Make your city more liveable and sustainable: Ask, learn and share about energy, ICT and mobility!

SCIS Podcast Episode 4: Vision

  • Filesize: 30.51 MB
Friday, November 2, 2018

Anthony Colclough: Hello and welcome to Urban Reverb from I’m Anthony Colclough. Today, we're hearing from three cities involved in large-scale projects. Brussels, where the CIVIC project is reducing congestion and pollution by harmonising construction site logistics…

Tom Van Lier: Who is the actual problem owner? You don’t find anybody. Nobody says they own the problem.

AC: San Sebastian, where the REPLICATE project is putting millions into building retrofit, district heating, electric mobility and digital infrastructure…

Nora Mendoza: But let’s define what we’re going to be together. What we see when we talk together is that all of us have similar barriers.

AC: And Cesena where the INSMART project is putting together a comprehensive model for enhancing sustainable planning by addressing energy flows across the whole city…

Sofia Burioli: Try to change the political behaviour of our councillors, it was the main challenge.

AC: Each person I spoke to gave me the same three main ingredients for the secret sauce of success:

  • One, listen to and work together with everyone who will be affected by the project.
  • Two, bring different departments together to work holistically towards your goals.
  • And number three, above all, is vision. [BRUSSELS 2]

TVL: You need a vision.

AC: A vision.

NM: Vision.

Mariah Carrey: A vision of love.

AC: Well, a vision of the future. Let's start in Brussels. As our cities grow, cranes raise their necks against the skyline, and armies of trucks, machines, scaffolding and roadblocks are unleashed.

TVL: The amount of vans that are related to construction sites, there is no idea, but they are huge. It’s all these electrician people, all these… they all go with their small vans, their own material, they drive to the construction site. I think the amount of movements is incredible. In China, they say, ‘okay we want to make a tramline we're gonna stop everything for three months, we will build it as fast as we can and then we will reopen everything.’ But here Belgium the idea is, during the whole works, people should be able to drive in both ways on the street, so it will take much more time, you will have a lot of congestion nobody will be happy. So we were thinking, there should be potential for improvement.

AC: They began with a special software, in combination with field research, to map stakeholders and their preferences.

TVL: We use a methodology that's called MEMCA. It’s multi-actor-multi-criteria-analysis. The thing that this methodology focuses on is identifying which are the different stakeholders and what are the different criteria to see if you propose different alternatives, how will these different alternatives score on the criteria of the different stakeholders. So you will almost never have a solution that scores highest for all the criteria of all the stakeholders. But we wanted to develop this further. With construction projects, the size and the amount of stakeholders is getting difficult to manage. Even within stakeholder groups we have to be very careful, because if you look at the stakeholder group ‘society’, who are these citizens? And which citizens to involve and how can we make this representative? People will come but are they representative for all the people in that area? No, those are often the people that are the loudest, or they have a certain interest, or that are the shopkeepers. And to have a representative sample of the opinions, that that's really a tricky thing. You can go to all the houses in send a letter and try to contact them and even call. But then you have a lot of other people that are involved that are even more difficult to contact, and those are the ones that are passing by. We went on location to interview the bicycle, the pedestrians and some of the car users even they parked to see what they found that the impact was. Because these might be people that don’t realy live in the neighbourhood but they have to pass there. Getting this public participation it’s an important, and it’s essential. But you have to be careful that you don’t take your conclusions only based on that sample that is proclaiming their opinion. I think you sometimes have to go deeper.

AC: As in so many projects, CIVIC has a horror story about failure to enter dialogue with citizens.

TVL: The tramline extension in Woluwe was blocked because one of the inhabitants went to the Raad van State which is the highest legal organ.

AC: This guy had gone several times to those responsible for the new tramline, but they’d refused to engage with his concerns.

TVL: He just wanted to have one stop of the tram in another way that it was safer for the pedestrians. So it was just a very simple adjustment to the plants. In the end, the works had to stop for six months.

AC: In San Sebastian where the whole city was getting a dramatic makeover, getting stakeholders together was an equally vital first step.

NM: Our vision is to improve the living standards in Europe showing the impact of innovative technology on the creation of a smart city services and finding optimal processes to replicate success in cities and across cities. We think the communication and the collaboration is crucial and to take into account the different types of stakeholders from the planning phase will solve all the process a lot, because they will believe in the project. They will be part of the definition of the project so they will be willing to take part of the implementation.

AC: This includes residents and private actors, but also different municipal departments and other public bodies and levels of government.

