How to move forward towards Carbon Neutrality

Signals are coming at us from left, right and center: when it comes to climate change, we need to act NOW. But where do we start? And which way should we go? City-zen offers possible avenues for exploration. For example, the energy transition roadmap for the municipality of Amsterdam (exemplified in detail for two neighborhoods) that can function as a template for other metropolitan areas. Or the City-zen Roadshows in which City-zen experts and representatives travel to European cities and organize workshops involving (local) government, knowledge institutions and citizens. During City-zen Days Amsterdam, both items were prominently featured.

Citizens: Key to Carbon Neutrality

Andy van den Dobbelsteen of the Delft University of Technology identified the technical challenges for the future and, after having briefly touched upon the City-zen Urban Energy Transition Methodology, showed the results of the City-zen Roadshow that took place in Preston (UK) last November. As the conference took place in Amsterdam, Andy then proceeded to look at the Roadmap for Amsterdam and the city’s energy transition towards achieving the Paris Agreement.

A pre-study, Andy explained, indicated that an important part of Amsterdam’s existing built environment simply offers insufficient ways to generate enough (renewable) energy to meet its future demands. However, the study also emphasized that it is the existing built environment that needs to adapt itself – new buildings will not necessarily solve Amsterdam’s energy problem. The Roadmap takes center stage in the methodology. But what is the key to being able to follow the proposed Roadmap? Relating the challenge to citizens. Positivity, Andy said, is key to a successful transition as it is far easier to form a negative outlook based on the scarcity of resources and consequent necessity for demand reduction. By focusing on feasible solutions in neighborhoods, the transition not only becomes tangible but also desirable for the citizens we are so eager to reach and mobilize.

© brenda de vries 2019

Holistic Design: Cities are Ecological in Make-Up

Instead of taking the City-zen Urban Energy Transition Methodology as a starting point, Greg Keeffe of Queen’s University of Belfast provided a holistic view and immediately called for no less than a “total revolution”! Re-framing the challenge, he suggested we should stop thinking of the cost of doing it and start becoming aware of the cost of NOT doing it. Cities should become “living entities”, he argued, where people are encouraged to use the urban environment in ways we suggest to them.

Taking examples from the Roeselare (BE), Preston (UK) and Menorca (SP) Roadshows, Greg postulated that productive cities are not about technology but rather about the space technology creates – thus, cities can become place where people make energy, produce food, and take time to enjoy living. Urban resilience, he said, can be created by holistic design. Cities are site-specific, interlinked economic, social and environmental systems. And again, key to successful urban design is that the result of the design should meet the demands of the citizens involved. A rather inspiring and hopeful message indeed.

© brenda de vries 2019

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  • The Project

    A city operating entirely on clean energy. In theory, it's possible. But in real life? How to integrate new solutions in existing buildings, systems and people's lives? What are the technical, economic or social barriers? And how to overcome these? That's what we learn by doing in 20 projects in Grenoble and Amsterdam.

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  • Expected Impacts

    • 20 innovations in Grenoble & Amsterdam
    • 35,000 tonnes CO2 saved per year
    • 76,000 m² renovated residential buildings
    • 10,000 dwellings connected to a Smart Grid