INOGOV Workshop – October, 2014, Milan

Edoardo Croci, Bocconi University, Milan

Cities and urban areas are the places where more than half of the world population and around 75% of the European population lives (UN DESA, 2014). Cities are relevant consumers of resources and materials (UNEP, 2012), and their environmental impacts and externalities are being evaluated by several studies, but cities are also seen as labs for experimenting sustainable policies, lifestyles and innovations. City governments worldwide are increasingly committed to climate change mitigation and sustainability goals.

In this context, the “Low Carbon City” and the “Smart City” concepts are increasingly used by policy makers, practitioners and the media. Research on governance models, their policies and results, in the context of low carbon and smart cities focuses on this important issue. These topics were discussed on 20-21 October 2014 at Bocconi University (Milan, Italy), during a scientific workshop on “Innovation in Assessing and Governing Low Carbon and Smart Cities”. Jointly organized by IEFE, Bocconi’s research centre specialized on energy and environmental policy, and by the Institute for Energy and Transport (IET) of the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, with the support of the INOGOV COST Action, the workshop was an occasion to convey experts from international organizations, universities and research centres, as well as representatives from the EU, national and local governments, to share views on the most innovative methodologies and policies to integrate the low carbon and smart dimensions in European cities.

The workshop was organized in sessions reflecting four key issues regarding low carbon and smart cities: (i) monitoring, measuring and benchmarking; (ii) standards and protocols; (iii) governance innovations; (iv) financing.

In the monitoring, measuring and benchmarking session, definitions of low carbon and smart cities were discussed; initiatives to measure and account for cities’ low carbon and smart performances were presented, as well as the implementation of monitoring frameworks and smart city visions in European cities. The discussions highlighted relevant synergies between low carbon and smart cities, regarding goals, governance and metrics, which need to be better analysed and investigated. The discussion also highlighted a need for integrated monitoring systems, to account for results achieved by low carbon and smart cities initiatives.

In the standards and protocols session, several standardization activities on urban indicators were presented. The discussion highlighted the need to standardize the elements, accounting rules and the “object” of discussion itself, in particular the smart city.  Furthermore, a need for integration among standards was highlighted, since several organizations are working on different frameworks.

In the governance innovations session, climate governance approaches at different scales were addressed, from global to national, regional, local and multi-level. A wider integration of European policies that regard cities (energy, resource efficiency, mobility, innovation) was called upon, as well as more integration between local policy dimensions, that can contribute to achieving low carbon and smart city goals.

The last session regarded the financing aspects underlying sustainable energy and smart city plans and city actions, with examples of funds use and innovative forms of financing.  A key aspect highlighted by participants was the access to finance, since there is a pressing need to attract private investments to finance these projects.

Finally, a need to highlight, evaluate and communicate to citizens and stakeholders the relevance of benefits and co-benefits of cities’ low carbon and smart city plans and actions was advocated, and will constitute a key further area of investigation for researchers in incoming years.

References

UN DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) (2014), “UN world urbanization prospects: The 2014 revision”. http://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/CD-ROM/Default.aspx

UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) (2012), “Sustainable, Resource Efficient Cities – Making it Happen”. http://www.unep.org/urban_environment/PDFs/SustainableResourceEfficientCities.pdf

Photo credit: sookie/Flickr

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