onsdag den 13. maj 2009

Green Cities - Blue Skies Ahead?

This year we are witnessing an increasing level of activity in all institutions and organisations that in some way expect to benefit or to be involved in the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen in December: COP 15 – Copenhagen December 2009

The objectives for the meeting are very high and the effort put into the preparations have been substantial:

  • To get all the world's countries to agree on a global target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • To get the world's industrialized countries to take the lead and reduce their CO2 emissions significantly, while the world's newly industrialized countries and developing countries contribute to a collective solution
  • To agree on a global climate regime which does not restrain economic growth and that does not distort competition on the world market.

The Climate conference is supported by the UN International Panel on Climate Control.

The panel does not in itself represent the latest research, and some critics of their predictions claim that they base the recommendations on scientific work that is by now 2 years old. Others, including the notorious climate commentator Bjorn Lomborg, claims that all the effort and money going into carbon dioxide reduction are more or less wasted. But these days the critics seem to become fewer an fewer as the Copenhagen Fever intensifies;

This month the Copenhagen Climate Council will meet and discuss industries’ role in supporting the sustainability agenda.

And also the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its subcommittees are, what the call ‘in full negotiating mode’:

“The Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) will operate in full negotiating mode in 2009 to advance work towards meeting their respective mandates. Important ongoing work under the Convention will also be taken forward in 2009 by SBI and SBSTA.”

But Carbon-Dioxyde submission, pollution and energy waste is first and foremost something that takes place in cities all over the World; so no wonder that this has become a burning platform and has created a lot of both political interest but also a number of real and promising initiatives forward. One of the first of this kind of initiatives in Europe is the so-called Covenant of the Mayors.

This project is strongly supporting the EU plan ’20-20-20’ – EU’s initiative to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% in 2020 as a result of a 20% increase in energy efficiency and a 20% share of renewable energy sources in 2020.

(The big question is if this is enough to reverse the trend towards global warming!)

The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), in Malmö, 22-24 April 2009, and discussed the covenant, adding to examples and recommendations and the number of cities and regions that have signed the Covenant is still adding.

Among other pan-European initiatives the Green shift Europe founded in 2008 pointed at a number of possibilities for city administrations, companies and citizens to contribute to achieving the EU targets – and maybe even to go beyond them:

Examples from the Green Shift proposals:

  • Energy generation and distribution uses one third of all primary energy. Electricity generation could be made more efficient by 40% and its transport and distribution by 10%. ICT could make not only the management of power grids more efficient but also facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources. Denmark generates half its electricity through decentralised grids, with wind power accounting for 20% of all electricity. As a result, its C02 emissions fell from 937 to 517 g/kWh from 1990-2005.
  • The heating, cooling and lighting of buildings account for more than 40% of European energy consumption. ICT can continuously monitor data to optimise lighting, ventilation and equipment performance and provide consumers real-time updates on their energy consumption to stimulate behavioural changes. In Finland, this smart metering encouraged consumers to increase energy efficiency by 7%.
  • 20% of world electricity is used for lighting. Changing to energy efficient light bulbs could halve today's energy consumption for lighting by 2025. Intelligent light bulbs, which automatically adjust to natural light and people's presence will have an even greater effect.

The European organisation for cities, Eurocities: Focus on the importance of smarter cities to demonstrate the role that ICT can play in improving the energy efficiency of cities, the consequent reduction in emissions and working towards achieving a more sustainable low-carbon economy and society. Also to coordinate work on the development of a “Green Digital Charter” which would propose an action orientated and measurable framework and to support cities in using ICT to facilitate emissions reductions through improved energy efficiency and innovation.

In working towards a ‘Green Digital Charter’ for cities the main points are:

  1. Getting local partnerships of key leaders and stakeholders together in each city to promote the new green agenda
  2. Establishing a series of digital applications for improving the measurement, transparency and visibility of energy use and then involving local citizens, service providers and organisations to test-bed projects to deploy these
  3. Ensuring the city’s own ICT infrastructure and digital services have the minimal possible carbon footprint.
  4. Facilitating innovation to develop new digital infrastructures to enable low carbon activities and to achieve systemic carbon effectiveness
  5. Encouraging and promoting low carbon activities through innovative research and development activities and deployment projects

IBM, one of the private companies supporting the Eurocities organisation, is supporting the climate agenda on a global basis, most markedly in the Smarter Planet approach.. Smarter cities are one of the key areas under this heading. IBM’s work in this area can be described in the following 4 different visions:

  1. The connected city – making full use of telecommunications and mobile services to facilitate as well personal social networks as well as collaborative working reducing travel and increasing innovative capabilities
  2. The sustainable city – instrumentation to monitor and control all sorts of submissions, energy consumption, waste and recycling. This is based on intelligent systems that will help monitor and also to utilise incentive based market systems or personal-incented methods to support saving and managing constrained resources.
  3. The integrated City – Most cities are still today operated in silo’s and departments, and parts of the traditional city operations may have been outsourced. The integrated city approach offers capabilities again to have an enterprise view of what is happening encouraging optimization of city services and assist in incident management as well as crime prevention.
  4. The entrepreneurial city – deploying ICT solutions that will enable cities’ eco-system integration also taking commuting and collaboration between citizens, work places and consumers’ sites into consideration.

Example: The EDISON Project in Denmark was announced in February 2009. The objective of this project is to make a proof-of-concept that wind-based energy systems are able to offer a major part of the needed energy resources by allowing surplus energy to be stored in batteries of electric cars in peak periods, by operating windmills much closer to predicted storms and to have an intelligent electricity network connected to neighbouring countries to level off production and consumption.

Another example is the Stockholm congestion/Intelligent traffic regulation system; Not only did the variable pricing scheme – combined with an increased frequency of busses and tramway – lead to a reduction of inner city traffic by more than 20%, the level of pollution also dropped sharply. This model, supported by IBM solutions, is now being replicated in a number of cities around the World – from London, to Dublin, to Brisbane.

For the upcoming Eurocities summer event taking place in Reykjavik, Iceland from June 10 to 12, focus will move from the overall political declarations to practical and solid best practices that can be copied between the member cities. The preliminary program can be found here: