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You know, cities are probably the best place to see action around climate. Our systems are what’s driving a lot of climate change.
And if we can actually plan the city in a better way, be it with renewable energy or even reforestation in an urban area, that would be a huge impact on climate change.
The impact is most felt at the city level. And you are the first point of response in any activities.
And I think climate change presents a number of challenges – certainly the impact of extreme weather, the deep drought, the fires that come along with that. We’ve seen our air quality retreat after decades of progress to some of the worst air quality, even in the midst of a pandemic, that we’ve seen in decades.
We’ve started to have many more erratic weather events than before. And I think that is just a pattern for what we now know as climate change. So monsoons have reduced from 120 days, on an average, to about 72 days to 75 days. But the volume of monsoon has actually hit double that of the 120 days volume. So I think that is really scary.
One of the key challenges that we have faced over the years is flooding. The rainfall pattern has changed, coupled with inadequate infrastructure to accommodate running water, and sometimes sadly lives are lost.
We’re looking at those things that have immediate payoff as well as the things that we have to do that are long term. We mapped where there’s shade in Los Angeles and where there’s not. And we looked at putting new trees where there weren’t old trees. We looked at how we’re paving our streets and are pioneering some of the first light paving of an asphalt that literally brings the temperature down by as much as 10 degrees. Because people need to feel cooler when we hit a drought.
Most of our natural soil area is getting covered with artificial elements like concrete or asphalt. So there is no water that’s percolating into the ground. So we’ve created percolation ponds where it if you go down into the aquifer we can really have water tables rising hopefully after some years. That’s what we’re working on.
We are building heavy infrastructure of stop-drain and dredging our water bodies so that we can reduce the incidence of flooding. And we have also started the greening of open spaces in Accra so that we can get more fresh air.
The burning of waste is a main source of emission in Accra, about 60 per cent of it. So we are promoting more recycling and reusing of waste. And our aim is that by 2030 we should halve the amount of waste that goes to the landfill site. We are also encouraging a lot of companies to adopt renewable energy, especially solar.
We have a target of at least 25 per cent of energy to be clean and renewable by 2025. And we’re trying to meet that. One of the things that I’ve been able to luckily push is solarising our highways. So we are having this one huge highway connecting the two capitals of our states – Mumbai and Nagpur. On that highway we will be able to generate about 230 megawatts of clean solar energy.
Along with that we floated tenders for floating solar panels of 80 megawatts in one of our lakes. And we’re going to do for all five or six of our lakes. We are also having a huge push for urban forests that we initiated about two years ago.
More parks, more walkability, more bikes, better public transit, a place that moved from being the car capital of the world to a place that’s now the transit capital of the world. We’re taking off our gas plants that right now generate much of our energy, and actually building renewable energy projects, some of the largest, for instance, solar projects in the United States of America.
But I think the thing I’m maybe most proud of is that we’re taking all of our waste water and going to be recycling that and reduce the emissions that we have. Because we use a lot of electricity to bring that water to Los Angeles today. So it’s big and it’s small. It’s neighbourhood-based and it’s systemic as well. But we’re very excited to be able to do that and to show the world you can still have a great city and a great quality of life, even as you transform your environmental work.