19 March 2005

19/03/05. The Kyoto World Cities Challenge: What sets this effort apart?

Editors note: As we push hard in our world wide outreach program to do what we can to make the Kyoto project better known and in the search for people, groups and cities with whom we might be able to work in order to advance the sustainability agenda and specifically in the areas that we have chose to bite off here, we often run into steely eyes that tell us or imply that our presence is not perhaps such a good idea. That others are working on it and that we would do better to put aside this particular effort and let them get on with the challenge in their own ways. These are tough massages, and like all challenges can serve as good reminders which we should be able to deal with here. The following short section has been compiled in an attempt to lay a basis for more collegial and cooperative discussions.

The Kyoto World Cities Challenge: What sets this effort apart?

This is a question which we are often asked, not least by people and groups with projects and programs of their own in one or more of the areas which we are trying to address here. They of course have their own ideas and priorities. All to the good in an area of technology and society that desperately requires many different effort and approaches.

There of course is a great deal that is going on in this broad area today. And if you require a reminder we can point you to our World Resource Inventory here which already identifies more than six hundred groups, projects and programs that are working on it, each in their own way, in their own target area, with their own time focus, with their own tools and goals. And resources to do the job.

Certainly no one thing is unique about the Kyoto World Cities Challenge, but perhaps the combination of a certain number of explicit goals and methods which together give this program a certain originality which permit it to be evaluate and judged as a useful effort worthy of your support and contributions.

Here are a handful of “defining factors” that in our view combine to make Kyoto Cities a possible winner and certainly different from the rest:

1. Extreme high focus: (a) CO2; (b) transport in cities; (c) very sharp targeted decreases (20%) in (d) a very short period of time (20 months)

2. Geographic coverage: World wide focus, but ready to work with one city at a time. The world wide reach provides the base for the powerful International Advisory Panel and its peer support network.

3. City action focus: This is above all a city decision, a city action. It does not depend on international treaties, other levels of government to foot the bill; it works within the city, its existing asset base, quality of leadership and degree of public support. In that city!

4. Explicit targeting: You either succeed or you fail with your targets. And all that firmly in the public eye.

5. Strong female leadership and participation. In large part motivated by dissatisfaction with traditional male dominance and the values that appear to go with it.

6. Car-like mobility: We do not see democratic pluralistic societies agreeing to accept large downgrading of their mobility arrangements. Which gives us our target: as good or better than they are getting our of their cars under present arrangements.

7. International peer support network: Personal engagement, high quality and great variety of the supporting International Advisory Panel. Members have both international role, and also available to “cluster” to support discussions and initiatives in their own city.

8. Eclectic and expansive sectoral coverage: Huge diversity of disciplines, backgrounds, geographies and competences, going way outside of the ‘normal’ transport or even environment groups enriches the perspectives, and the support network in each city and for the program overall.

9. Supporting context of intensive technology-based IP networking: The Communications Bridge

10. Comfort Zones: Many programs and almost all committees seek to achieve “Comfort Zones” in which all interests present of lurking in the background come to a general agreement as to priorities, what needs to be done, how to do it, etc. Kyoto Cities seeks quite the reverse: a large number of competing ideas and points of view, plenty of room for internal contradictions and conflicts, and a good and continuing dose of cognitive dissonance as a means for accommodating all this necessary variety.

* * *

The Kyoto World Cities Challenge is one program that cities can if they wish start to engage immediately. It is not the only thing that they or the rest of the world should be doing before the challenges of environment and costly dysfunctional transport arrangements that hinder almost all of them in their life quality and economic viability. But it may be one good place to start.

10 March 2005

10.03.05. Des mémoires pour «Kyauto», from Communauto, Montréal

Editor's note: Carsharing at the leading edge is emerging as one of the important on-street forces driving toward broader concepts of mobility management and service provision in cities. CommunAuto in Montréal - http:// www.communauto.com -- has been one of the more aggressive and successful of these operations. (To rough translate this article into "English", please click here and scroll down to the title.

Des mémoires pour «Kyauto»

Le protocole de Kyoto est enfin entré en vigueur officiellement. Or, quand on sait qu'au Québec le transport compte pour quelque 38 % du total des émissions et qu'il s'agit du secteur qui enregistre la plus forte croissance, ne devrions-nous pas plutôt parler de « KyAUTO » ?

