A Princeton data tool helps planners set climate priorities

Written by
Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications
April 21, 2022

To get to net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, what actions should cities prioritize?

A new tool for city planners helps them design a portfolio of actions that encompasses compact development, smart electric mobility, electric heating systems, mass timber construction, urban reforestation, and technologies that allow resources to circulate efficiently through the food, waste and energy sectors.

“In cities, environment health and human wellbeing intersect,” said Anu Ramaswami, who developed the tool and is Princeton University’s Sanjay Swani ’87 Professor of India Studies and a professor in three other programs — the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the High Meadows Environmental Institute — as well as the director of the M. S. Chadha Center for Global India.

“About 55% of the world’s population lives in cities, and more than 90% of the world’s gross domestic product is generated in cities,” she said. “If you can figure out zero-carbon strategies at the city scale for different types of cities across the globe, there’s potential to solve global challenges with local benefits.”

Ramaswami and her team have developed the Zero Emissions Calculator for Communities (ZECC), a carbon dioxide emissions calculator. They then took it a step farther by partnering with the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council (Met Council) in Minnesota, incorporating high-resolution local data to create a “Greenhouse Gas Scenario Planning Tool” (currently in beta testing) for every city, town and rural community in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region — all 182 of them.

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