities to use environment-friendly and energy-efficient modes of transportation such as electric- and hybrid-powered vehicles, vehicle sharing, and micro-mobility such as scooters and bicycles. The objective is to reduce the carbon footprint of transport, mitigate the negative effects of land uptake and fragmentation, and boost opportunities to better integrate land while keeping social, economic, and environmental sustainability at its core.
Sharjah Sustainable City has been at the forefront in the development of sustainable mobility solutions such as having an extensive network of walking and cycling paths to promote an active lifestyle and clean mobility. This includes 11.8km of rubberised jogging tracks, 1.6km cycling tracks, 8.4km of pedestrian sikkas, smart charging stations and driverless EV shuttle; all presenting a working model of how cities of the future will look, with TSC in Dubai as a great success story to follow and improve upon with community farming, shared sporting facilities and open areas.
The development of sustainable cities with a green infrastructure can create opportunities for sustainable and green mobility systems that in return will have significant effect on the economy, environment, and communities while building long-term resilience and growth for the United Arab Emirates.
Yousif Ahmed Al Mutawa is chief executive officer of Sharjah Sustainable City
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