Modern Cities are Healthy Cities – and Nice and Clean to Live in

State of Green
By State of Green, September 12, 2017

Planning of livability and renewable energy for cities is an essential part of reaching the global sustainable development goals. The Cities for Global Impact conference in New York Climate Week will focus on urban planning and wind energy. The Prime Minister of Denmark is among the participants.

To act locally and have an impact globally is not just a saying.  Cities are growing at an unprecedented rate and by 2050 more than 6 billion people will live and work in urban areas. This demands political commitment and thoughtful planning as never before.

The upcoming conference Cities for Global Impact – Advancing the SDGs through Urban Action in New York Climate Week (September 18 – 24, 2017) will focus on how cities can impact the global sustainability agenda via political commitment and urban action.

Hosted, by the Danish Cleantech Hub in New York, the conference will focus on two high-impact areas that make cities better to live in – healthy urban development in cities and wind as a key source of renewable energy supply.

Urban development and the sustainability agenda are of high priority in Denmark. The Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, will be among the speakers at the conference which brings together public and private leaders from New York and the United States as a whole and corporate executives from Denmark. Approximately 40% of electricity consumption in Denmark is produced by wind. Both wind energy and smart city solutions are Danish industrial strengths and large-scale solutions are implemented in and around Danish cities.

Given New York City is an urban frontrunner in implementing solutions that increase sustainability, resiliency and livability, Denmark and New York mix well in this cocktail of leadership which is an essential contribution to setting an example of how it is possible to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, not least on environment, social and economic impact.

Making healthy cities impactful
The growth of cities requires action locally. We must rethink the way we build and manage our urban spaces and the built environment. A paradigm shift in urban planning which focuses on physical, mental and social well-being will be key in this transition.

– An estimated one million people move to urban environments each week, where they spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors. This massive urbanization presents challenges in terms of people’s general health and wellbeing, safety, and overall quality of life. By building new and renovating existing buildings to be energy efficient, fire resilient, and acoustically comfortable, we can make cities healthier, safer, and more sustainable. And the good thing is we have the means to do so with existing technology and products, says Jens Birgersson, CEO of Rockwool Group.

It is not enough for modern cities to be sustainable. Urban development affect cities and create surroundings in cities which increases the quality of life for people living and working there, without getting out of financial reach. Tom Wright, President of the Regional Plan Association of New York City explains:
– Cities and urban living help combat climate change. To keep people moving to and living in cities we need to ensure they remain affordable and attractive places. RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan looks at how we can design healthy and livable neighborhoods for all. This means fixing neighborhoods where pollution, lack of access to healthy food, and unhealthy housing is literally making residents sick. And it also means taking a more holistic approach to planning that incorporates walkability, access to services, and public spaces for all.”

Neel Strøbæk, Senior Corporate Director of consulting engineering group, Ramboll regards investments in more healthy cities as a mean to bring an indefinite number of impacts and ‘co-benefits’:
– Benefits include longer life expectancy; lower costs associated with the treatment of lifestyle diseases, less respiratory deceases, increased road safety etc.  Mapping the co-benefits of investments in healthy cities will enable cities to explore what benefits to expect from different types of actions, or vice-versa, explore which healthy cities investments bring a specific co-benefit. Investments in healthy cities are therefore also about understanding benefits for citizens and their right to live and work in a clean environment, and about open spaces with opportunity for physical exercise, and for establishing social networks.”

The planning of cities, its open spaces and improving the quality of buildings is an essential part of the conference.  Handling of resources in cities will also occupy focus. Water is one of the key global challenges as one of the speakers, Group Vice President of Grundfos, Kim Nøhr Skibsted, explains:
– Today, roughly half of the world’s population live in the cities, and the urbanization is only expected to continue. This will mean an even bigger need for water and wastewater handling and for sustainable solutions that can do this efficiently, while also conserving water and energy resources through effective management. Cities and water technology companies need to join forces to let the available solutions come into play and do their part in creating a more sustainable tomorrow. Farsighted cities are instrumental in reaching the ambitious goals, not least when it comes to water and sanitation. The SDG’s, and of course in particular SDG 6, provide us with a framework to work from, and some milestones to aim for.”

Wind as a competitive energy resource
The demand for energy is continuously growing in cities. Renewable energy is not only sustainable, but prices are also becoming more cost-effective and competitive.

Wind energy holds a great potential in ensuring access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. Both onshore and offshore wind can impact urban life considerably, by meeting the growing energy demand and reducing carbon emissions.  

As the advantages of wind energy become evident, political commitments to wind energy is spreading, both locally and globally. Over the last couple of decades, offshore wind has become an attractive source for cities, harvesting winds outside urban areas, delivering clean energy to millions of people. Denmark has been a driver for this global process, which also has considerable potential in New York.

This will be a focus at the conference, Stephanie McClellan, Director, Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, University of Delaware, says:
– As Denmark was Europe’s offshore wind trailblazer, New York is well poised to be the U.S.’s.  With its commitment to building 2.4GW of offshore wind by 2030, New York State has set the boldest target in the nation.  As it charts its course, New York State has already begun to take a page from Denmark in its approach to developing offshore wind energy.  Just as Denmark undertook a strategic assessment for how to deliver its ambitious offshore wind goals, New York State is finalizing its Offshore Wind Master Plan to ensure that offshore wind is developed responsibly and in New Yorkers’ best interest. Denmark, and many other European countries have paved the way; it’s now time for New York State and the US to seize the opportunity. “

Jakob Askou Bøss, Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy & Stakeholder Relations, DONG Energy, regards wind as a large opportunity for New York City:
– The development of offshore wind will be essential if New York is to meet the state’s 50% renewable energy target by 2030.  New York must begin now to take specific concrete steps to build the offshore wind market if this potential is to be realized in the desired timeframe, which will send a strong signal to the emerging U.S. offshore wind supply chain that New York is open for business.’

Wind energy will no doubt play a vital role in reaching the SDGs related to clean energy and climate action.

The Danish Cleantech Hub is a joint initiative by the Confederation of Danish Industry and State of Green, the official green brand of Denmark. The conference is supported by the Danish Industry Foundation.

Cities for Global Impact – Advancing the SDGs through Urban Action takes place on September 19, 2017 3:00 PM at New World Stages, New York City

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