NM: To define the smart city plan we invited citizens, industry, local companies, also public side, municipality departments, also regional entities, public entities, public bodies, universities and research centres. So we defined the smart city plan from a holistic view. The complete city was the goal: How to make a common and shared strategy, first analysing what were the already existing plans in the city, because maybe we were working a bit like siloes in the different departments. So to share all this experience, to share it also with the private side and also academic, research and citizens. Let’s define what we are going to be, together.

AC: Coming together with stakeholders and bringing together municipal departments doesn’t have to be an event. It should be a way of working and organising your city.

NM: In Fomento San Sebastián we are in local clusters, also one of them is a ‘smart cluster’ so there we have also companies, public and private entities, research centres, universities.

AC: Inspiring different actors with a smart city vision helps innovation become contagious, so that even more projects, big and small, keep popping up.

NM: REPLICATE project would be like a top-down project, but then we have others like bottom-up. ‘Smartkalea’ means ‘smart street’, we’ve got another project, it’s also available information on our website.  So we started working on one really narrow touristic small street in the old part of the city, and we are replicating it in other streets of the city. It’s another type of project, completely different, going from a really small street becoming bigger. So European projects like REPLICATE have given us the chance to have some budget and some structure to really share our experience and methodologies and to have also the chance to do work with other European cities implementing, mentoring, learning from each other. For us it’s like a really good combination and a way to go faster in this transformation.

AC: And you'll never guess what Cesena began with when they were endeavouring to rejig their energy systems city-wide.

SB: we start a long process of the stakeholder engagement at different levels. So we work with the municipalities with the technicians, with the politicians and the University of Architects and Engineering and some public utilities that manage, for example, water, energy, waste between the city. And during this process of the engagement, at the end, they voted for these scenarios using different indicators, for example the economical feasibility, the co2 emission decrease. So they use their different professionalities, put together, to evaluate these scenarios that is the the the most interesting part.

AC: Not all stakeholders are immediately willing to be part of the process. In Cesena, a little sweat had to be shed to get data from companies running public services.

SB: For our city it was really the first time we did this type of work with the stakeholder and the politicians and it was a little bit time-consuming difficult challenging but finally we reached the point. The main challenges, in our in our case, was to involve some local stakeholders, in particular the public service managers of waste, water, public lighting. Public service are externalised, so the municipality in some cases can’t control the energy flows and the data. The critical issue is try to convince them to give us the information and to involve them. All the these public services are managed by private companies, so for us it was a challenge, but also an opportunity to underline the rule of the municipality as the key stakeholder. But to do this you need the political commitment, so our councillor wrote a lot of letters to the director to but it was, yeah, interesting. This is, I think, the main issue. The other issue is that sometimes was difficult, at the beginning, to explain the approach, the methodology, to the politician because cities are often forced to plan on a short period due to the few economic resources or legislation that are restrictive. So define these scenarios and think up 2030 is not simple form for a municipality.

AC: As I’ve already emphasised, bringing stakeholders together with the city isn't enough - you also need to bring together stakeholders within the city. That means opening up communication between different departments, breaking up the silos in local government and creating a unified front.

SB: Try to start from an internal organisation and the political commitment. The way is to try to think in a more interdisciplinary way. To organise the urban context we need internally to talk more. I suggest to start to work with politicians and establish the working group and then try to speak with, the public service, the private company. It would be very challenging but it's a starting point. So now we have three municipal sector that before the project they can’t speak. So we facilitate also the data exchange, the share of data. They know each other. It’s quite simple, it sounds simple, maybe, but for a municipality and furthermore in this type of topic, it was very interesting and useful. And I think this is the main innovative and interesting thing of this project. That was very innovative for this type of approach. That needs the strict collaboration between different municipal departments. So we formally decided to set this working group that was composed by the environment sector, the mobility sector, the urban planning sector and our in-house society that is called Energia per la Città that is our technical part for the energy services in public buildings.

AC: To rally support around their vision, and get commitment to long term planning, Cesena became a signatory of something called the Covenant of Mayors.

SB: We signed the new Covenant of Mayors for Climate in 2016, at the end of the in smart project, and now we are using the data and the approach for the new plan on climate.

AC: But why would a politician create risks for themselves by committing to ambitious future goals?

SB: It's a very difficult question. I think we need some brave politician in this word, in this topic, depending from the politician, from the politics the city wants to go on. And I think that under the number, and the percentage, there are measures. And small measures, put together in an organised way, it's a good way to try to reach to reach the point. So maybe, I don't know, I'm… it's difficult to… Yeah, I'm not a politician, I'm a technician but, yeah [laughs]. But try because it's, it's an interesting exercise to know the different points, the different approaches of your colleague at work.