Les faits parlent d'eux-mêmes :

– Il y a aujourd'hui au Québec 600 000 voitures de plus qu'en 1997,
année de la signature du protocole de Kyoto.

– Entre 1990 et 2000, les émissions des voitures et des camions ont
augmenté de 18 %, alors que l'objectif de Kyoto est une réduction de 6 %.

– Entre 1984 et 2002, la puissance des voitures neuves vendues au
Québec a augmenté de 79 %, mais aucun progrès n'a été enregistré
pour leur économie d'essence moyenne.

Lent à réagir mais tout de même conscient du problème, le Gouvernement du Québec a lancé récemment une nouvelle ronde de consultation sur son « projet de Plan de développement durable pour le Québec ». Communauto a été invité à participer à cette consultation. Notre mémoire s'intitule « Opter pour un nouveau style de ville ! » et peut être consulté en ligne (voir ci-dessous).

Ce n'est pas la première fois que Communauto participe à une telle consultation ou propose sa solution originale pour faire avancer le débat sur la problématique des transports. En guise de référence, voici quelques-uns des mémoires, plans d'action, ou projets que nous avons déposés au cours des dernières années. Tous sont accessibles en ligne, en format PDF (logiciel Acrobat Reader requis, disponible gratuitement chez adobe.com).

COMMUNAUTO. 2005. Opter pour un nouveau style de ville ! Mémoire présenté dans le cadre de la consultation du Gouvernement sur le projet de Plan de développement durable pour le Québec, le 15 février 2005.

COMMUNAUTO. 2004. Plan d'action visant à augmenter l'attrait de la voiture libre-service en tant qu'alternative à la propriété d'un véhicule à Montréal. Projet soumis au Conseil régional de l'environnement de Montréal (CRE-Montréal) et à plusieurs membres du Comité exécutif de la Ville de Montréal.

COMMUNAUTO. 2004. Plan d'urbanisme de Montréal. Mémoire présenté dans le cadre de la consultation organisée par la Ville de Montréal et portant sur son projet de renouvellement du Plan d'urbanisme.

COMMUNAUTO. 2004. Public transit/Car Sharing Integrated mobility for innovative cities : Public Transit/Car Sharing integration projects for sustainable transportation in Canadian cities. Projet soumis à Transports Canada, le 6 mai 04 (ce projet a été accepté et est présentement en cours).

COMMUNAUTO. 2003. L'auto-partage et le transport en commun : ensemble pour une mobilité durable. Mémoire présenté dans le cadre de la Consultation générale à l'égard de la mise en oeuvre du Protocole de Kyoto au Québec / Commission des transports et de l'environnement.

04 March 2005

04.03.05. Exhausting the Options (in Italy)

Editor's note: We like this one because the author challenges received wisdom in some sustainability circles which all too often jerk to "public transit" solutions to challenges that require a lot more. But when it comes to long run solutions to urgent problems of public health, which we believe to be the situation here, it is helpful to keep in mind Maynard Keynes cogent reminder that "in the long run we all are dead".

Exhausting the Options (in Italy)

By Carlo Stagnaro (See below for brief vitae)

When you face a problem, you can either confront it head on or just deal with the symptoms and hope it goes away. European countries usually favor the latter method.

For example, in recent months several Italian cities have restricted or prohibited private traffic because of excessive concentrations of air pollutants. High levels of particulates can create health problems; they also make breathing uncomfortable. European regulations set limits on air pollution levels, and they can be exceeded only a few days a year -- otherwise sanctions will be imposed. Then there is the Kyoto Protocol, which took effect on 16 February; it has little to do with the problem of air pollution, but is significant on emotional grounds. (Most people don't bother with such trivia as the difference between small particles and greenhouse gases, so if you're an environmental propagandist it's a good strategy to lump them together and let people believe industry is killing them.)

Now, while air pollution may be a real problem, there is an encouraging trend. Concentrations of small particles on average are declining in Western countries. "On average" means that concentrations are above the average roughly half of the time and below average half the time. "Declining" means that the number of days when concentrations are high is going down.

So the situation is good. Our cities are like sick patients who are gradually recovering. Their fevers may go up and down, but they're moving towards normal temperatures. The single most important contribution to the declining trend is the natural turnover of vehicles: as people get wealthier, they tend to change their cars more often. Newer models consume and pollute less - with greater benefit both for one's personal budget and the environment. Across the last decade, Milan's SO2 emissions dropped by 86 percent, NOx by 45 percent, CO by 65 percent, and C6H6 by 90 percent.

