We have funding for a 2-day symposium in the spring of 2012 on the topic “Sustainable Cities in a Post-Carbon World”. Here’s my current blurb for the event – I’m still tweaking the wording, so constructive comments are welcome (and watch this space for more details on date & venue, etc)…
Cities house half the world’s population, consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy, and produce more than 70% of the global CO2 emissions. The triple threat of climate change, peak oil, and ecosystem loss poses a massive challenge to cities, as they depend on huge inputs of energy, food, and materials from the surrounding regions. Cities are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as urban landscapes amplify extreme heat events, with potentially disastrous impact on public health and urban infrastructure.
Modern cities grew up in an era of cheap fossil fuels. As that era ends, our cities can only be sustained if they can make a rapid transition to energy efficiency and renewable fuels, and build greater resilience into their urban infrastructure. Such a transition will mean re-thinking almost every aspect of city life: buildings, lifestyle, transportation, public spaces, water and waste management, energy efficiency, social justice and participatory decision-making. The technologies that will be needed, in general, already exist. But the social and financial structures do not. The path by which rapid, wide scale deployment can occur is unclear: cities grew not so much by design, but through emergence as complex organisms. The hardest questions are not so much what a sustainable city might look like, but how we get there.
The goal of this two-day symposium is to explore new ways to bring together governments, universities and civil society to accelerate this transition to post-carbon cities. With Toronto as a model, we aim to build an action plan to engage the university with city government, NGOs, and community groups, to leverage the inter-disciplinary expertise from across campus to address this challenge.
The symposium will include a mix of talks, panel sessions, workshops, student posters, hands-on activities and movie screenings. Topics will include clean energy, smart grid, transport, urban planning, policy making, city governance, community building, data analytics, public health and green growth/economic development.
Our objectives are to develop new trans-disciplinary thinking for the transition to a post-carbon world; to build new collaborations; and to better integrate current research with urban policy, leading to solutions for sustainable urban development.