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Intelligent cities are also green cities

09 November 2011
Intelligent cities are also green cities

By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

100 of the largest cities in the world produce 1/3 of its GDP.

By 2050, we must build the same urban capacity we have built over the last 4000 years, over which time we will be adding 3 billion or more people to the world’s cities.

This can’t be done with today’s approach to building and operating cities.

The Secretary General of ICLEI, Konrad Otto-Zimmerman, this morning laid out the challenge of urbanization and the opportunity for ‘smart’ solutions to support our eco, economic, social and physical systems to achieve this transition, during the Intelligent Cities Expo in Hamburg.

At the Intelligent Cities Expo the theme was governance, as we set out to answer: what are the initiatives underway in Europe and around the world to support cities in meeting their challenges through ‘intelligent’ solutions?

The Mayor of Hamburg reminded us of the opportunity: “We do not believe that environmental policy and economic growth are mutually exclusive, in fact, that they are mutually reinforcing." Green growth through smart cities will lead to emissions savings, energy efficiency, health and social benefits, jobs and prosperity.

As winner of the 2011 European Green Capital Award, Hamburg joined a panel of city leaders from other winners Stockholm (2010), Vitoria-Gasteiz (2012) and Nantes (2013). The cities see the impact of the award: Hamburg’s Vice-Mayor highlighted that 8.5% of their city is now protected natural reserve, they have a 40% CO2e reduction target, and have 800 companies participating in government sustainability initiatives. 

One of the key messages coming out of our research for the upcoming smart cities report - stay tuned for its publication at the end of this month - is the importance of measuring and monitoring and setting metrics for the city to aspire to. Stockholm’s bid for the Green Capitol Award precipitated a city-wide collection of data, and a “huge consensus that we are on the right track” in focusing on green growth.

But questions were also raised. Peter Fatelnig, who manages the EC’s Future Internet Task Force, wondered to what extent cities are benefiting from smart solutions, which rely on the digital and IT infrastructure – such as broadband, public datasets or intelligence in buildings.

Initiatives such as the Open Government data camp 2011, Open Cities Project, Transatlantic e-Mobility initiative, the Future Internet PPP and Smart Santander are all supporting the coordination of governance activities to support low carbon, digital infrastructure to develop.

However, he believes much more potential through interoperability of solutions is possible.

Sven Damman of DG Energy highlighted the Concerto project, and the Covenant of Mayors’ Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) which are beginning to support integrated approaches. Their new research call will support ten smart energy pilots in three cities, so the EU can look at how to join-up initiatives, for instance, ‘bundling’ city demand into joint procurement processes.

Our industry panel, Lean Doody, Smart Cities Associate from Arup, Andreas Hermelink, Unit Manager, Ecofys Germany, and Shane Mitchell, Cisco Systems, highlighted the benefits and challenges of stakeholder engagement, understanding and managing urban systems, making the business case for ‘smart’ digital infrastructure investments and a designing a roadmap for becoming ‘smart’.

The audience was particularly interested in new forms of collaboration between the many stakeholders who need to be involved in making smart cities a reality.

It is only with strong leadership, understanding of users needs, good metrics and support from national or subnational governments that we will succeed. 

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