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Urban sustainability is the key to unlocking our green ambitions
25 June 2020
In the third and final of a series of blogs on net-zero carbon, Clare Wildfire, Global Practice Leader — Cities, from Mott MacDonald, explores how cities hold the key to meeting our environmental goals. You can read the first blog here and the second one here.
Cities have proven the epicentre for infections during the pandemic and a heightened appreciation for good urban design will result from us questioning the resiliency of our current lifestyles. Careful placemaking and adherence to design principles that promote connected, active and sustainable lifestyles can impact our ability to live healthy and low carbon lives.
Many cities globally are already introducing measures to improve walking and cycling and support a low-carbon, sustainable recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The Mayor of London is leading the way, with large areas of London to be closed to cars and vans to allow people to walk and cycle safely, and crucially it is the pandemic that has given him agency to make such a bold step.
Wider issues that the mayor and boroughs will be considering with relevance to the built environment are:
changes to London’s electricity infrastructure
the role of digitalisation in understanding demand profiles, latent capacities and managing/staggering loading to minimise the peaks and fill troughs
retrofit of assets
synergies between buildings, transport and energy
Driving the net-zero agenda will require unprecedented connectedness in thinking and effort between organisations that have historically operated in silos. This is because, in practice, the systems that make up our built and natural environments are heavily interdependent.
COVID-19 has shown that in an emergency the barriers do come down and all of the key actors work together. Climate change has been declared an emergency – albeit one that is playing out over a longer period of time. The current crisis could give the mayor agency to drive integration of effort on net-zero to deliver enhanced results. It will require many complex decisions over time, but there are low regret opportunities that can be started immediately.
Energy efficiency retrofit, district scale energy systems, uptake of electric vehicles, mapping of electric infrastructure and prioritising active travel: our industry should support these measures to help stimulate economic activity and create new jobs as we recover from the effects of COVID-19, at the same time as safeguarding our city for the long term.
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