Almost two weeks ago I presented to the European Union's Committee of the Regions special meeting on "Green and Connected Cities" which was held in Brussels. I also presented on the same theme at an event in Paris the same week.
(Please excuse the late post).
I was struck by how much more advanced Europe is in policy as it relates to the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to acheive sustainability, and that naturally includes economic dvelopment. The EU has an official mandate to use ITC to help not only reduce climate change through greater energy efficiency, but to:
"stimulate the development of a large leading-edge market for ICT-enabeled energy efficiency that will foster the competiveness of European Industry and create new business opportunities."
The event was oragnized by ACIDD, the European association for communication and information for sustainable development, and it featured 31 other presenters from Europe and Africa.
Two of my fellow presenters on my panel were notable. One was Charles Secrett, of the London Development Agency, who guided sustainability policy including but by no means limited to the congestion pricing scheme implemented by outgoing London Mayor Ken Livingston.
Though Livingston lost in a recent election, congestion pricing has been a great success reducing traffic congestion and air pollution in the range of 20-40 percent. Secrett told me it's anyone's guess whether incoming mayor elect Boris Johnson will maintain congestion pricing or Livingston's other well-laid plans for carbon reduction.
Also on my panel was Leda Guidi, head of Iperbola. She described in detail the electronic participatory democracy of Bologna, Italy, which has been garnering citizens votes and feedback on sustainability planning since 1995, with impressive participation rates (30k visits per day).
Cisco presented on its Connected Urban Development initiative which is working with cities such as San Francisco, Amsterdam and Seoul on everything from wireless building networks and transportation systems, to teleworking centers for commuters to use in lieu of driving. Madrid, Lisbon, Hamburg, and Birmingham, England are the next locations for pilot projects.
A dose of realism was brought to the proceedings by Ronan Uhel from the EU's Environment Agency, as he said the EU's 27 countries and countless regions and cities will need to develop common data methodologies and processes to make these scale up across the EU.
"Stop exchanging data," Uhel told the Brussels audience. "And start sharing data, ontologies, multi-lingual websites, metadata and formats. Success will be predicated on the work that goes on backstage."
EU Commissioner Nicholas Hanley gave paticipants the big picture of why cities should be the focus of sustainability and climate change policy engineering: "Cities concentrate the problems related to sustainability, but they also concentrate the capacity for response."