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23 October 2020

Alliance hosted webinar presents sustainability leaders and sets action plan for 2021

The World Alliance for Low Carbon Cities (WALCC) hosted an afternoon webinar on October 13th, 2020 in place of its annual Autumn Forum which was postponed due to the pandemic. The webinar brought forth perspectives on the WALCC’s focus areas through presentations from key partners in the fields of energy, mobility, and city planning. The afternoon concluded with an overview of the WALCC’s strategic focuses for the coming year in its action plan.

The key pillars of the action plan include the Excellence in Renewal project which supports collaboration across countries to speed up the transfer of best energy practices, the Nordic Urban Mobility Ecosystem wherein it develops a Nordic initiative to integrate transport and energy infrastructures, and Resilience for Urban Planning where the Alliance will engage cities in all Nordic countries in a comprehensive study on resilience, and the promotion of Nordic vanguards through a dedicated publication as well as the Alliance’s annual autumn Forum in Stockholm.


Urban energy transformation

Following an opening address from the Alliance’s Chairman Pasi Mikkonen (Fortum) the afternoon began with a discussion on urban energy transformation led by Ulf Wikström and Per Ytterberg of Stockholm Exergi. Stockholm Exergi, the Alliance’s main partner in planning this year’s Forum in Stockholm which now postponed to 2021, profiled its pioneering achievements in moving the City of Stockholm’s energy system towards not only climate neutrality but climate positivity by 2025. Wikström and Ytterberg explained how the company is making the changes necessary to achieve emissions reduction while providing heating to 800,000 residents of Stockholm. Key to this transformation is the development of waste to energy processes which increase resource efficiency and enable the capture of carbon. Stockholm Exergi see the development of a supportive
regulatory framework as a crucial element in realizing the potential
of these technologies.


Carbon neutral by 2025

The Environmental Director of the City of Lahti Elina Ojala shared insights on the city’s progress towards carbon neutrality in 2025. Ojala began by sharing the city’s approach to achieving carbon neutrality, one divided between reduction of emissions, amounting to 438 kt of CO2 equivalent, and carbon sinks and compensation, totaling in 235 kt CO2 equivalent. The measures to reduce emissions are focused on energy and heating as well as transportation. These efforts call for a combination of new technologies, practices, and behavioral change. The city now looks to the future having already achieved its first target in abandoning coal burning in district heating in 2019 as well as the development of the CitiCAP personal carbon trading scheme for urban mobility.

 

Ojala’s presentation on Lahti’s leading efforts to reach carbon neutrality served as a bridge to the next speaker, Milla Bruneau, head of the Sustainable Lahti Foundation who offered a preview of the year ahead as the city takes on the title of European Green Capital. The title of European Green Capital is a circulating title awarded by the European Commission in recognition of the actions taken by cities to combat climate change. Lahti will take on the title in 2021 and has outlined three objectives for its year on a local level, aiming to provide smooth everyday life which contributes to wellbeing for its residents, the national level, promoting the development of functional and sustainable cities across Finland, and on the global level, utilizing the visibility offered by the Green Capital title and looking to scale up activity. These objectives aim at creating local solutions with global impact. The theme year is driven by a series of events, funded projects, and collaboration with partners in education, research, business, and the public sector under the themes of carbon-neutral life, citizen participation, circular economy, and nature and water.


Integrating mobility and energy infrastructures

The afternoon’s third thematic session was entitled Integrating mobility and energy infrastructures, and welcomed speakers from ABB and Telia. Danel Turk led the off the session with a comprehensive overview of the present state of electric mobility which covered vehicle sales, rising demand, and charging infrastructures and systems. Turk highlighted the trends shaping the evolution of electric mobility and power generation, noting the shift from centralized power generation to distribution and the increase in electric vehicles which will lead to the emergence of new electricity usage profiles and efforts to improve the existing infrastructure to withstand the increasing strain. Turk observed that this transformation occurs concurrently with an increasing push towards sustainability and growth in the generation and distribution of electricity which calls for the
active development of modular solutions.

 

Marko Lepola of Telia continued Turk’s discussion of electric mobility and situated in the context of the transition underway in mobility driven by five megatrends which will see mobility become increasingly connected, automated, shared, electrified, and data-driven. As cities strive to increase the efficiency of their transportation cities in an effort to reduce emissions, Lepola noted the notable benefits of moving from individual to shared transport. One bus, for instance, replaces 77 cars and one tram can replace a 900-meter-long line of cars. The next stage of evolution in public transport is already underway, with cities such as Stockholm, Sweden piloting an autonomous bus operated via a 5G mobile network. Underlying this transition are the mobile networks that enable communication with vehicles, charging systems, and users as well as gather data utilized by cities to make informed decisions on developing their transport systems. Data-driven mobility enables increased efficiency and nimble operation, enabling cities to form a comprehensive understanding of the city’s mobility system as a whole.


Transformative ecosystems

The afternoon’s final session began with a keynote address by the Mayor of the City of Turku Minna Arve. Mayor Arve provided an overview of the city’s climate plan which aims to make the city carbon neutral by 2029, highlighting the city’s focus on collaboration with partners throughout the region and bringing residents in to the development with the city. The city sees engaging residents as a crucial step in ensuring the plans made and steps taken by the city find their place in the everyday lives of those living in the city. Arve described the city’s approach to changes and policies which can be potentially divisive, a challenge the city resolved by making residents active participants in the change. The enthusiastic support voiced by residents for electric mobility resulted in a strengthening of the city’s resolve to see through this change.

Following the keynote address from Alliance member Turku, the Alliance’s Deputy Secretary-General Jussi Hulkkonen and Honorary Chairman and co-founder Johan Wallin presented the Alliance’s action plan for 2021. Next year, the Alliance will continue collaboration with its key partners around the themes addressed throughout the afternoon’s webinar. The Alliance invites any interested parties to contact Jussi Hulkkonen (email: first.last @ walcc.org) as we build up the network of collaborating partners for next year’s activities.

See highlights from the webinar in the video below!