Pollution-sucking ‘smart’ trees bring clean air to London and Brussels

Recent installations of the pollution-sucking CityTree in London and Brussels are highlighting how innovative technology can improve living conditions and bring urban challenges to the fore.

Cities are increasingly feeling the effects of air pollution and climate change. One of the primary components of air pollution is particulate matter (PM), which shortens tens of thousands of lives a year. CityTree, a ‘smart’ tree combining pollution-absorbing moss and Internet of Things technology, looks to address this by removing PM and nitrous oxide from polluted city streets.

In the last month, the EIT Climate-KIC supported urban technology, developed and manufactured by German start-up Green City Solutions, has been rolled out in central London and in Brussels near the European Parliament.

In March, the Crown Estate and Westminster City Council unveiled a brand new CityTree installation on Glasshouse Street in central London, near Piccadilly Circus. The ‘tree’, comprising a moss/plant hybrid green wall and bench for people to sit on, does the same pollution-absorbing work as 275 normal trees, according to its creators. This means that where 275 trees would have previously been needed to clean polluted urban environments, authorities can instead install one CityTree.

CityTree was supported through Climate-KIC’s urban transitions work. Sean Lockie, Theme Director, Urban Transitions at EIT Climate-KIC, said: “CityTree takes pollution directly out of the air. On top of their direct pollution reduction, the visual impact of CityTree installations means that key city decision makers are starting to recognise there is a problem that needs addressing.

“So many cities face pollution problems that come from a range of sources such as vehicles, buildings and industry. The solution is to tackle the problem as a system and look upstream to solve it, for example, by introducing car-free days to reduce the intensity of vehicular emissions. These can take time, so we need interim solutions.”

Green City Solutions’ CityTree has reached impressive milestones, in part thanks to the support of EIT Climate-KIC, which runs a variety of innovation incubators. CityTree was developed in Climate-KIC’s Accelerator Programme, designed to connect start-ups to the right kind of training, networks and funding for their specific needs. CityTree completed stage one of the Accelerator programme in 2015 and is currently participating in the Scaler programme, aimed at scaling up commercially mature projects.

Between the two incubator programmes, CityTree successfully completed a variety of other accelerator programmes, highlighting the level of confidence in the ability of the product to deliver climate impact, develop a successful business model and provide high-quality jobs.

EIT Climate-KIC works with stakeholders from public, private and academic organisations as well as individuals like students, researchers, entrepreneurs and other changemakers to bring together the right people and accelerate climate innovation.

Lockie added: “EIT Climate-KIC has been supporting the CityTree team to get their idea off the drawing board, into a concept, a pilot, a demonstrator and now a scaling phase. It’s a thriving business with exports all over the world. Where we can, we connect startups like CityTree to customers. We did this in the City of Modena where a pilot was launched and they received significant media attention. Now the Crown Estate, which attended one of our events in May 2017, saw the product and we enabled that introduction. It has since installed a CityTree in London.”

On top of demonstrating a real technological innovation to reduce the level of air pollution in the urban environment, CityTree represents a remarkable example of how nature-based solutions can be integrated into urban environments. It uses plants to provide shade and a more humid environment for moss, which would otherwise experience too much sunlight and desiccation, combined with a self-sustaining water and energy system.

Urban spaces are often squeezed by ‘grey’ infrastructure – impermeable surfaces which are increasingly magnifying the impacts of extreme weather events. With extreme weather events becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, EIT Climate-KIC is working closely with consortia to support the development of ways of mitigating these impacts.

Projects like CityTree are helping address challenges presented by climate change, directly and by highlighting and starting to address systemic issues. Urban spaces are uniquely placed to experience the impacts of climate change with particular intensity, but can also implement innovations at scale like nature-based solutions which can make significant progress towards a more sustainable society.

 
Location
United Kingdom
Related Focus Area
Urban Transitions
Related Goal
Goal 2: Create green, resilient cities
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC responds to consultation on Long-Term Strategy for EU GHG emis...

As an active member of the community working to...

EIT Climate-KIC responds to consultation on Long-Term Strategy for EU GHG emissions reduction
Opinion
Distributed ledger technologies are here to stay
Dr. Harald Rauter Regional Innovation Lead, Climate-KIC
Distributed ledger technologies are here to stay
In The News
Search for 100 1.5C-compatible investments launched

The EU-backed Mission Innovation initiative has launched a framework...

Search for 100 1.5C-compatible investments launched
In The News
Debate: Can self-reporting be effective for investors?

Most climate and ESG data is self-reported – can...

Debate: Can self-reporting be effective for investors?
In The News
Risky business: Why 1.5C-aligned strategies are key to preserving capital

Decision-makers with responsibility for capital need to make bold,...