Moreover, the real cause of air pollution is traffic. Infrastructures are mostly inefficient in Italy and, more generally, in Europe. As the number of circulating cars grows, narrow streets become more and more inadequate, and more and more cars are caught in traffic jams. They burn fuel and move slowly - and waste peoples' time.

As Italian businessman Adriano Teso, a member of the Istituto Bruno Leoni's board of trustees, wrote, the problem is that mobility is governed by a socialist system of incentives, not a market-oriented one. Since most roads are free of charge regardless of when they are being used, people have an incentive to take their cars whenever they want. However, roads can be partly or totally privatized, so that the toll fluctuates according to demand. People would consider more wisely the use of their cars.

These measures could become a long-term solution to the problem of traffic - and thus air pollution. However, you need to be open-minded to consider it. If you are not, you tend to look for a short-term remedy. Emergency measures, such as closing cities to traffic, may or may not make sense in a given situation. But by no means do they guarantee the same problem won't return next year.

As a matter of fact, these solutions don't solve anything. Private vehicles emit less than 10 percent of global particles, the remainder comes from commercial vehicles and public transportation. According to some estimates, a 70 percent decrease in private traffic would result in a mere 1percent reduction in small particles.

Having realized this the Italian government has found a new priority in the war on air pollution: replacing old, polluting buses with newer, cleaner ones. So far, so good. But how do they pay for this initiative? By cutting public expenses? By increasing taxes? Well, yes and no. A government whose credibility depends upon cutting taxes, as it did a few months ago, just can't do that. But Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi never promised that energy would be cheaper. In fact, Italian government decided to raise taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline respectively by 0.5 and 1 eurocent per liter. The expected revenue is of more than €350 million. As the chart below, shows, Italy is already among the European countries where the price of fuels is highest.

"We're almost certain that this tax will be absorbed without extra costs for the consumer," said Environment Minister Altero Matteoli. Such a statement is naive. All else being equal, an increase in the fiscal component may result in (1) an increase in the price to consumers, or (2) a decrease in industry's profits. Either way, the burden of government gets heavier in Italy, and industry is more likely to invest abroad, where returns are safer and higher. Italian competitiveness and ability to innovate is accordingly reduced.


Carlo Stagnaro is Free Market Environmentalism Director at Istituto Bruno Leoni, a Turin-based free market think tank. He is fellow of International Council for Capital Formation (Brussels). He has written extensively about environmental issues, including global warming, energy, and water, both in Italian and English. His articles have been published in a wide variety of newspapers, including Libero (Milan), Il Giornale (Rome), Finanza & Mercati (Milan), Ideazione (Rome), Liberal (Rome), National Review Online (Washington, DC), TechCentralStation (Washington, DC), Schweizer Monatshefte (Zurich), Economic Affairs (London). His last book is "Più energia per tutti" (edited together with Dr. Margo Thorning, to be published).

03 March 2005

03.03.05. ZeroCarbonCity program anounced in Britain

Editor's note: One more of the programs that are coming on line
addressing these challenges, each in their own way and with their
own ambitious mandate. This is clearly a program from which we
can all ceratinly learn a great deal as it moves ahead. It is clear that
the British Council have quite some resources at their disposal.
Perhaps we should all be thinking about how to get together
on this? Creative thinking as to how to achieve this cordially invited

Release from the British Council of 03/03/05.

Cities Crucial In Fight Against Climate Change

Neil Kinnock, Chair of the British Council today said that low-carbon cities were an imperative that must be achieved by the mid twenty-first century. He called for stronger links and combined action across the world to facilitate the exchange of information, ideas and tested solutions. Cities should learn rapidly from one another’s successes and mistakes through networks dedicated to the exchange of information tackling climate change.

Lord Kinnock was speaking at the launch of the British Council’s ZeroCarbonCity campaign, a global initiative exploring the energy challenges facing the world’s greatest cities. The aim of the campaign is to stimulate greater public debate and awareness. ZeroCarbonCity, a £4million science initiative, involving a variety of focused activities in over 100 cities in 60 countries worldwide, will directly reach over 6 million people in a year when the United Kingdom will undertake the presidency of both the G8 and the European Council.

