There is a small but fundamental difference between a ‘smart’ city and a ‘liveable’ one, and it pivots on citizen participation. Cities which directly engage their residents in creating solutions to systemic challenges such as climate change are more likely to deliver successful outcomes, and establish liveable urban communities.
This approach is at the core of Seoul’s Eco-Mileage System – a citizen participation project that rewards households and businesses with refunds based on the reductions they make in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a timely approach given that South Korea is among the world’s top 10 carbon emitters.
Every participant must show that they have reduced their electricity, water, gas, or district heating consumption by at least 10 per cent, compared to the previous two years. This progressive measure pushes households and organisations to think long-term about their energy efficiency, rather than short-term fixes, and as a result, the percentage of buildings that have reduced energy consumption has increased from 38.4 per cent in 2010 to 56.5 per cent in 2012.
Since the project began in 2009, the Municipal Government estimates it has stopped the emission of 1.46 million tons of CO2. The benefits of this can be seen right across the social, financial and environmental spectrum, by generating cleaner air and contributing to cheaper utility bills. What’s perhaps most surprising about this initiative is that is has 1.88 million members, and counting. This is remarkable for a voluntary scheme, and is testament to the value that citizen engagement brings to complex and overlapping sustainability issues. It is even more remarkable that it has been introduced into every elementary school in the city, which drives behavioural change from an early age and deepens a cultural mind set around environmental adaptation.Those participants who show repeated energy reductions over time are encouraged to dig even deeper into their carbon offsetting by accruing mileage points, which can be redeemed on a wider range of benefits including transport vouchers and LED lamps.
For those seeking more personalised approaches to energy reduction, the programme offers energy consultants who can create tailored schemes – and every participant is freely able to track and adjust their progress through a simple online platform.
South Korea is projected to reach emissions totalling 850.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030. It is no wonder that Seoul South Korea’s beating heart – has honed in on this urgent concern. With a new nationwide pledge to reduce the country’s emissions by a hefty 37 per cent by 2030, Seoul will undoubtedly pave the way by demonstrating that people-powered solutions can create the most lasting changes.
This innovation is part of Sustainia100; a study of 100 leading sustainability solutions from around the world. The study is conducted annually by Scandinavian think tank Sustainia that works to secure deployment of sustainable solutions in communities around the world. This year’s Sustainia100 study is freely available at http://www.sustainia.me