Christiana Figueres: The Climate Risk Reward Ratio has Changed

The architect of the Paris Agreement, Christiana Figueres, is optimistic about the future of the planet and she sees the technology sector key in moving our economy to a carbon neutral system. She sees the exponential growth in the technology sector and argues that we need that sector’s help to manage “exponential growth in sustainable solutions”. Indeed, she claimed that “the tech sector is the portal to solving climate change” at a press conference at Collision Conference.

I doubt any parent alive today wants to be blamed for the environmental problems their children will face. – Figueres

Technology

We can’t have technology growing for growth’s sake. -Figueres

As she sees it, we are in a race between two exponential curves: sustainable tech growth and climate change. Her hope is that the tech sector can help move the economy away from fossil fuels. We need to decarbonize the economy as fast as possible.

Companies are starting to note that our climate crisis greatly endangers their future business plans.

Transportation

We are killing 7 million people per year because of air pollution that is entirely avoidable if we move to electric mobility. -Figueres

The economy is slowly moving away from fossil fuels, but this needs to happen faster. The risks are too great to continue our slow progress. She even notes that all the major automakers are moving to all electric – even Harley Davidson.

Cities need to regulate the types of cars and busses allowed in their borders so citizens are dangerously exposed to pollution. We have the knowledge, we just need the policies.

Housing

More corporations understanding that its in their own interest to decarbonize. -Figueres

We need purposeful growth and millennials get that, and that’s true when it comes to housing. Figueres envisions a short term goal of retrofitting existing buildings. She wonders why aren’t people retrofitting their buildings since insulation of homes is important to reducing energy combustion.

Figueres calls for policy makers to demand that new buildings power themselves and contribute to a healthier city. Again, we have the technology, we have the knowledge, we just need the policies.

This New Paris Community Demonstrates Sustainable Cities

Good Street from Streetmix

In the capital of France, the new Clichy-Batignolles development demonstrates how a city can have a carbon-neutral footprint while providing modern living. The development itself is built on old industrial lands and includes community housing, a theatre, and many other important features of a city including a massive park. The neighbourhood focusses on sustainable buildings and sustainable transit; the developer specifically designed the spaces to be walkable and ensuring that there is no need for a car.

All buildings are being constructed to the demanding Passivhaus standard, meaning that the energy consumption required for heating is just 15 kilowatt-hours a square metre of floor space per year, and the overall energy consumption is under 50kWh asqm of floor space per year.

The buildings are south-facing and super insulated, capturing and retaining the sun’s heat and warmth given off by their occupants and technology. Buildings are composed of renewable materials while other materials such as PVC are banned.

The area will contain 40,000 sq m of solar photovoltaic roofs that will eventually generate around 4500-megawatt-hours a year to supply 85 per cent of the remaining energy needs, while deep geothermal energy will provide 83 per cent of the space heating and domestic hot water, so that the entire site will have a carbon neutral footprint.

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Covert Strategies for Supporting Urbanism

Berlin

One of the biggest challenges facing cities in the 21st century is how to make them more people friendly. Parts of many cities have been left to rot, or have been neglected, thanks to decades of car-dominated thinking. This car-focussed, and individualistic, urban design has made discourse around making cities people friendly hard; it’s time for that to change.

Cities around the world have been trying different tactics to get people to embrace people-friendly design. From Paris to Calgary here are some ways that urban planners have been using to get people to think less about cars and more about places.

Since 2006, the mayor’s office has hosted Paris-Plages (“Paris Beaches”), a temporary artificial beach installed along the River Seine during the summer months. Residents and tourists alike can be spotted walking, cycling, playing sports, sunbathing, drinking and dining along the river, in a corridor that sees 43,000 cars per day during the remaining 10 months of the year. However, 10 years of seasonal summer closures have been enough to convince Parisians that this stretch of motorway is expendable, and in September, council voted to permanently pedestrianize it. Mayor Anne Hidalgo heralded the decision, calling it the “end of the urban motorway in Paris, and the reconquest of the Seine.”

Paris-Plages, along with the weekly Paris Respire open street events and the fledgling P’tit Vélib’ bike share for kids, are some of the creative ways Hidalgo is helping Parisians rethink their city streets.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Pedestrians In Paris To Get 50% Of Street Space

Paris has had decades of extremely bad traffic and there’s no obvious solution: other than get rid the traffic. Infrastructure that encourages car use makes traffic worse while also debilitating cities as a whole. So Paris is doing what most places are afraid to try: giving the streets back to people.

“Parisians are finding out that what were once admirable squares of theirs are now just intersections,” says Jean Macheras, the Paris delegate of the French Transportation Users Assocation.

The shift started with the Place de la République—until 2013, it was also a busy road, but now it’s a pedestrian plaza planted with trees, lined with benches, and filled with people. The transformation was so popular that the city decided to keep going.

Each of the new designs give pedestrians at least 50% of the space in the square, taking away lanes of traffic even though each of the streets is a major route in the city. At the Place de la Bastille, the square will reconnect with a curb on one side, creating a new green space for people to sit. At the Place de la Madeleine, trees will mark off more pedestrian space and a new weekly market will be added.

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Summary of COP21 Climate Deal

The Paris climate (COP21) talks are over and the deal has been struck, many are rightly calling this deal a huge step forward! All countries agreed to cutting emissions while running a more efficient world economy. Nations of the world have agreed that our current trajectory of wastefulness will make life for everything on the planet very very hard. Even Canada, who had a reputation of sabotaging climate change negations, was invited to facilitate some of the talks.

With all the talk and coverage around COP21 it might seem all so overwhelming. Lucky for us, the Guardian has put together a short article summing up all the great points made in Paris.

Long-term global goal for net zero emissions
Countries have promised to try to bring global emissions down from peak levels as soon as possible. More significantly, they pledged “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”.

Experts say, in plain English, that means getting to “net zero emissions” between 2050 and 2100. The UN’s climate science panel says net zero emissions must happen by 2070 to avoid dangerous warming.

Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute said the long-term goal was “transformational” and “sends signals into the heart of the markets”.

Read more.

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