AC: Speaking of colleagues at work, it occurred to me that the Covenant of Mayors 2030, is run from a few doors down the hall, here in the EUROCITIES office. I skipped down the corridor to get some insight from Claire Baffert, a driving force behind the Covenant of Mayors happen, about why a city might choose to commit to targets like those the covenant lays out.

So, the question that I was asking this person just now actually was, ‘why would a city want to make a commitment to these very ambitious goals?’ I mean, are they kind of setting themselves up? I mean, why make commitments that you don’t have to make?

Claire Baffert: I think cities are conscious that they need to do that in order to face the challenges that they will have to face in the future. So, for instance, when it comes to adapting to climate change, I think we have seen, especially this summer, that there is more and more drought, a lack of water, and heatwaves. And these problems won’t stop in the future, they will just get worse and worse. So I think they are conscious that they need to prepare for those circumstances, and then taking those goals promoted by the Covenant of Mayors, adapting to climate change, but also, on the mitigation side, reducing their CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030, it really helps them to set an agenda for the next years, and to show their citizens, and their administration, that they are taking action to protect the citizens, ultimately, and to prepare for a better future.

AC: And what is this Climate Action Plan?

CB: So it’s an action plan that shows what type of actions they will implement to reach the targets that I mentioned. For instance, in mitigation there are two sectors that are mandatory, where they need to choose specific actions and implement them: it’s transport and it’s building. They can add other sectors where they want to add and so they will, in the plan, outline the kind of measures they want to take in those sectors.

AC: So they are to a very large extent the author of the kind of changes they want to make and the degree of change. They just have this kind of target that they have to hit in the end, any way they want.

CB: Exactly. The actions are completely up to them, they are completely free to choose the kind of actions. The only framework that the Covenant of Mayors gives is those targets they need to achieve by 2030.

AC: And what has been the feedback? I mean, there are a lot of mayors on board I think, have people told you that this is really helping in their city,  or have they said ‘why did we ever sign that document?’ Or…

CB: No, I think the feedback is in general positive because it helps them also to plan the action forward and to have a goal and set an agenda for the next years. And also having this quantitative assessment of how much they emit, it also helps them to realise the consequences of their actions. So it’s really a policy and planning tool for them. And also, being part of the Covenant is also helping them to network with other cities, and to get inspired by what other cities are doing.

AC: I also had the feeling from this person I was talking to that it was helpful in bringing together kind of siloed groups within the city to try and unite them into a vision. Is that a component?

CB: Indeed, that’s completely true. Especially when it comes to smart cities, it helps the cities bring together different departments inside the city administration, but also different stakeholders that would otherwise not talk to each other, and it also helps to involve the industry in the city planning, so definitely.

AC: Super. And final question: we know that nations are struggling to deal with climate change, that there is the Parris Accord and etc. and there are these national goals being set. Why should cities go above and beyond those goals that are set nationally?

CB: Probably it’s easier at a city level to reduce the emissions, because there are a lot of things you can do inside the city, on transport, on buildings, that are really local actions and that are easier to do at the local scale than on the national scale. And I think that cities and mayors are really conscious on the local impacts of climate.

AC: And so, just, actually, one final, one more final question. So, from a policy point of view, given the changes that cities are capable of making, are there and changes that could or should be made to empower cities more to take over these changes?

CB: Yes, so, for instance in the new Governance of the Energy Union that was decided at EU level a couple of months ago, member states will have to draw national climate plans. And it’s very important and helpful for cities that local authorities are involved in the setting of those national goals and the making of those national plans. Because then cities can really transfer their efforts to the national level and collaborate with national governments, and be part of that game.

AC: Okay, fantastic Claire, thank you so much.

CB: Thank you.

AC: Oh, I didn’t get you introducing yourself. Can you just quickly tell us who you are and what you do?

CB: Sure, so I’m a project coordinator in EUROCITIES and I’m responsible for the Covenant of Mayors initiative.

AC: And your name?

CB: Claire Baffert. [laughs] Do you want to do that again?

AC: In future episodes, we’ll here more from Tom Van Lier on CIVIC’s plans for streamlined construction logistics in Brussels; from Nora Mendoza on Fomento San Sebastián’s transformation into a nearly zero emissions district through REPLICATE; and Sofia Burioli, on the leaps and bounds that Cesena has made in enhancing sustainable planning as part of InSmart. If you’re impatient to get more details, you can find links to each of these projects at the SCIS, Thanks for listening.


Civic project:

Replicate project:

InSmart project: