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.


  1. Hi Steve,

    could you give us a list of CO2 producers that can’t be “simply” replaced by generating electricity in a renewable fashion.

    I’m personally don’t really know what kind of CO2 producers are in Toronto that directly produce CO2 other than cars/trucks/busses.


  2. Hi Adrian,

    The first thing that comes to mind is farming.

  3. @Adrian Schroeter : The simplest way to get an overview is to take a look at the UNEP visualization of CO2 flows.

    There are also some good resources at the C40 initiative site

    But for the full details, you need the UCCRN assessment report.

  4. Oh, and I should have said that a big piece of the problem is that we’re unlikely ever to be able to replace all of our current power needs with clean electricity (read Mackay to find out why, esp chp 18). Which means a massive retrofit program is needed to make buildings, transport, water treatment and waste disposal much more energy efficient.

  5. The other side of this coin is that an ever smaller proportion of the global population are producing food, energy, construction materials, drinking water and then processing the resulting city waste.

    The development of industrial cities in England in the C19th was enabled by the building of reservoirs, sewers, and ranching (mostly sheep, but some cattle). Ranching enables lots of calories to be produced with minimal human labour. The labour (including children) was needed for factories.

    Now we’re choosing to change the CO2 market rather than the labour market. Interesting times ahead.

Join the discussion: