Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are the leading cause of climate change, however many people have misguided perceptions about where these pollutants come from. Considerable blame is placed on businesses, (industrial companies particularly) but there are other sources of pollution that must be addressed too.
Cities contribute more than 66% of global carbon emissions – this amount will rapidly grow, with up to 70% of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050.
On October 28, 2016, over 60 major cities across the world participated in Climathon, an event aimed at addressing climate issues resulting from an urban lifestyle. Organized by the European Union’s climate innovation partnership, Climate-KIC, Climathon involved an international community of innovators to come up with new carbon-reducing ideas.
Each participating city developed a specific challenge for innovators to tackle during the 24-hour hack-a-thon. Toronto’s mission? Reduce the carbon emissions from the city’s transportation grid by 5% with a cost-neutral solution. To make the challenge even more innovative, participants needed to develop a plan using big data from organizations such as NASA and Toronto’s Open Data Team.
How Big Data Will Help Cities Fight Climate Change
Toronto is one of several global cities that is collecting and using data to guide strategic decisions. If processed correctly, leaders can use this data to make decisions about local issues like traffic flow and stoplights, development of parks/greenspace, and public transit routes. By making small modifications to improve energy efficiency, cities such as Toronto have the opportunity to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Related Blog: Will 2016 be the Year of Big Data Analytics?
The City of Toronto’s Open Data Catalogue is one source of data that can be analyzed, but in combination with other data sets, innovators are able to make incredible discoveries. This was the case during Toronto Climathon, where participants were encouraged to combine Open Data Catalogue information with climatological data from the North American Space Agency (NASA).
3 Climate Change Solutions Developed at Toronto Climathon
Armed with data and the mission to reduce Toronto’s transportation-based greenhouse gasses, teams competed to develop the best and most cost-effective climate change solution. Some notable innovations that were presented include:
- ‘Greening’ High-Emission Roads: One team combined a home-made infrared pollution sensor that could be used to measure carbon density on city streets. This data could be cross-referenced with City of Toronto tree data to determine if more trees could be planted to clean the air and reduce pollution.
- Carpooling for Young Students: Another group built a custom-coded cell phone application parents could use to coordinate carpools for their school-aged children. The app would reduce the number of parents driving their children to school each day, cutting down on road congestion and vehicle emissions.
- Data-Driven Construction: City construction creates traffic congestion, and when roads are busy, increased carbon emissions are created. When assets like a road or water main break down, it takes time to assemble the team and resources needed to repair it. If the city integrated an asset management platform that tracked the ongoing health of infrastructure, scheduled repairs could be made during non-peak hours which would create less of an impact on traffic. One Climathon group created a platform with this functionality, using data from the City of Toronto’s Open Data Catalogue.
Canadian Government Grants for CleanTech Research and Development
Toronto Climathon participants were given awards for their ideas, however businesses may be able to receive Canadian government grants for similar research and development projects. Some of the most popular cleantech research and development grants currently available include:
SD Tech Fund
To meet ambitious climate goals set by the federal and provincial governments, Canadian businesses need to develop and implement clean technologies. The SD Tech Fund is a clean technology development initiative where businesses may receive up to 33% of eligible project costs up to $15 million in Canadian government grants. Most successfully funded innovations focus on the development or commercialization of disruptive clean technologies.
IRAP Accelerated Review Process (ARP)
The Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) is a well-known source of Canadian research grants. The organization’s standard funding program, IRAP ARP, can award up to 50-80% of project labour costs to a maximum $50,000. Companies should seek funding for upcoming research projects which will lead to sustainable revenue improvements.
NSERC Engage & Collaborative Research and Development (CRD)
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) connects businesses and research institutions to perform valuable, economy boosting research and development projects. NSERC Engage is a Canadian government grant ideal for small and mid-sized businesses who don’t have the internal resources to complete projects. Through the program, businesses can access a team of university researchers to move their project forward. Engage projects can last for up to 6 months and provide up to $25,000 in support, which is paid directly to the research institution.
Likewise, NSERC Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grants provide funding and access to a team of university researchers. CRD-eligible projects are meant for longer projects with 1-5 years of university support needed, and are typically only available once a business has completed the NSERC Engage program. NSERC CRD research grants award up to $200,000 per year, but are also paid directly to the research institution to cover expenses.