11.04.2014

Innovation, collaboration and their citizens make cities smart

Set amidst the premise of promoting dialogue between cities and companies, the Global Town Hall 2014 brought to the forefront the need for collaboration, innovation and citizen participation.

 

The ICLEI Global Town Hall 2014 at the Metropolitan Solutions trade show in Hannover, Germany came to an end today. Set amidst the premise of promoting dialogue between cities and companies, the Global Town Hall 2014 brought to the forefront the need for collaboration among not just businesses and cities but all stakeholders. Participants asked, answered and explored the challenges and solutions of sustainable development, both on and off the stage.

A smart city is not just smart technology. “A smart city is a city which can provide- with fewer resources- more efficiency, more services for its citizens and a higher quality of life in a rapidly urbanizing world,” says, Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. As cities move towards becoming smart cities intricacies of networking, involvement and innovation become a reality. “It has become obvious that we need much more interconnectivity and interaction of all responsibilities within a city and also within businesses to work towards creating smart cities,” says Monika Zimmermann, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI. Solutions no longer work in a bubble, a city’s needs are never singular and therefore solutions cannot be limited to one sphere.

The popular themes explored at the Global Town Hall 2014 were Urban EcoMobility, Low Carbon Cities and Smart Cities. The growing popularities of these themes were evident in the presentations made by cities such as Munster, Germany, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Seoul, South Korea. City participation was high with cities already on the path of sustainable development and many others who are just starting their journey such as Rajkot, India, Balikapapan, Indonesia, KwaDukuza, South Africa, Fortaleza, Brazil and Recife, Brazil. Cities are working hard towards adapting and mitigating carbon emissions and in this endeavor are looking to simple solutions such as educating citizens to turn off their lights, urban gardening and cycling to work to more complex solutions of retrofitting buildings, installing green building codes, green sustainable procurement and building infrastructure to support urban mobility.

The growing participation and attendance at the ICLEI Global Town Hall’s back to back sessions exploring important dimensions of sustainable urban development and businesses providing solutions demonstrated that the need for interaction and cooperation is very strong. Stronger yet is the need for stakeholder involvement from the grassroots phase of sustainable development. Academics, science, national institutions and especially citizens need to be enthusiastic about the future of their cities. Alexandra van Huffelen, Vice Mayor of Rotterdam and ICLEI Global Executive Committee Member says, “The cities that are fighting climate change and mitigation are the cities where people are sitting together (transport, businesses, buildings, governments, academics) and working with each other towards finding solutions. You need to get out of your box and think ambitious targets!

Cities and businesses can individually create projections, form action plans and even work towards implementation but unless they involve their citizens they can never truly be sustainable. As Hans-Jochen Schneider, CEO, EnergieCity Leipzig said, “Smart cities need smart citizens!”

 

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