We discussed the topic of zero-carbon cities with a panel of experts at our recent Innovation Days event in Essen, Germany, who were all in agreement that carbon-free cities are an achievable future reality but it’s just a question of how we build them.
“You have to listen to the science and you have to act”
Claes Thunblad, Former Mayor at Järfälla Municipality, Sweden
“In sustainable cities, life must be easier and the cost lower”
Dr. Dirk Müller, Head of the Institute for Energy Efficient Buildings and Indoor Climate at Aachen University, Germany
As cities move towards increasing decarbonisation, the new systems must be designed with the needs and wants of their residents in mind. For carbon-free cities to work effectively life needs to be more convenient for residents – they must be at the heart of the new system. Many residents will need to adapt the way they live their life and reduce their personal carbon footprint to deliver carbon-free cities.
To support residents, cities need to create new systems that are adaptable, respond effectively to different demands and deliver flexible solutions.
“It can be done but is going to require a significant shift in attitudes”
Paul Voss, Managing Director at Euroheat & Power
Most cities currently focus on their day-to-day running, ensuring that they deliver essential services for residents. Instead cities will need to focus on the long-term as residents begin to judge cities and authorities on their sustainability credentials. Cities need to begin to consider energy as a strategic asset and how it can support them to achieve their long-term goals.
We can work with cities to install electric vehicle charging points throughout a city, supporting residents to go electric through easy access to public charge points, particularly for those who don’t have off-street parking. We can provide the technology for cities to generate their own energy through solar panels and utilising battery storage. Cities can create a flexible and reliable renewable energy supply for their residents – storing excess energy for when it is needed and reducing reliance on the grid.
“Cities are a catalyst for talent. Cities have the best brains from around the world”
The cities that go first will create a blueprint, one that is likely to be used by many more cities serious about reducing their carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
But they can’t do it on their own. Cities will not achieve their net-zero carbon emissions targets without support from national government. And the UK Government needs to increase funding to support the growth of carbon-free cities in order to hit its own net-zero target. We need regulation and legislation so that decarbonisation becomes standard, normal practice.