Graduate School of Social Science
Master of Science in Political Science: Political Economy Track Research Project in Global Cities
Student: Mario Vladar Student number: 13843737 Supervisor: Dr. Otto Holman Second reader: Prof. dr. Dr Daniel Mügge Submitted:10.06.2022
Sustainable Smart Cities:
False Hope or Effective Feasibility for
Climate Crises Mitigation?
Table of Contents
List of Figures: ... 3
1. Introduction: ... 4
1.1. The Importance of Cities in Climate Mitigation: ... 6
1.2. A Controversial Solution ... 7
2. Conceptual Framework ... 9
2.1. Smart City ... 9
2.2. Sustainability ... 11
2.3. Neoliberalism and its issues ... 12
3. Literature review ... 14
4. Hypotheses and Methodology ... 17
4.1. Research Questions and Hypotheses ... 17
4.2. Methodology ... 18
5. Case Study: Dubai... 20
5.1. Political System and Challenges in the United Arab Emirates ... 20
5.2. National Incentives ... 21
5.3. Smart City Building in Dubai... 22
5.4. Conclusions ... 31
6. Case Study: Shenzhen... 33
6.1. The Chinese System ... 33
6.2. Smart Cities in China ... 35
6.3. Shenzhen’s Smart City ... 36
6.4. Conclusions ... 45
7. Case: Amsterdam ... 47
7.1. Smart City Development in Amsterdam ... 49
7.2. The Evaluation of the Ecological Sustainability in Amsterdam ... 56
7.3. Circular Amsterdam and Smart City Neighborhoods ... 60
7.4. Conclusions ... 62
8. Case: Barcelona ... 65
8.1. The Changing Smart City Building in Barcelona ... 66
8.1. The Evaluation of the Ecological Sustainability in Barcelona ... 74
8.2. Conclusions ... 76
9. Conclusions ... 78
List of Figures:
Figure 1.: The Dimensions of the Smart City ... 10
Figure 2.: Conceptualization of Sustainability... 11
Figure 3.: Dubai’s Top-Down Smart City Projects Between 1999 and 2021 ... 24
Figure 4.: Dubai Clean Energy Strategy’s (DCES) Targets and the Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park Contribution ... 26
Figure 5.: The Car Market in Dubai... 28
Figure 6.: The Comparison of the Average Household Electricity Consumption (kWh) ... 29
Figure 7.: A 4-bedroom Villa Energy Performance in the TSC ... 30
Figure 8.: The Three Most Important City Regions in China ... 34
Figure 9.: Key Projects of the ‘Outline Plan for Smart Shenzhen (2011-2020)’ ... 38
Figure 10.: Public EV Chargers per Million People in Leading Global Hotspots ... 39
Figure 11.: The New-Type Smart City Construction Comprehensive Plan ... 40
Figure 12.: Shenzhen Energy Consumption in Every 10th year from 2001 to 2021 ... 42
Figure 13.: The Amsterdam Smart City Network:... 49
Figure 14.: Smart City projects in Amsterdam between 2009 and 2011 ... 50
Figure 15.: CO2 Emission between 1990 – 2030 in Amsterdam ... 57
Figure 16.: Chargers Per Million Inhabitant in the Netherlands ... 59
Figure 17.: Smart City Projects in Barcelona between 2011-2015 ... 67
Figure 18.: The projects in Barcelona’s Digital Transformation Agenda ... 71
Figure 19.: The projects in Barcelona’s Digital Empowerment Agenda ... 73
Figure 20.: Total Carbon Emission Barcelona Between 1999 and 2019 ... 75
Figure 21.: Energy Supply and Demand in in Barcelona Between 1999 and 2020... 75
In recent years, several tragic events related to climate change have raised concerns in public, making citizens highly aware of environmental and sustainability issues. According to the Pew Research Center's international survey conducted across 14 countries, 70% of the people viewed climate change as a major threat (Fagan & Huang, 2020). In Europe, these views are even more prominent; 93% of E.U. citizens see it as an extraordinary problem (Eurobarometer, 2021). The demand for sustainable policies also led to the rise of 'Green' political parties that obtained some political power (representation in the national legislature or governing coalition) worldwide, emphasizing sustainable economic and political agenda (McBride, 2021). In addition, the efforts of the United Nations made significant headway with the historic agreement reached in 2015, which built on a bottom-up approach, including prominent economic actors with national governments aiming to limit the global temperature increase this century to below 2 Celsius (Arezki, et al., 2018).
However, the eagerly awaited progress is scarcely seen despite the overwhelmingly rising demand and political agency since national governments are usually paralyzed by political dysfunction and collective action obstacles that prevent them from taking quick and effective action. For example, the Biden administration announced that climate change is the top priority for the government and pledged to create a clean economy by weaning the U.S.
power grid off fossil fuels and cutting the overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030 (The White House, 2021). Still, the government struggles to deliver the promised actions, and there is a fear that soon will be closed for any legislative path to climate mitigation (Siegel, et al., 2022). In addition, in many cases, it can be seen that interest groups capture the government's ambitions to reduce carbon emissions and transform the economy toward a net- zero path. The European Green Deal initiative, announced in 2019, purposed to make the E.U.
climate neutral by 2050 and target to reduce net emissions by at least 55% by 2030 (European Commission, 2021). However, the coal, oil, and gas subsidies are not falling; moreover, 30 countries in the European Economic Area and the U.K. provide subsidies for fossil fuels at least €137 billion a year (Investigate Europe, 2020); (European Comission, 2019); (Carrington, 2019). Similarly, in the U.S., the fossil fuel industry is granted roughly $20 billion annually with tax subsidies, including direct subsidies and other tax benefits, to encourage domestic energy production (EESI, 2019).
Moreover, countries across the developing world face a challenging trade-off between economic growth and environmental degradation (Akram, 2012).
Consequently, there is a reasonable pessimism about the national governments and their flawed measures and hypocritic efforts to mitigate climate crises. Furthermore, despite the rising concerns and various national incentives to transform energy systems and reduce GHG emissions, fossil fuel emissions are expected to slow only in the 2030s globally, which downward trajectory is still far off from a scenario that leads to 2-degree Celsius warming or less (McKinsey, 2019).
As a result of the national-governments sluggish operations and controversial measures, there is a growing willingness to find different answers, especially locally - in cities where people spend most of their time contributing to consumption. In addition, climate crises and their hazardous effects, such as extreme heat, floods, wildfires, and drought, are enormously involving urban areas and everyday life, requiring system-resilience actions such as risk assessment, urban planning, and protocols to prevent catastrophes (Boland, et al., 2021).
According to the IPCC, sub-national actors, such as cities, are essential for mitigation:
In order to achieve meaningful results in GHG emission reduction and to create a sustainable economy and a resilient city that is capable of preventing adverse natural events, decision- makers need to bring together different actors from the private sector to the public, including local communities, central governments, NGOs, and consumers, to deliver a sustainable outcome for every stakeholder.
One concept that has gained popularity in both academic fields and municipality programs is the phenomenon of smart cities to find solutions to various challenges. It has made it possible for municipalities and governments to leverage the utility of intelligent tools and start experimenting with the possible positive impact that technology can bring. Smart City initiatives have spread worldwide since recent advancements in information and communications technologies (ICTs). Today, projects can be found from deserts, where they want to build cities from scratch (Saud Arabia's NEOM project) to historical places (Amsterdam), where they want to modernize places without ruining existing city structures. In 2019, 102 cities were considered smart cities (IMD, 2019), and 153 cities have published smart city strategies (Henzelmann, 2019). In general, the specified objective of smart city initiatives can vary in each case; they mainly share a common core of improving the environment and the quality of life of local citizens (Zhang, et al., 2022).
“…municipalities and regional government have jurisdiction over climate-relevant sectors such as land- use, waste and urban policy; are able to experiment with climate solutions; and can forge partnerships with the private sector and internationally to leverage enhanced climate action” (IPCC, 2022, p. 6).
Accordingly, the research examines whether smart cities can positively impact climate crisis mitigation by reducing fossil fuel emissions through innovative projects that, for example, create a more sustainable transportation and energy infrastructure.
1.1. The Importance of Cities in Climate Mitigation:
The role of global cities in both causing and potentially solving the climate crisis cannot be denied, yet their impact is often neglected in international developments and transnational issues. In many cases, cities act even before national governments; they form city networks to solve regional and transnational problems and sometimes even ignore the national government's agenda (Sassen, 2018).
Besides the city's devoutness to jointly solving transnational and local issues, the urban areas are fundamental engines of the global economy, producing economic growth and prosperity. The 300 largest metropolitan areas account for half of the global output (Bouchet, et al., 2018), and cities inhabit half of the world's population (World Bank, 2018).
Consequently, this extensive economic output in urban areas requires fuel to function, and while occupying 2% of the earth's surface, cities consume around 70%-75% of total global energy resources (Zhu, et al., 2022).
In addition, the environmental costs of the extension of urbanization are severe and already being paid with biodiversity loss and depletion of regional ecosystems ( (Baldyga, et al., 2007); (Cote-Roy & Moser, 2019); (van Noorloos & Kloosterboer, 2018); (Were, et al., 2013). However, according to the U.N. projections, the urban population will likely increase and could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, thus, further expanding the already colossal energy and resource-driven consumption that threaten the environment (Krishnan, et al., 2022).
The constant need for urban growth and the consumption of cities thus, significantly impacts the environment, making some large cities the primary contributors to climate change:
the highest emitting 100 metropolitan areas (defined as contiguous population clusters) account for 18% of the global carbon footprint (Moran, et al., 2018). On the other hand, cities could potentially have a meaningful impact beyond their boundaries and mitigate the climate crisis (C40, Arup & University of Leeds, 2019).
1.2. A Controversial Solution
Advocates believe that using intelligent sensors, big data, artificial intelligence (A.I.), Internet of Things (IoT) can help to transform the city into a sustainable place by identifying problems, reducing consumption, and preventing future crises. They believe that tracking the behavior of individuals by implementing intelligent tools in urban spaces can significantly impact the urban management systems, improving the conditions and capabilities to solve the existing and forthcoming problems. The promise of innovation would sustain economic growth and continuously find solutions, as done in the past many times. Furthermore, since cities account for most GHG and inhabit an increasing amount of people, their role is critical in climate actions. Consequently, in theory, Smart City concepts have the potential to foster resilient urbanization towards a climate-intelligent city if they are implemented within a well-designed socio-technical information system (Pee & Pan, 2021).
The real puzzle is not whether the innovation can be beneficial; instead, the question arises of how we should reinvent our cities to be more sustainable for the environment and suitable for modern urban lifestyles without accelerating existing problems. How should different actors such as urban planners, decision-makers, local communities, private companies, and individuals cooperate to find an equilibrium when needs are contested?
Implementing intelligent tools for every aspect of our lives might seem simple, yet it also causes new challenges and disputes.
As we have seen during history, creating new tools to solve problems and progress helped humans survive and continuously advance. However, these tools often had dark sides when political power and status were threatened. The Neanderthal man created the spear to hunt and nurture his community until it became the symbol of bloody battles and wars.
Subsequently, civilized men invented the radio and television to entertain themselves; still, the comedy shows and cheerful tunes often faded when dogmatic ideologies and savior dictators took the floor. Even recently, man, driven by scientific and technological progress, could construct nuclear energy by figuring out the elements of nature. Nevertheless, some used the power to eliminate others that jeopardized the international status quo. Thus, the inherent dichotomy of human nature, influenced by power-seeking, makes the promise of smart cities contested. To guarantee the true objectives of smart cities, we need to include various stakeholders in the decision-making process.
People living in democratic countries are often confident that their political system is superior to others and would ultimately address these controversial dynamics. They assume
that the voice of the commons is acknowledged and matters. While democracies are also not flawless since corporate interests and other factors often challenge the legitimacy of democratic institutions and neglect the people's needs in favor of profits, we often forget that most people in the world do not live in democratic countries. Nearly 40% of countries are not democratic (Roser & Herre, 2013) and only around 3,6 billion people live in democracies, leaving 54% of the world's population under an authoritarian regime (Human Right Foundation, 2021). This is part of a longer global trend of democratic decline and rising authoritarianism that has been underway in the last 30 years (Morgan, 2021).
In autocratic regimes, citizens' anxieties are more likely ignored and their views censored. For example, more than 6000 academics have lost their job, 4463 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed, and 189 media outlets have shut down in Turkey since 2016 (TurkeyPurge, 2022). In addition, there are many lesser-known cases in other countries where tyrants pilfer their country's natural resources and profit in private off-shore accounts that freeze the country’s socio-economic development (Kasparov & Halvorssen, 2017).
Consequently, it is crucial to consider how smart city developments develop in different parts of the world and distinguish between autocratic regimes and democratic states.
The study starts by explaining the essential concepts to fully comprehend the thesis's topic in Chapter 2. First, we define what the smart city phenomenon means; second, we examine the idea of sustainability in three crucial dimensions and bridge it with the smart city concept.
Lastly, we introduce the political economy theory, neoliberalism, and its often-criticized effects on development and sustainability. Chapter 3. presents the most significant debates around smart city building in recent academic literature, equally highlighting the arguments on the positive and negative sides. Chapter 4. shows the study's main research questions and hypotheses with the methodology. After that, the analysis of different smart cities began with four case studies. We start with the authoritarian countries; the first case study examines Dubai in the UAE in Chapter 5. Chapter 6. shows Shenzhen in China. Then, we move to democratic countries in Europe. Chapter 7. examines Amsterdam's smart city development, and Chapter 8. finishes with Barcelona. In Chapter 8. we will sum up the overall results and try to provide valuable takeaways.
2. Conceptual Framework
2.1. Smart City
Despite the concept's popularity, there is no prevalent or universally accepted definition of a Smart City (Ahvenniemi, et al., 2016). Instead, there are different perspectives on what constitutes a smart city (Yigitcanlar & Kamruzzaman, 2018). The concept is so broad that it even varies among the official definition of OECD countries. For example, the U.K.
government describes it vaguely: "The concept [of smart city] is not static: there is no absolute definition of a smart city, no end point, but rather a process, or series of steps, by which cities become more "liveable" and resilient and, hence, able to respond quicker to new challenges”
(OECD, 2020, p. 11).
Whereas Spain clarifies it more precisely: "the Smart City concept is a holistic approach to cities that uses ICT to improve inhabitants' quality of life and accessibility and ensures consistently improving sustainable economic, social and environmental development.
It enables cross-cutting interaction between citizens and cities, and real-time, quality-efficient and cost-effective adaptation to their needs, providing open data and solutions and services geared towards citizens as people" (OECD, 2020, p. 10).
There is also no consensus in academic literature regarding smart cities, yet scholars accept the multidimensional nature of the concept (Alizadeh, 2017). One central aspect that academic literature highlights extensively is the use of ICT and modern technologies as a critical feature of a smart city (Gonzales & Rossi, 2011); (Harrison & Donnelly, 2011);
(Alizadeh, 2017); (Jucevicius, et al., 2014); (Paroutis, et al., 2014); (Washburn & Sindhu, 2010). From a technological perspective, Smart cities depend on a combination of ICTs that provide real-time awareness of the world and advanced analytics to inform judgments to optimize processes and maximize performance (Zhang, et al., 2022). Consequently, data (Big Data) is a crucial aspect of the function of smart cities. In addition, experts recognize that a compelling smart city needs to maintain a so-called "Digital Shadow" that connects the real world and the data that the intelligent tools capture (Gassmann, et al., 2019).
Furthermore, some scholars believe that despite the importance of technology in smart cities, the concept is not only involved with the applications of ICT in the infrastructures of cities, but it is also about incorporating people, technology, and information to build efficient, sustainable, and resilient cities (Wu & Chen, 2021). Lazaroiu & Roscia describes the concept with six essential smart characteristics, emphasizing the interconnection between human decisions and smart cities. These characteristics are the following (Figure 1): smart economy,
mobility, environment, people, living, and governance (Lazaroiu & Roscia, 2012). Mokarrari and Torabi argue that a city cannot be regarded as smart unless enough attention is paid to all dimensions simultaneously (Mokarrari & Torabi, 2021). This more holistic understanding suggests that smart cities should bring together technology, government, and society to enable smartness (Ahvenniemi, et al., 2016).
Since the primary goal of smart cities is to use technology to improve sustainability, other scholars recommend using the more accurate term "smart sustainable cities" instead of smart cities (Mokarrari & Torabi, 2021). Likewise, the United Nations specialized agency, the ITU, differentiates between the Sustainable Smart City (SSC) and a regular smart city, stressing that being an SSC means that cities need to be resilient, inclusive, and digitally capable to promote urban sustainability with an ICT infrastructure that facilitates effective decision-making. The international organization disputes that the deployment of frontier technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (A.I.), and blockchain, is crucial to providing necessary and trusted infrastructure which enables cities to actualize global commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (ITU, 2021).
The Figure was made by Mario Vladar based on the Lazaroiu & Roscia, (2012) smart city concept description.
Figure 1.: The Dimensions of the Smart City
The concept of sustainability also needs to be unpacked and clarified to understand what sustainable urban development means. Sustainability has encompassed a variety of environmental, economic, and social elements (Valenzuela-Levi, et al., 2022). However, not all the quantitative and qualitative aspects of sustainable development can be maximized simultaneously (Figure 2.). Thus, the objective of sustainability is to find synergies between these elements through an adaptive process of trade-offs. Barbier views this process as an interaction among three different systems: the biological-ecological (B.S.), the economic (E.S.), and the social system (S.S.), in which each system has its own unique set of goals (Barbier, 1987).
Furthermore, to develop more precise objectives for sustainability, the United Nations adopted in 2015 "The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" plan, in which the member states committed to working towards achieving 17 sustainable development goals (SDG 17) (United Nations, sd). As mentioned above, the sustainable smart cities concept overlaps with the U.N.
goals. Notably, the 11th point, "Sustainable Cities and Communities," aspired to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable with seven different targets.
The Figure was made by Mario Vladar (author) based on Barbier (1987) sustainable economic development concept.
Figure 2.: Conceptualization of Sustainability
2.3. Neoliberalism and its issues
Given the importance and enormous consumption of cities, some authors even propose that global sustainability cannot be achieved without cities becoming sustainable (Valenzuela-Levi, et al., 2022). Advocates of smart cities claim that cities could overcome the limits to economic growth imposed by negative externalities by designing more efficiently using intelligent tools (Barr, et al., 2021). Contrarily, the idea of sustainable urban development has also been controversial (Salazar, 2012) since some argue that it would be only possible if the overall neoliberal paradigm is left behind (Valenzuela-Levi, et al., 2022). The problem is that this neoliberal assumption tends to focus on maintaining the political status quo rather than envisioning a different kind of sustainability. As Robinson argues: ‘The concern here is that sustainable development is seen as reformist, but it mostly avoids questions of power, exploitation, even redistribution. The need for more fundamental social and political change is simply ignored. Instead, critics argue, proponents of sustainable development offer an incrementalist agenda that does not challenge any existing entrenched powers or privileges’
(Robinson, 2004, p. 376).
A constantly stressed example of the consequence of the neoliberal agenda is the financialization of cities, which led to the shift to entrepreneurial urban governance. This new urban policy is characterized by the priority of economic growth within the framework of strengthening interurban competition (Harvey, 1989). The financialized urban spaces also contribute to the hierarchization of city parts (Theurillat & Crevoisier, 2013), and investments are targeted in certain districts only (Theurillat & Crevoisier, 2010); (Halbert, 2004). It is common to see increased gentrification and massive restructuring in these districts' local communities, driving residents and businesses away and benefiting giant corporations, real estate investment trusts, and hedge funds that invest in real estate (Florida, 2017).
Moreover, a notable shift regarding funding and the ownership of smart cities also generates discussions in the academic field. Traditionally, there was a clear separation between private and public projects in urban development from the 1980s. Large complexes that consider public goods (airports, stadiums, university buildings, hospitals, etc.) and utilities (transportation, telecommunications, power) were typically financed and owned by public authorities. In comparison, projects in entertainment and retail business (shopping centers, business centers, etc.) were growingly involved by market actors in the urban property (Clark, et al., 2009); (Theurillat & Crevoisier, 2013). However, with smart city projects, there is a straightforward merge between the private and public sectors since the initiatives are shaped
mainly by private companies like IBM, Cisco, and Siemens, which provided the technology meant to enable smart urbanism (Cugurullo, 2021). In this outcome, the state's central role remains the shield of private property and the neoliberal agenda of public-private cooperation, involving privatization and commercialization of the natural world in favor of economic progress. Meanwhile, the private sector's natural purpose remains profit-making. The critics of the neoliberal political and economic systems reason that instead of the successful management of the commons, neoliberalism is a pathway to a tragic fate in climate mitigation (Hardin, 1968); (McCharthy & Prudham, 2004); (Salazar & Cerna, 2019); (Valenzuela-Levi, et al., 2022); (Gardiner, 2002). Therefore, many argue that successful climate crisis mitigation with smart city projects cannot be achieved by the nature of capitalist society, driven by neoliberal political economy structure (Mazzucatio, 2022).
Regardless of the criticism of neoliberal thoughts, the 'marriage of Neoliberalism and Environmentalism has occurred (D'Eramo, 2021), in which it is expected that the market will solve the ecological crisis and give a getaway from the Malthusian disaster (Jonsson, 2015);
(Pimentel, et al., 2010); (D'Eramo, 2021). According to neoliberalism, governments and institutions are to keep intervention in the market at a minimum so as not to inflict bias into the market or to disrupt the accurate pricing of commodities, as it is thought that no institution can have enough information to "second-guess market signals" (Harvey, 2005, p. 2).
In the next chapter, the study introduces the recent academic debates about smart cities, highlighting both the positive and negative social and environmental aspects.
3. Literature review
An extensive academic literature analyzes the concept of sustainable smart cities, and their outcomes differ significantly regarding the impact of projects on urban development and sustainability.
On the optimistic side, mainly from a technical perspective, scholars highlight the advantages of implementing smart energy systems such as the Smart Energy City model (SEC). For example, SEC projects promise decarbonization of cities by optimized renewable energy utilization, economic efficiency, and stakeholder engagement and awareness that can lower energy consumption and carbon footprints. SEC projects are incorporated with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that effectively facilitate complex systems and enable city planning strategies to address urban sustainability challenges (Thornbush & Golubchikov, 2021); (Hunter, et al., 2018). Likewise, the urban metabolism approach, which evaluates the performance of various intelligent technology programs regarding carbon emissions, indicates that smart energy grids, smart water infrastructure, and sensor-based waste collection successfully reduced the potential of global warming and improved environmental performance (Ipsen, et al., 2019); (Obringer & Nateghi, 2021).
Another necessary factor regarding climate crisis mitigation is the ability to reduce GHG emissions related to transportation and mobility. Correspondingly, a case study conducted in San Francisco showed that cruising (drivers are looking for parking) unnecessarily contributes to local congestion, air pollution, and climate change, which innovative tools can considerably reduce. The implementation of the smart mobility program in San Francisco resulted in a significant reduction in average search time (200h) and distance (2500 miles) per day in pilot areas, improving city traffic congestion level, increasing net parking revenues, and reducing GHG emissions (Alemi, et al., 2019).
On the pessimistic side, many scholars doubt the efficiency of creating a sustainable city despite the fact that most projects propose goals for improving sustainability. First, they claim that there is a chance that smart technology does not reduce but generates additional environmental damage by increasing energy consumption and creating unrecyclable e-waste (Radu, 2020); (Sharif & Pokharel, 2022); (Obringer & Nateghi, 2021). One study by Viitanen
& Kingston showed that the use of ICT will lead to higher electricity consumption within cities.
From a climate change mitigation perspective, the increased demand for energy could slow
efforts to diminish emissions, mainly if the energy is generated through carbon-intensive means (Obringer & Nateghi, 2021); (Viitanen & Kingston, 2014).
Second, critics argue that these developments in the city and the technologies they use raise considerable concerns about privacy and algorithmic biases (Hadibzadeh, et al., 2019).
Third, most academic literature demonstrates that projects seldom include citizens in decision-making, even though that participation opportunity could be increased by smart applications and intelligent technologies (Corsini, et al., 2019); (Obringer & Nateghi, 2021);
(Hall, et al., 2018); (Levenda, 2018). It is due to the fact that for municipalities, it is more comfortable to implement a top-down than a bottom-up approach (Berquier & Gibassier, 2019).
Fourth, the actual purpose of these projects may be to leverage economic opportunity rather than deal with less economically profitable issues such as climate mitigation. For instance, even though many cities have plans for climate change adaptation and mitigation, the smart city agendas rarely drive them (Cavada, et al., 2016). The true nature of the mayor's action can be found in business interest and the entrepreneur spirit since they try to expand the role and significance of their city in the global economy, orbiting around prominent financial urban places (Sassen, 2018). For example, Haarstad evaluated the recent increase in smart city discourse within the European Union and found that these initiatives mainly focused on economic opportunities and innovation rather than sustainability (Haarstad, 2016). Similarly, other scholars claim that smart cities are only distantly related to sustainable cities (de Jong, et al., 2015). Consequently, the smart city project's fundamental objective may be to deliver economic growth by attracting human and financial capital, enhancing the city's international prestige rather than decreasing ecological footprint and energy consumption. This development may even contribute to what Richard Florida described as the "The New Urban Crises," further expanding issues embedded in the neoliberal economic structure (Florida, 2017).
In many cases, it can be seen that, additionally to the increased property value in certain parts of the city, the initiatives may not lead to climate mitigation in the long term but rather create luxurious neighborhoods for international elites and their investment possibilities for the global capital. In South Korea, 40 billion dollars were invested in a gigantic project to build a city from scratch called Songdo city (The Economist, 2010) which is supposed to accommodate more than 300,000 people (Eymeri, 2014). The city was designed to eliminate problems created by modern urban life and rival Hong Kong and Shanghai as a business hub attracting professionals and foreign corporations looking for access to Asian economies (Poon, 2018).
Since the development of Songdo intends to raise the country's geopolitical position (Shin,
2016) and favor business interests without a unique spirit of the local culture it has become a
"ghost town" (Eireiner, 2021, p. 8). From a political-ecologist perspective, scholars reflect on the elitist character of projects and define them as 'ecological enclaves' in which protection is granted only to small sets of actors, and the burdens of climate change and resource scarcity are unevenly distributed (Cugurullo, 2016); (Hodson & Marvin, 2010, p. 300).
Correspondingly, there is a lack of solid evidence to suggest that a smart city can provide genuine answers to several complex problems cities face today (Anthopoulos, 2017);
(Alizadeh, 2017). Hence, some scholars stressed that the fashionable term smart city is used for simply marketing purposes to brand the city sustainable and smart with a lack of integrated approach covering sustainability concerns (Yigitcanlar & Kamruzzaman, 2018).
It is important to note that the current academic literature does not explicitly interpret the possible influence and outcomes of different political systems in smart city developments.
Hence, this study seeks to fill the gap in the literature by examining the possible contrast and similarities between democratic and non-democratic cities regarding smart cities.
4. Hypotheses and Methodology
4.1. Research Questions and Hypotheses
In the research, we will attempt to respond to multiple research questions formulated based on the concepts discussed above. The questions and the hypothesis are the following:
Q1.: To what extent can cities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by introducing a smart city initiative, thus, possibly mitigating the climate crisis?
H1.: If we understand the true essence of the projects and the city's real purpose, it can be seen that the fundamental objective is to increase the competitiveness of the city and attract talents, investments, and businesses that eventually boost economic growth.
Besides that, even if specific projects reduce carbon gas emissions slightly the overall reduction is not significant considering the used resources. In addition, these smart city projects aim to attract international talent and wealth, for example, by offering new sustainable smart neighborhoods. The arriving affluent residents that move into these luxurious neighborhoods by their nature consume much more energy and resources as well as purchase much more goods which remarkably increase the overall GHG emissions.
Q2.: Is it possible to seek a meaningful change and create a sustainable city through the smart cities projects without a profound structural transformation?
H2.: A notable political economy shift is required to deliver meaningful change. Projects that implement alternative economic processes, such as the Circular Economy approach, can more likely reduce overall GHG emissions and mitigate climate crises more sufficiently.
Q3.: Are there any significant differences between democratic and non-democratic cities regarding developing sustainable cities and smart city projects?
H3.: In autocratic regimes, the smart city projects are not counterbalanced by the citizens despite the possible harmful impacts on the environment. The dependence on constant economic growth, which usually gives legitimacy to autocrats to acquire complete control over the society, forces them to pursue enormous, expensive prestige projects in a top-down way that are often defined as smart city projects. Besides that, they are more likely to ignore local interests in the project's development, focusing on materialistic ends. While in mainly democratic European countries, there is a more elevated priority on the bottom-up approach with an encouragement to involve all stakeholders and successfully enforce sustainable solutions. It can be seen that ethical
and privacy-related concerns get much more highlights. In Europe, local communities and non-governmental organizations may more likely stand up against governmental projects because of the lack of evidence regarding sustainability or privacy. It is because sustainable objectives rest on political values and practices generally associated with democratic institutional structures, such as governance, public participation, political accountability, and transparent bureaucracy, as scholars stressed (Crot, 2013, p. 1); (Meadowcroft, 1997); (Stiglitz, 2002); (Lafferty, 2004);
(Whitford & Wong, 2009).
The study employs a qualitative approach by analyzing different cases (smart cities) that can deliver an explicit understanding of each smart city project's operation, which helps to terminate whether Smart Cities, in general, mitigate climate change by reducing their ecological footprint. The case study method allows the comprehensive exploration of the concept of a smart city through a variety of lenses in order to reveal multiple facets of the concept, which ad libitum is necessary due to each case's diverse spatial, political, cultural, and economic dimension (Rashid, et al., 2019); (Baxter & Jack, 2008).
In order to acquire a more robust comprehension and data about smart cities, the research uses four cases that potentially highlight structural and regional differences, providing a rather prominent pattern of the concept. Specifically, it is crucial to understand the potential differences between political structures and different regimes' smart city operations. Therefore, the research examines cases on the opposite sides of the political spectrum that helps to extrapolate whether there is any discrepancy in smart city construction based on the political system nature. Accordingly, there is also a comparative analysis of the research, constituting a comparison of two types of cities with different political structures based on their country's political systems. We differentiate based on the Regimes of the World (RoW) classification, in which the authors distinguish between democratic countries and non-democratic (Luhrmann, et al., 2018), and the so-called Varieties of Democracy differentiation (Coppedge, et al., 2022).
Founded on these concepts, there are four distinctive social-political systems: closed autocracies, electoral autocracies, electoral democracies, and liberal democracies (Herre, 2022). We use the two most remote systems in the given social-political spectrum to accentuate the differences and get the best possible outcome from the comparative analysis.
The research constitutes four different cases in total, starting with autocratic country's smart city developments in the Middle East and China. Specifically, the first case study is about Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (Chapter 6.), and the second is concerning Shenzhen in China (Chapter 7.). Then, the research turns to Europe, examining Amsterdam in the Netherlands (Chapter 8.) and Barcelona in Spain (Chapter 9.). The reason behind selecting the given cities is that they are all significant economic regions, and they were all pilot cases in building smart cities by introducing comprehensive programs relatively early in their country and region. It should be acknowledged that the research should incorporate more cases for a more effective outcome. However, it was not feasible due to the research's limited size.
In the analysis, the thesis comprehensively reviews the cases' smart city operations and different projects via the Content Analysis research tool within some given qualitative data such as secondary literature (municipality documents, reports about smart city projects, and official documents of the projects). Content analysis helps us to quantify and analyze the presence, meanings, and relationships of such concepts. It identifies the intentions and unique objectives of an individual, group, or institution. In addition, it reveals international differences in communication content (Columbia University, 2019).
Based on the conceptual framework discussed above, the research focuses on six dimensions that constitute the smart city (Figure 1.) - environment, governance, living, mobility, economy, and people -and three aspects of sustainability (Figure 2.) - social, ecological (biological), and economical that jointly guide us in each city case to comprehend the particular case's primary objectives and achievements regarding sustainability. For example, the lack of environmental smart city projects would indicate in a case that the smart city construction is driven by different aspects rather than reducing the city's carbon footprint and enhancing ecological sustainability (or maybe merely pursuing economic sustainability).
Hence, the four critical scopes that will determine the outcomes of the research questions are the following:
1. Smart mobility (transportation)
2. Energy systems (renewable energy sources, energy efficiency) 3. Urban systems (smart neighborhoods).
4. Smart governance (citizen participation)
Thanks to these crucial factors, we can hopefully conclude whether a case made the city more sustainable, reduced the city's carbon footprint, and changed the city's energy consumption.
Furthermore, we will get a clear picture of whether there is a difference between smart city operations based on the different political systems (mainly smart governance determine).
5. Case Study: Dubai
5.1. Political System and Challenges in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is an authoritarian regime (D'Eramo, 2021), officially called a constitutional federation that integrates seven semiautonomous emirates which all have their own monarch - the sheik (UAE Gov., 2022a). The rulers of the seven emirates constitute the Federal Supreme Council, the country’s highest legislative and executive body (USA Gov., 2020). The two most important ranks are traditionally occupied by the sheik of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two most significant emirates and global cities. In the system, the sheiks have absolute power, meaning that everyone is subject to the unquestionable authority of the leaders (Cugurullo, 2016). The UAE nationals have nearly no political rights (Cugurullo, 2016).
According to the think tank, Freedom House, the country is politically not free, political parties are banned, and all executive, legislative, and judicial authority ultimately rests with the seven hereditary rulers (FreedomHouse, 2021, p. 1). The only way that Emirati citizens can express their concerns is by a traditional mechanism called “majlis”, which acts as a social-cultural forum (USA Gov., 2020); (Abu Dhabi Culture, sd).
Additionally, an often stressed concern is the harsh working and legal conditions of the immense-sized migrant residents, which constitute around 88% of the population (Human Rights Watch, 2021); (Fargues, et al., 2019); (ADHRB, 2019). In many cases, they are kept apart in segregated places by national policies that make it forbidden to rent or buy land in many areas in the UAE to 'preserve the Emirati cultural heritage.' (UAE Gov., 2021a); (Crot, 2013).
Since the independence of the country, UAE could progress steadily and transform from an empty desert society whose inhabitants depended on fishing to a modern affluent civilization with competitive industries and cities. Despite the oppressing system described above, the country has not experienced political upheaval. It escaped relatively uninjured from the Arab Spring and the global financial crises, thanks to the widespread welfare provided to the citizens by the enormous oil revenue (Tomba, et al., 2021); (Crot, 2013); (Randeree & Ahmed, 2019);
(Griffiths & Sovacool, 2020). Yet, the increasingly changing energy sector and the collapsing oil economy significantly threaten the gulf economies. Hence, the political status quo of the United Arab Emirates and other monarchies in the region are at risk (Griffiths & Sovacool, 2020).
The possible post-fossil fuel era will seriously contest the autocratic regime's until now serene domestic social-political environment, and impotent measures will likely lead to the collapse of the rulers' political legitimacy. Furthermore, the pressure caused by climate change (85% of the population and 90% of the infrastructure of coastal zones are at risk), the country's limited natural resources, and scarce water have urged the decision-makers to adopt new development paths that ensure the continuality of economic growth and preserve the environment at the same time (C40, 2015); (D'Eramo, 2021); (Griffiths & Sovacool, 2020). Accordingly, the UAE must act rapidly to translate its challenges into triumphs and maintain the political status quo.
Starting with massive economic diversification, moving away from monoculture to a structure that enables it to contribute to the world economy with a high-value-added output that generates adequate revenue for the state and its inhabitants.
5.2. National Incentives
The main objective of the United Arab Emirates' national policies is to secure a sustainable development path and establish its “green economy”, capable of providing competitive industries in the global economy. National agendas even reflect climate change as a business opportunity, allowing the country to rebrand itself and slowly deconstruct its oil-based infrastructure, which is still the leading economic sector of the UAE (Puri-Mirza, 2022), contributing around 16% of the total GDP (World Bank, 2019a), and remains the primary source of government revenue (World Bank, 2019b). In the past few years, the disclosed national policies seek to leverage the fourth industrial revolution by making the UAE world- leading in modern technologies such as A.I., blockchain, IoT, solar P.V.s, etc.
An essential component of the plan is to build green and smart cities that assist the economic shift, allowing the UAE to diversify its economy. These new sustainable smart cities are expected to serve as a magnet to attract clean-tech startups, prominent multinational companies, academics, and the R&D sector, which will lead to the emergence of a tech hub where new ideas, products, and services spread to the world (MOCCAE, 2017); (UAE Gov., 2021b); (UAE Vision 2021, 2019). It is envisioned to create an economy 'based on knowledge, innovation and the export of cutting-edge technologies' (EWS & WWF, 2018, p. 50). Besides, the smart city project's pursuit of delivering an attractive city image provides the highest quality living and working environment with the lowest possible ecological footprint (EWS & WWF, 2018). However, it can be questioned whether this neoliberal optimism on invincible economic
growth in UAE's plans would produce a sustainable environment and decrease ecological destruction (D'Eramo, 2021).
5.3. Smart City Building in Dubai
The journey to transfer Dubai into a Smart City started in 1999 when the government announced the first ICTs strategy to enhance the creation of a knowledge economy and to integrate that rapidly emerging global city into the global financial and service sector (Aslam, 2020); (Keivani, et al., 2003). As a result of the strategy, Dubai has established an E- government system over the years where citizens can 24/7 reach all government departments online, allowing a smooth and effective administration experience (ESCWA, 2015).
The first comprehensive smart city strategy was launched in 2014, called the Smart Dubai Initiative, which aimed to transform Dubai into a Smart city no later than 2021. It delivered a three-year roadmap between 2014 and 2017 that guided the development, focusing mainly on integrating different government departments and engaging the public sector with the private one considerably (Emirates247, 2014); (Xische & Co, 2020). In addition, the project facilitated free WIFI services in public places and made it possible to access relevant information such as safety instructions, weather, and sea conditions on the beaches and parks - in the name of 'smart beaches and parks' (ESCWA, 2015). It also established a 5D control room, the central operation center, to oversee all government projects and monitor real-time situations in the city, including emergencies, road conditions, and weather (ESCWA, 2015).
In terms of sustainability, Dubai installed 2 million smart meters and grids during the Smart Dubai Initiative period (DEWA, 2021a), which helps customers monitor their real-time consumption and reduce water losses (MOCCAE, 2019). According to the authority, the state- of-the-art infrastructure for smart meters helped detect 503,161 water leakages, 16,103 defects, and 7,974 increased load cases in three years (DEWA, 2021a).
After successfully implementing the Smart Dubai Initiative, they launched in 2017 a new roadmap (Smart Dubai 2021 Strategy) for the next five years to finish the scheduled plan to make smart Dubai the 'happiest place in the world.' Unlike the previous roadmap, this one appointed six strategic objectives that the city will focus on, specifically smart living, government, environment, economy, and mobility (UAE Gov., 2021c); (MOEI, 2019). A special department (Smart Dubai Department) was set up to coordinate the strategy and various specialized smart city-related initiatives, such as the Dubai Data Initiative, Dubai Blockchain Strategy, Dubai A.I. Roadmap, Digital Wealth Initiative, and the Dubai Paperless Strategy
(Smart Dubai, 2021). The wide range of initiatives is intended to make Dubai the 'happiest city in the world' and make citizen's life better by leveraging smart technologies, such as Blockchain, A.I., and digital services (ITU, sd). For example, AI assisting systems, called Rashid are expected to boost entrepreneur spirit (Gugler, et al., 2021), by helping residents, tourists, and entrepreneurs effortlessly answer their queries about doing business, living, and visiting Dubai (ITU, 2019). Moreover, in line with the city's Smart Dubai Strategy, the government has been transforming its energy sector by using artificial intelligence, which includes for example the launch of ‘Rammas’ - a virtual employee that with AI technology manages customer inquiries and complete utility related tasks with the ability to expand and self-learn through experience and interaction (MOEI, 2019).
Dubai also introduced a blockchain system for its administration operation to improve government efficiency, enabling government documents to be digitalized and available quickly. It is expected to reduce paperwork, decrease time spent trying to reconcile different points of view, lower time dealing with disputes, and eliminate the need for third parties to adjudicate disputes (IBM, 2020). Blockchain technology has been used in all the real estate transactions in Dubai since 2017. During the process on the blockchain, buyers and sellers use 'smart contracts,' which improve the security and transparency of the deal and replace paper documentation with digital records and digitally signed documents. In addition, smart contracts eliminate the manual processes by integrating required stakeholders (customers, payment channels, municipalities, different departments, etc.) participating in the smart system through the blockchain network, which reduces additional costs (Marke, 2019). Besides making the operation smoother, the government wants to establish the revolutionary blockchain industry in the city and eventually achieve international leadership in the field that can convert into capital (UAE Gov., 2021d).
The Digital Dubai Initiative, which is part of the actions to turn Dubai into a sustainable smart city, made the city 'paperless,' which means the administration processes and government services are entirely digital, making paper use completely extinguished (UAE Gov., 2022b).
According to the government, the strategy will eliminate millions of paper usage, save 130,000 trees from being cut down, and preserve 40 hours of that give people more free time annually (GDMO, 2021). To make it happen Dubai Government also launched apps for smart devices (DubaiNow, UAE pass, Digital Stamp), which facilitate quick access to their services and enables quick payments with digital authorization (Smart Dubai, 2021).
5.3.1. Evaluation of Top-Down Approaches in Dubai
As a result of the optimistic devotion to smart tools and a presumably considerable amount of invested capital, the efforts to transform Dubai into a smart city have delivered over 1,000 smart services and more than 100 smart initiatives (Xische & Co, 2019). However, disruptive technologies such as A.I., Blockchain, and smart services will not diminish carbon emissions seriously unless it is fully incorporated with renewable energy, which did not occur in Dubai's past two decades of smart city development.
Figure 3.: Dubai’s Top-Down Smart City Projects Between 1999 and 2021
Top-Down Dubai Strategies
Most important delivered projects
Reduction in the city’s ecological footprint
Impact based on the 6 smart city aspects
ICT Strategy (1999)
No Governance None
E-Government Strategy (2000)
No Governance Less time-consuming
Smart Dubai Initiative (2014)
• Smart Meters and Grids
• 5D control Room
• Free WIFI in public places
• Smart Beaches and Parks
• ‘Makani’ smart addresses
Smart Meters in theory can reduce consumption if the customers are conscious about.
Smart Dubai 2021 Strategy (2017)
• Dubai Data Initiative
• Dubai Blockchain Strategy
• Dubai AI Roadmap
• Digital Wealth Initiative
• Dubai Internet of Things Strategy
• Digital Dubai including
Paperless Dubai, DubaiNow, UAE Pass, Digital Stamp, Dubai Pay System
Digital Dubai with Paperless Strategy reduces paper usage significantly. However, e-waste and electricity consumption increase due to the increase in data centers and other app usages.
As Figure 3. summarizes Dubai's top-down Strategies and the delivered projects, it can be argued that most of the projects did not seek to reduce the city's carbon footprint. Except for the implementation of smart meters, which may reduce electricity consumption over time (studies estimate a 5% reduction in 11 months) (Faure & Schleich, 2018). Even the Digital
Dubai Strategy, which eliminates paper usage and is praised for being a sustainable initiative, is somewhat counterproductive because the new smart tools and data center significantly increase E-waste and electricity consumption over time. Therefore, it can be seen that all the efforts to transform Dubai into a smart city were driven to develop an effective digital government system that enables citizens to access information and services quickly, improving the entrepreneurial spirit rather than building a smart city that is ecologically sustainable. This 'neoliberal optimism' is expected to attract companies, foreign investments, and highly skilled professionals to conduct business in Dubai and increase the country's GDP, ultimately solving ecological destruction.
Henceforth, due to the friendly policies and smart city initiatives, Dubai has become one of the leading destinations for FDI flow after Singapore and London (Duffy, 2021). Also, Dubai ranked 2nd in ‘Economic potential and business-friendly environment’ (Dubai Investment Development Agency, 2021). Besides that, Dubai became a crucial player in several profitable and growing economic sectors, such as real estate and construction; retail and wholesale trade; regional transport: distribution and logistics; banking, finance, insurance;
business and industrial consulting; tourism and hospitality, including conferences and exhibitions; ICT, and light and medium manufacturing and its home for regional corporate headquarters (Gugler, et al., 2021). That contributes that it is estimated that Dubai is on track to increase its global external trade to AED 2 trillion (approximately $544 billion) by 2025 (Dubai Chamber, 2022).
The decision-makers of Dubai were probably aware that the current smart city strategies would further increase energy consumption, thus, raising GHG emissions. Consequently, they announced other initiatives and projects focused on Dubai and other emirates' energy transformation. They set several ambitious goals in the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy (DCES).
The plan aims to deliver 75% of Dubai's total energy demand from clean energy by 2050 and 25% by 2030 (Engerati, 2018). Also, to reduce total carbon emission by 16% by 2021 and ultimately transform Dubai into a city with the world's smallest carbon footprint by 2050 (Government of Dubai, 2018). The strategy consists of several actions, such as infrastructure developments, legislation, and funding, including additional massive-scale projects (UAE Gov., 2021g).
The most important part is probably the infrastructure pillar, including initiatives such as Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is the largest single-site solar park in the world – an area roughly the size of Copenhagen, with a planned capacity of 5,000MW by 2030. It is expected to reduce over 6.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emission every year from 2030 (DEWA, 2019); (C40, 2019) with a total investment of AED 50 billion (approximately $ 13,6 billion) (DEWA, 2020). The costly project already had multiple accomplishments. In 2020, it had already reached a significant 1,013MW capacity using photovoltaic solar panels and completed a somewhat significant net carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction of 22% by 2019. It even surpassed the target of reducing 16% of emissions by 2021 (Aamir, 2022). In addition, it also achieved the lowest Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) in the world by the fourth phase of the project (2017-2018) (DEWA, 2019). However, as Figure 4. Shows below, the costly solar park is far from reaching the ambitious DCES's goal, which requires 47,000 megawatts (M.W.) of clean energy. It will contribute only roughly 12% by 2030 with a 5000 MW capacity.
The Figure was made by Mario Vladar based on the data acquired from Dubai Electricity & Water Authority: (DEWA,2020); (DEWA,2019)
Figure 4.: Dubai Clean Energy Strategy’s (DCES) Targets and the Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park Contribution
Additionally, Dubai has introduced several legislatures supposedly to enhance the ecological sustainability of the city. The Shams Dubai Initiative aims to achieve that all buildings in Dubai will include rooftop solar P.V. panels by 2030 with a total investment of AED 7 billion (approximately $1,9 billion) (MOEI, 2019); (EWS & WWF, 2018). According to the plan, the energy surplus generated by the solar panels at the individual sites will be exported to the DEWA and credit awarded to the customers in their bills. As part of this initiative, over 6,896 locations have connected with solar power equipment, generating over 399 MW of electricity (DEWA, 2022).
Besides that, to increase the efficiency of sustainable transportation, the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy and the Dubai Self-Driving Transport Strategy &
Roadmap both aim to transform 25% of the total transportation in Dubai into autonomous mode by 2030, reducing pollution by 12%, (UAE Gov., 2021e) as well as generate AED 22 billion in annual economic returns by increasing the efficiency (RTA, sd). The strategy includes 5 different transportation modes (bus, taxi, shuttle, marine, drones), purportedly delivering the 25% rate. Yet, the plan did not reflect private transportation (for example, personal passenger cars, lorries, trucks, and motorcycles), which severely contributes to GHG emissions (Ritchie, et al., 2020). In addition, despite the enthusiastic goal, only 22% of the population in UAE use public transportation, according to a survey (Gulf News, 2020). At the same time, the number of registered drivers (driving licenses) and vehicles is increasing in Dubai (Ahmad, 2020), making the city the 25th most car per capita worldwide and 1st in Asian cities in the ‘2019 Driving Cities Index’ (Mister Auto, 2019). As a result, Dubai inevitably becomes a highly congested city, where an average travel time takes 20% longer than in a free-flow journey, which is almost twice as long as in Abu Dhabi, the second biggest city in UAE (TomTom, 2021).
Furthermore, the Green Mobility Initiative placed 530 electronic vehicle charging points in the city to enhance green mobility and eventually reduce vehicles' gas emissions (DEWA, 2021b). However, the market size of green vehicles (including E.V.s and hybrid vehicles) is negligible (Rauf, 2021), accounting for only 0,59% of the total cars in Dubai in 2021, as shown in Figure 5. Below. Meanwhile, another issue regarding sustainable transportation in Dubai is that most vehicles are SUVs, which, on average, consume about a quarter more energy than medium-size cars. (Cozzi & Petropoulos, 2019).
Another noteworthy legislative part of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy is the Green Building Regulation, which is expected to reduce 6.8 TWh in energy consumption, 20.5 billion gallons of water, and 3.9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 (ESCWA, 2015).
5.3.2. The Impact of the Private Sector
The smart city development is undoubtedly dominated by governmental forces in the case of Dubai. Nevertheless, there is a project started by a private real estate company in 2013, and the municipality of Dubai recognizes as s sustainable smart city district (UAE Gov., 2021b). The so-called Sustainable City (TSC) is aspiring to become the region's first operational net-zero energy city development (EWS & WWF, 2018) with a cost of $354 million (Garfield, 2019).
The first phase of the project was finished and became fully functional in 2016 (Dimond Developers, 2019); all the apartments had been sold and occupied by around 2000 people, characterized as an upper-middle-income community (Garfield, 2019); (Sanguinetti, et al., 2019).
According to the plan, the TSC was designed with several low-carbon and sustainability features to reduce GHG emissions by lower electricity consumption by up to 40% compared to similar apartments in Dubai. TSC has installed 6.37 MWp of solar PV, including 2.88 MWp on residential rooftops and 3.49 MWp in communal areas (EWS & WWF, 2018). Therefore, a TSC villa uses about 15,000 kWh of electricity (Sanguinetti, et al., 2019). Still, it is vastly
Figure 5.: The Car Market in Dubai
The Figure was made by Mario Vladar based on the data acquired from: (Ahmad, 2020);
(Rauf, 2021); (Cozzi & Petropoulos, 2019); (RTA,2022)
higher than an average E.U. household's annual electricity consumption (approximately five times higher), topping the United States and even significantly higher than the UAE's average, as shown in Figure 6 below. However, it indeed consumes less electricity than the average household in Dubai.
Moreover, even though the TSC aspires to be a net-zero energy city, it can only accomplish that ambitious goal during the winter months, when the residents consume less energy for cooling. As Figure 7. displays below, the net electricity consumption is significantly reduced from November to April, achieving net-zero consumption two times a year. While in the summer period, a TSC villa's monthly energy consumption is more or less equivalent to European countries' average household annual consumption.
The Diagram was made by Mario Vladar based on the data acquired from various sources: The data for the TSC was acquired from Sanguinetti, A., Meier, A., Dessouky, N. & Outcault, S., 2019.; the data for the European Union was acquired from the ODYSSEE-MURE report; for the U.S. from EIA dataset; the data for Dubai was acquired from the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure; the data for
UAE was acquired from Enerdata.net Report
Figure 6.: The Comparison of the Average Household Electricity Consumption (kWh)
The TSC agenda also follows the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) management theory (Sanguinetti, et al., 2019); (The Sustainable City, sd), which extends business success metrics to contribute to ecological sustainability and social well-being while benefiting shareholders (Miller, 2020).
However, the home prices start at around $1 million in the TSC (Garfield, 2019), raising concerns about affordability and social inclusion. Especially in a society where the private sector workforce has an extraordinarily high level of wage inequality, even hierarchically ordering nationalities (Tong & Al Awad, 2014), and there is significant discrimination against women (HRW, 2021). Therefore, the TSC and similar projects in the future created by private firms cannot be confidentially considered as sustainable smart cities. The company that created the costly projects supposedly seeks to generate profits, making housing accessible for only a few privileged people. The commoditization of the 'sustainable city' and the logic of the market that dictates its development resulted in costly prices, making it only accessible to a few privileged people. Consequently, it will not positively contest the situations of the migrant workers with low wages. They may work for the affluent citizen's houses in the TSC, but their neighborhood will remain segregated and polluted.
The Diagram was made by Mario Vladar based on the data acquired from the Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF, 2018) report
Figure 7.: A 4-bedroom Villa Energy Performance in the TSC