HEC4Climate: the Challenges of the Sustainable Cities
The “The 2°C Challenge, Climate is our Business” event – coorganized by HEC Paris, its SnO Center and HEC Alumni – took place on October 1st 2015. It brought students, professors, alumni, and HEC partner companies together to our campus. Within the framework of the event HEC4Climate, the Sustainable Cities workshop aimed to create awareness of the existing challenges and present solutions been currently implemented in the different sectors.
As populations continue to grow in urban areas all around the world, cities have become home to both challenges and opportunities: they can play an important role in the climate change mitigation and CO2 emissions reduction, lead the sharing economy movement and offer high-life quality to more than 60% of the world´s urban population by 2030. What path should we follow? How can a city become “sustainable”? Are there current initiatives being developed?
The workshop was moderated by Hélène Le Teno, director of the enterprise division in Auxilia Conseil and was nurtured by the following experts: Raphael Menard, General Manager of urban modeling at Elioth; Jean-Michel Tiberil, Director at Veolia; David Brusselle, Financial Director at the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie Région Nord de France; Louis Albert De Broglie, President of Fermes d’Avenir, french association engaged with the promotion of agriculture and permaculture and Thimoteo Marquez, current MBA student at HEC. Jean-Michel Tiberi shed new light to on determining the key drivers of sustainable cities, which should be resilient, smart (offering digital solutions), inclusive, livable and promoting a circular economy. Tiberi focused on the concepts of circular economy and resilience; highlighting the preponderance those topics have at Veolia. The premise of a circular economy is to convert one person’s waste automatically into one person’s resource. The concept is more clear when it comes to energy efficiency, waste management and water use.
On the other hand, a resilient city is a flexible and progressive city that can adapt and recover easily from physical disasters and social and economical changes. Resilience relies on four aspects: infrastructure and environment; leadership and strategy; health and wellbeing; and economy and society. A comprehensive governance ecosystem that interconnects different systems (infrastructure, social development and resource management) is the key to a sustainable city. And if anybody considers this as an utopia, the 101 Resilient City Network initiative, handled between Veolia and Rockefeller Foundation, is proof of how NGO-private-public partnerships are making possible the transition towards more resilient, and thus more sustainable cities.
Moving forward, David Brusselle spoke about the Third Industrial Revolution program in the Nord de France region, launched by the CCIR in 2013, inspired by and with the support of Jeremy Rifkin, the creator of this movement. The mission of the project is to offer new business models based on a post-carbon economy. Under this project, more than 30% of companies are working in a collaborative, sharing and circular economy in France and are being provided with financial help, through the organization of meetings with bankers and investors. This is a remarkable example of how the public sector can engage with enterprises to promote circular economy business at the local-city level.
Louis Albert De Broglie, President of Fermes d’Avenir spoke about how agriculture is also a driver of sustainability in the cities. Today, 127 billion euros is the cost of saving people from diseases in urban areas and food has the capacity to enable people be healthy and live in peace. Migrants coming to Europe are not only in search of peace in terms of politics, but also in terms of of climate change. GHG emissions in the agriculture sector are one of the main causes of climate change (21% of CO2 emissions comes from agriculture), a problem that should be tackled with a green economy-based agriculture that can also take place in the cities. The challenge is to de-carbonate agriculture, reproducing 19th-century practices of agriculture in cities so that they become self-sufficient. Political engagement is crucial to achieve this objective: “The farmers of tomorrow are engineers, bankers and political actors that can understand that working towards this goal is the future” concluded De Broglie, reminding the audience the power of micro-farming and that “Small is Beautiful”.
As a final contribution, Thimoteo Marquez presented the impact of social and cultural behaviors of communities. In this sense, he demonstrated the results of an isolation system implemented in subsidized, low-cost houses to improve energy efficiency in Chile. He showed how beneficiaries were not decreasing their energy consumption after trying to further increase their houses´ temperature above the “comfort” degrees previously determined. This example questions how innovative models for sustainability rely on theories and equations but don’t give the necessary sense of importance to the user, which encourages us to adapt to cultural and social behaviors.
What can be concluded from this workshop? Sustainable cities are not a utopia anymore. Projects in France and other countries show that the commitment of public agencies, civil society and the private sector is rising. The circular economy is a principal concept in the agenda to create zero waste and agriculture and micro-farming in cities could lead to a paradigmatic shift and help with the reduction of GHG emissions.
The main challenges of this city-revolution are how to attain political engagement and the change of culture to citizens. Efforts must be focused on facilitating partnerships, governmental commitment and educating society about the need for a more conscious consumption. Finally, one could ask: are big cities able to become sustainable? Or is it just small or new urban areas that can actually become sustainable? Towns in Scandinavia have proven to be examples of low-environmental impact, having remarkable waste management, water use, transport systems and energy efficiency. But what about big cities in developing countries? A look into experimentations in South Africa and South East Indian cities keep us hopeful, as changes towards fair economy practices, responsible production and consumption are beginning to take place.
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