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Making Europe's cities sustainable

Posted by Nick Prag at 28 November 2013, 15:40 CET |
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Cities the world over are grappling with the same challenges - how to continue to grow as hubs of economic activity and innovation, and, at the same time, to become cleaner and healthier to live in, while using less energy.

At a time of shortages in public funds for infrastructure renewal, the need for more sustainable urban management policies and programs has never been more urgent.

Governments and businesses in partnership are looking at ways to tackle issues of energy and water supply, transportation, waste management, and sustainable infrastructure.

At a conference this week hosted by the European Commission, transport operators, telecoms companies, vehicle manufacturers, city planners, energy companies and researchers gathered together in one room to discuss initiatives outlined in the EU's "Smart Cities Strategic Implementation Plan" and how they might put them into practice.

The Commission also announced that it plans to launch an 'Invitation for Smart City and Community Commitments' in the  spring of 2014 to mobilise work on the action plan's priorities.

So what exactly is a Smart City?  A city’s most important responsibilities are the built environment, energy, telecommunications, transport, water and waste water, health and human services, public safety, and payments.

The Smart City uses modern, integrated technology services and infrastructure in energy, transport and ICT to respond to the social and economic needs of society.

Making cities smarter could have a significant impact on the way we live. Solutions would, for example, invest in 'zero/plus' energy districts, increase the use of alternative energies for cleaner transport, efficient transport logistics to reduce the negative impacts of congestion, and green, widely available ICTs and integrated infrastructures.

The Commission says it intends to make available around EUR 200 million for Smart Cities and communities in the 2014-2015 budgets of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, to accelerate progress and enlarge the scale of roll-out of smart cities solutions. There will also be possibilities to access the European Structural and Investment Funds.

It is not only Europe that it trying to make the running in this area. GLOBE 2014, a conference in March next year in Vancouver, Canada will address these very same problems.

Cities which come up with the most innovative and sustainable solutions are likely to be the ones which can look forward to the best economic growth.

The main challenge for Europe now is, as is often the case, to move from plan to action.

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of EUbusiness.com. Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.