This article was contributed by Ruba Hajj of FCC partner Creative Districts
The European Tech for Climate Action conference was held in Brussels on the 27th of October 2022 and was an opportunity to exchange ideas with professionals and policymakers working on climate change projects and a chance to present and discuss the FCC project with participants and attendees. The conference convened a range of city, member state and EU stakeholders, national and international businesses, start-ups, and procurement professionals to debate the harnessing of the knowledge, technology and financial resources to enable a greener, smarter and more resilient Europe. The main themes discussed in the conference were the following:
- Future Networks and Enabling Technologies
- City and Member State efforts to support EU climate objectives
- Climate Action Leadership in Business and Government
- Funding the EU’s Climate Goals
This article will summarize the main takeaways from a session of this conference centered around Climate Action Leadership in Europe that explored the work completed to date by both tech companies and European governments and cities. The session featured speakers from different backgrounds including city representatives from Brussels and Ukraine, industry representatives from Google and Brussels Airport as well as representation from the EU Mission on Adaptation to Climate Change (European Commission).
Based on the themes discussed during this session, it is important to highlight the critical role of cities in achieving sustainability despite being high producers of emissions. Cities in Europe are all aiming toward carbon neutrality and trying to utilize their resources and energy toward solutions for this goal. As highlighted by the deputy mayor of the city of Lviv, Ukraine – ‘there is no better time for a change than right now’. However, change is not achieved without partnership and cooperation among all stakeholders, which is a point that was unanimously agreed upon by all participants. It is critical to achieve the buy-in and commitment of all sectors as well as the community in order to bring about change. It is also necessary to create an enabling environment to push people toward climate-friendly habits which is the main objective for European cities. Cities and the public sector in general play a major role in accelerating the climate change transition by setting clear frameworks and objectives; for example, the Brussels-Region’s goal is to reduce its emissions by 47% by the year 2023. These frameworks also need to be leveraged into climate laws to align policies towards achieving them. Secondly, public sector actors must be innovative in terms of social practices and involvement of stakeholders as well as in the manner with which they put their words into action.
Innovation is key across all sectors, and it is crucial in accelerating commitment towards achieving net-zero cities. From flights powered by electric batteries and hydrogen to all-pedestrian zones and zero-emission areas, all these visions for the future require innovative approaches but most importantly partnership and collaboration among all stakeholders. The role of technology is also essential in providing cities with data that supports their climate change mitigation efforts. In the case of Google, their Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) solution provides emissions geodata to cities in order to help them measure their baseline emissions and track the progress of their policies. Data for 40,000 cities is contained in this solution to date and it is constantly being updated to include more regions, providing cities with support that reduces the barriers of time, costs and resources. Other solutions include the creation of virtual twin cities to stimulate the future of climate-friendly and net-zero carbon cities. In this manner, technology can be used to adapt but also to support the formulation and solidification of mitigation plans against future crises. On the other hand, while technology plays a major role towards achieving tangible change, it is also increasingly important to look toward nature for solutions around climate change. As the Head of Unit of the Climate & Planetary Boundaries in the EC mentioned: ‘The perfect technology is nature and nature-based solutions are key towards mitigation and adaptation.’
Many challenges still exist in the face of climate change mitigation, but innovation and partnership remain the key themes highlighted by all stakeholders. The sharing of lessons learned and good practices across sectors is critical to contribute towards accelerating this transition. Creative District and its partner in the FCC project operate under these themes as main pillars to reach their objectives in supporting stakeholders on the ground to reach their climate goals and bring about change to accelerate the transition toward carbon neutrality and sustainability.