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Illuminating the path to sustainable cities

Text: DarkSky collaborates with LUCI Association to combat light pollution.

We live in an increasingly urbanized world, with 55% of the global population residing in cities—a number that continues to grow each year. This urban expansion becomes vividly apparent when you look at a world map at night, where cities shine brightly. Tackling light pollution requires collaborative efforts with cities worldwide. Our newly announced partnership with the LUCI Association marks a significant step in this direction.

The LUCI Association—Lighting Urban Community International—is a global network uniting nearly 70 member towns and cities worldwide. This organization leverages urban lighting as a tool for social, cultural, and economic development. In 2023, LUCI adopted the Declaration for the Future of Urban Lighting, outlining a framework for sustainable urban lighting across seven goals and four thematic chapters. One of these essential goals is to minimize light pollution for all living beings. This topic was central to their 2024 annual conference in Montpellier, France, where I delivered the keynote address.

LUCI’s Annual General Meeting in Montpellier (2024).

The declaration challenges cities to find a “new harmony between light and darkness in the city!” For DarkSky, achieving this harmony is crucial. The relentless growth of our cities has only been matched by their rapid brightening, extending hundreds of kilometers into the hinterlands. During the conference, a panel discussion highlighted the relationship between Montpellier, its surrounding cities, and the nearby Parc National des Cévennes, designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2018.

Integrating sustainable lighting practices is vital to any city’s sustainability plan. Many cities are now setting ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water, and ensure all residents can access parks and green spaces. However, access to natural darkness and quality urban lighting must also be part of this sustainability conversation.

Lights of Northwestern Europe as seen from the International Space Station at night.
Lights of northwestern Europe as seen from the International Space Station (January 2024).
 Credit: NASA

Sustainable cities prioritize environmental stewardship, economic resilience, and social equity. Implementing responsible outdoor lighting practices not only enhances the quality of urban living but also contributes to broader sustainability goals. Good lighting design can reduce energy consumption, lower carbon footprints, and create healthier, more liveable urban environments.

Our collaboration with LUCI Association aims to breathe life into these concepts. By following the five principles for responsible outdoor light at night, cities can promote quality urban lighting that reclaims the stars. These principles include using lighting only when and where needed, ensuring lighting is no brighter than necessary, ensuring that light is directed downwards to reduce skyglow, and using warmer fixtures where possible.

We are excited about this partnership and its potential for creating more sustainable and livable urban spaces. Together, we can pave the way for cities that shine brightly in their commitment to environmental sustainability while preserving the beauty of our night skies.