Risky business: Why 1.5C-aligned strategies are key to preserving capital
In The News
No alternative: Making sustainable infrastructure the only option

Only a fraction of global climate finance is reaching...

No alternative: Making sustainable infrastructure the only option
In The News
We’ve seen it with GDPR and data protection—could ambitious financial ...

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, Climate...

We’ve seen it with GDPR and data protection—could ambitious financial regulation be a key driver of climate action?
In The News
Bridging the climate adaptation investment gap

Financing climate adaptation took centre-stage at Day 2 of...

Bridging the climate adaptation investment gap
In Detail
Techno-economic assessment and life cycle assessment guidelines for CO2 util...

CO2 utilisation technologies, also known as carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) or CO2 re-use, capture CO2 and convert it into new products or services....

Techno-economic assessment and life cycle assessment guidelines for CO2 utilisation
In The News
Re-Industrialise launches at the European Week of Cities and Regions

EIT Climate-KIC and partners recently launched the Re-Industrialise programme,...

Re-Industrialise launches at the European Week of Cities and Regions
In Detail
Reframing our current approach to urban transformations

EIT Climate-KIC gathered the outputs and lessons-learned from an urban transformations community workshop in Malaga, which saw more than 100 city leaders and teams...

Reframing our current approach to urban transformations
Opinion
Reframing perspectives on climate change
Reframing perspectives on climate change
Opinion
Only 20 companies in the world provide 100 per cent greenhouse gas emissions disclosure – Are ...
Only 20 companies in the world provide 100 per cent greenhouse gas emissions disclosure – Are investors in the dark on climate risks?
In The News
Gaining a better understanding of climate risk

The roadblocks that stand in the way of companies...

Gaining a better understanding of climate risk
In The News
The power of persuasion: Great Debate changes audience’s mind on self-re...

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, Climate...

The power of persuasion: Great Debate changes audience’s mind on self-reporting
In The News
Climate Innovation Summit: a masterclass on climate-related financial disclosu...

If we want to keep on track with the...

Climate Innovation Summit: a masterclass on climate-related financial disclosure
In The News
Transforming financial sector’s core value system may be essential to 1.5C

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, Climate...

Transforming financial sector’s core value system may be essential to 1.5C
In The News
Curbing carbon emissions in company value chains

Most of the world’s largest companies account and report...

Curbing carbon emissions in company value chains
In The News
One hundred 1.5C compatible investments by 2030

New investor framework launched today at European Climate Innovation...

One hundred 1.5C compatible investments by 2030
In The News
‘Fearless Girl’ appears at EIT Climate-KIC’s Climate Innovation Summit

Fearless Girl—the famous bronze statue erected in Lower Manhattan...

‘Fearless Girl’ appears at EIT Climate-KIC’s Climate Innovation Summit
In our community
Interview with Leeor Groen, Venture Manager, Blockchain Valley Ventures
Interview with Leeor Groen, Venture Manager, Blockchain Valley Ventures
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC partners with South Pole for Climate Innovation Summit carbon ...

EIT Climate-KIC’s Climate Innovation Summit (CIS) will feature a...

EIT Climate-KIC partners with South Pole for Climate Innovation Summit carbon offsetting programme
In The News
Financing tomorrow’s new normal today

First published in Environmental Finance as part of a joint...

Financing tomorrow’s new normal today
In The News
Climathon 2018 will be the biggest global climate hackathon in history

Over 100 cities from around the world will join...

Climathon 2018 will be the biggest global climate hackathon in history
Opinion
How can we mainstream major climate risks into financial reporting?
Hanna Värttö Senior Consultant, South Pole Group
How can we mainstream major climate risks into financial reporting?
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC emphasises need for climate focus in cohesion policy at Europe...

EIT Climate-KIC was among the urban planners, municipalities, policy...

EIT Climate-KIC emphasises need for climate focus in cohesion policy at European Week of Cities and Regions
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC’s secrets for successfully running accelerators revealed...

EIT Climate-KIC has been featured in “Accelerate This!”, a...

EIT Climate-KIC’s secrets for successfully running accelerators revealed in “Accelerate This!”
Opinion
Harvesting the intelligence of photosynthetic microalgae to de-carbonise future cities
Marco Poletto Co-founder and Director, ecoLogicStudio
Harvesting the intelligence of photosynthetic microalgae to de-carbonise future cities
In our community
Interview with Mariana Mazzucato, Professor, Economics of Innovation and Pub...
Interview with Mariana Mazzucato, Professor, Economics of Innovation and Public Value, UCL
In The News
Why we invest in sustainable start-ups

A growing number of investors recognise the value in...

Why we invest in sustainable start-ups