Kirsten Dunlop, Climate-KIC CEO issued a wake up call at the Climate-KIC conference “Towards a Zero Carbon Economy by 2030″ in Malta last month. “The urgency to change our behaviour to limit climate change has never been higher than today. The next 30 years are about do or die,” she said, adding that “decisions on how to tackle environmental challenges will have to be taken and turned into action within the coming five years.”
With a lack of global governance and “too many institutions still in denial”, cities are increasingly stepping up to lead on climate change projects where country governments have failed so far, Dunlop told 200 delegates at the Old University in Valetta.
She urged Malta and its capital Valetta to continue its ambitious efforts and to become a “living research hub with a strong value proposition for the rest of Europe if not for the whole world”.
The conference hosts — Climate-KIC, its Maltese partner Paragon Europe, and the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change of Malta — responded to Dunlop’s appeal by presenting the first draft of a Valetta Declaration binding generations to come to create the world’s first zero-carbon economy in the Mediterranean by 2030.
Dr. Anton Theuma, Paragon Europe CEO, set the tone for the conference’s workshops: “We need to look at the challenges as a jigsaw. Only trying to solve one aspect won’t help us, we need to bring all experts around the table to achieve sustainability.”
Theuma invited attendees to help find specific solutions for the key themes of the event: Green urban centres — urban mobility and sustainable buildings in smart districts; circular economy — waste management in the HORECA sector; water management in agriculture; and Green Finance — financing green projects for municipalities and businesses.
Climate-KIC’s Smart Sustainable Districts Programme Manager, Tim Taylor, encouraged the audience to develop sustainability initiatives on a district level rather than city to help avoid over-complexity and as a result the slowing down or failure of projects: “The complexity of districts can be managed much better.”
Taylor and his colleague, Christoph Mazur, Smart Sustainable Districts Service Lead at Climate-KIC, emphasised the importance of winning over stakeholders to get involved by looking at the opportunities rather than only addressing the stakeholder’s duties.
Čedo Maksimović, Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering at London’s Imperial College, who led the Climate-KIC supported project Blue Green Solutions, underlined the added benefits of collaboration: “Blue green solutions can be profitable for every single stakeholder, financially and in every other aspect.”
Keith Budden, Head of Business Development at CENEX, used the public debate around air quality as an example for the need to bring all experts together to tackle the challenge from all angles while Leonardo Rosado, Professor at Chalmers University of Technology, pointed out that it was important to analyse the effect of new measures on other measures to prevent negative consequences.
All panel members agreed that leadership and a mix of incentives and penalties were key success factors for sustainability projects. Giving a voice to communities via Citizen boards, getting the mayor to spearhead projects or nominating a project champion were some of the ideas coming from the panel with Maksimović stressing that the biggest incentives for many stakeholders were to achieve cost savings and boost economic growth.
Eighteen months after representatives from 200 countries met in Paris to make a global agreement on how to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the severely damaging effects of climate change, Joanna Drake, Deputy Director-General in charge of Coordination of Resource-efficiency policies and instruments in DG Environment, sent a powerful message to Valetta: “We stand to Paris, and we will deliver Paris.”
Drake pointed out that there is sufficient proof that climate change programmes boost economic growth. She reiterated one of the key points raised during the conference, saying that cities have a major role to play influencing the behaviours of their citizens as well as working towards a better quality of life for everyone by introducing circular economies.
by Daniela Schwartz, communications consultant Smart Sustainable Districts, Climate-KIC
Towards a Zero Carbon Economy Beyond 2030 – Sustainable Urban Centres took place in Malta on 29 May 2017, focusing on the Valletta Declaration.