Nov 10, 2021
On 8th September 2021 a workshop on the subject of “Climate-neutral cities” took place as part of REAL CORP conference 2021. The focus was set on the exchange of approaches in urban planning practice and research to achieve climate neutrality by 2040.
The innovation potential in urban areas is great and diverse. How these innovations can contribute to climate goals was at the core of the workshop. The aim of exchange of national and international good practice was to inspire and stimulate interdisciplinary exchange.
In the first session, the international front-runner cities Leuven and Malmö met with the Austrian representatives Graz and Vienna. The focus of the discussion was the decision-making mechanisms and types of stakeholder involvement that city administrations can use to stabilise ambition to decarbonise all sectors of a city and become more inclusive and attractive at the same time.
Katrien Rycken, director of the innovative process "Leuven 2030", presented the measures taken by Leuven by which the Belgian city has succeeded in setting up an ambitious and inclusive process. This process aims at advancing sustainability through joint action of administration, university, companies and civil society. Building on trust in coordinating and distributing responsibility in the local community, "Leuven 2030" strives to "not only do what is possible, but do what is necessary"2, as Rycken emphasises.
In the project "KING – Climate Innovation City Graz", presented by Doris Wiederwald from Graz Energy Agency, the measures of the local climate protection plan are transferred to and implemented in the Reininghaus district. Starting in this test area, the city of Graz means to learn how city administration and municipal companies of Graz can become climate-neutral as quickly as possible and find ways to transfer these experiences to all other districts of the city in the future.
The Swedish city of Malmö was represented by Jonas Kamleh, urban climate strategist. With his team of 50 people, he has been working for many years on building strategies, partnerships and means of funding and measures to achieve urban climate neutrality. With this experience and the existing capacities, Malmö builds on agile strategies, periodically revisiting their development path, in order to accelerate the pace of on-going learning processes. Furthermore, Malmö city administration is pioneering the area of data collection and processing and is thus able to pursue its path to climate neutrality by 2030 effectively.
Eva Pangerl, project planner in the Urban Development Department of the City of Vienna, brought the "Fit4WienerMission" innovation project to the conference. Starting from the local Smart City Framework Strategy, Vienna trusts its implementation experience on the district level (including approaches such as the "Supergrätzel") as well as expertise stemming from science, in form of the Climate Council, and its activities involving civil society, for example by implementing citizen budgets.
In the second workshop, leaders of recent scientific projects dealt with the question of how to detect and actively support change towards a climate-neutral city through research methods. Barbara Laa, from Vienna University of Technology, examined how initiatives from civil society can bring the topic of mobility transition from niches to societal mainstream and which barriers have to be overcome on the way in the project "CHANGE! Mobility change in the minds". Jennifer Fauster took a close look at the Smart City discourse in Graz and underlined the importance of urban mix of uses, qualitative density and the central notion of system boundaries. In the study "Together we are stronger", Florian Reinwald analysed the challenges of the Vienna metropolitan region in the process of developing a joint strategy for adapting to climate change. Coordination through an umbrella organisation was seen as essential, as it brings municipalities, planning agencies and representatives of all sectors to one table. Michael Giesch, University of Graz, presented the experiences of the project "Pop-up Piazza". Using approaches from tactical urbanism, simple, inexpensive and experimental prototypes were developed for transforming streets temporarily as meeting areas.
Finally, the participants brought forward the relevance of the quick test cycles for improving measures. Similarly, innovative methods were deemed essential for involving all relevant local actors in order to be able to put bold strategies into practice.