Neil Kinnock said: ‘Cities occupy a pivotal position in terms of climate change both as major energy consumers, and as centres of new thinking and policy innovation. International links of understanding and action can be built between cities, even when States cannot agree. Focusing activities on cities will generate fresh perspectives on the climate issue, building awareness of the challenges and of the potential solutions and fostering debate about possible remedies.

ZeroCarbonCity shifts the emphasis of attention towards mitigation, adaptation and practical measures that can be taken. In doing that, the campaign will raise international awareness of the UK as a country that has commitments to tackling climate change and seeks to promote answers as well as analysis.’

Margaret Beckett, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, welcomed today’s launch:

‘I am delighted that the campaign will be visiting more than 100 cities in 60 countries, many of these visits will take place during the UK’s G8 and EU presidencies. I believe ZeroCarbonCity will help generate a fresh perspective on Climate Change, building awareness of the challenges and potential solutions, and fostering debate about the action that is needed to combat one of the greatest problems facing not only us, but our children and our grandchildren.’

The campaign comprises a set of actions under the title of ZeroCarbonCity:

NorthSouthEastWest: a photographic exhibition about climate change commissioned in partnership with The Climate Group and Magnum Photographic Agency. The exhibition will open at the Science Museum on the 14th March and will travel to over 60 countries throughout 2005 and 2006. The exhibition examines the effects of climate change and also the solutions which are being implemented and is supported by a book featuring essays by, amongst others, Tony Blair, Kofi Annan, Leonardo di Caprio, Mary Robinson, Professor Sir David King and Yong Wook-Lee.

Cities and Climate Change: a global online debate focusing on the politics of climate change: how science is presented and understood, international governance, action and equity, technology and solutions for people of all nations. The debate will start in April and will run up to the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July. The debate will be supported with articles by public figures such as scientists, technologists, policy-makers and city planners and is run in partnership with openDemocracy.

Climate Change and Cities: A brief look at the issues: This publication demonstrates the reasoning behind the ZeroCarbonCity campaign and illustrates the relationship between climate change and cities. Written for the British Council by UK experts at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, it examines the issues of increasing emissions and growth in urbanisation and the potential effects of climate change. It features global case studies of contrasting cities and suggests responses at city level to tackle the problem through adaptation and mitigation.

City Debates and Café Scientifique: conversations and discussions about the connections between science, technology and society. A programme of city debates around the globe using city venues to provide a platform for expert comment on a variety of topics connected to climate change, and then encouraging audience participation to continue the open discussions. Cafés Scientifique are already established as a successful British Council series of linked debates in an informal setting and have been held at many centres throughout the world.

The ZeroCarbonCity website www.britishcouncil.org/zerocarboncity features an array of ‘climate-themed’ resources: teaching materials; English learner activities; science writers’ book list; key UK research programmes; multi-media downloads; access to environmental organisations in the UK, research council activities and centres; universities working in environmental subject areas and gives further background about the campaign and a calendar of global debates

************* From website at http://www.britishcouncil.org/science-climate-zcc.htm *****

ZeroCarbonCity is a global British Council campaign aimed at reframing the international climate change debate by exploring the energy challenges facing the world’s greatest cities. It hopes to build on the success of the previous British Council Science campaign DNA50 which directly reached 4 million people worldwide. Our aim is to raise awareness and stimulate debate around climate change and the challenges we face, reinforcing the UK’s commitment to tackling climate change.

The ZeroCarbonCity programme has been developed as a result of extensive research both in the UK and overseas. The campaign, due to be launched in the UK in early March 2005, will be visiting over 60 countries around the world with a wide variety of activities taking place including:

  • a global online debate supported by a series of articles by scientists, technologists, city planners and policy makers
  • a series of city debates in each country
  • a touring exhibition plus supporting materials including book and catalogue (NorthSouthEastWest)
  • add-on activities including dialogue through drama events; educational activities/ workshops/ experiments; school projects; interactives
  • give-away items for events
  • a collection of fiction and non-fiction climate change books
  • Culture Lab UK climate change special
  • LearnEnglish Science climate edition
  • 'Selector' audio CD - mixture of interviews and music around the climate change theme
  • UK infocus special climate change edition

ZeroCarbonCity shifts the emphasis away from climate change impacts and inter-governmental negotiations, towards mitigation, adaptation, and practical measures that people can adopt. You can find out more about activities in your country in our global events pages.