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Nantes. Credit: Thomas Pajot, fotolia.com

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Smart cities slash emissions

Internet, software, applications, and datasets are some of the many contributions that technological progress and innovation has made to sustainable development. As a support mechanism to local governments and stakeholders and to foster innovation as a way to drive sustainability, ICLEI Europe and Google.org developed an Action Fund, which granted €2M to non-profit institutions using data to drive environmental action.

The ICLEI Action Fund finances data-driven projects in six European cities: Nantes, Copenhagen, Berlin, Hamburg, Oldham, and Birmingham.  All of the projects financed use data from private and public sources to reduce pollution, energy consumption and greenhouse gases emissions. In Nantes and Copenhagen, both projects have one common goal: to improve air quality and increase citizens’ health and welfare.

According to a 2017 survey, les français et l’environnement’, 30% of all French citizens perceive air quality in the country as being poor, with 72% identifying road traffic as the source of pollutants. Comparatively, only 61% and 25% respectively identified industrial sites and agriculture as being sources of pollution. Moreover, research conducted by the  French national health agency in 2016 found that air pollution resulted in 48,000 premature deaths per year. In order to tackle this problem, Nantes-based non-profit Air Pays de La Loire set up the Aireal project.

Through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Aireal will support the city’s urban transportation strategy. In particular, its objective to reduce individual car use and to promote alternatives such as walking, biking or public transports. The municipality will be able to use the datasets integrated into tools, such as public transportation management and traffic regulation systems, to synchronise citizens’ actions and public choices, adapting bus routes, as well as speed limits to improve air quality.

Data will also be available to citizens through a mobile application which will guide users toward healthier ways to move and live. Citizens will be able to choose which means of transportation to use, which routes to take, where to buy a house, or even where and when to make complaints to local authorities. Working together with SAMOA, a local innovation centre, the project will identify local testbeds to implement measures – air quality management interventions – and trial solutions for evaluating air quality in public spaces.

During the first stage, the project identified the global methodology and built up the first real-time traffic database. “We hope to obtain additional data to enrich the database while considering an experiment to measure the impact of this project on citizens’ habits,” said Project manager Camille Magnan.

Similar to Nantes, the Danish capital, Copenhagen, is also taking an innovative approach to reducing GHG emissions and improving air quality. Non-profit Miljøpunkt Amager will use environmental data to create a model to assess air pollution impacts and citizens’ action in defined areas. Based on data from multiple sources – air quality, public planning, socio-economic, land use – project Thrive Zone Amager will provide tested and fact-based guidelines to the design of urban spaces focused on protecting citizens against harmful air pollution.

Working closely with the City of Copenhagen and their City Solutions Lab, Miljøpunkt uses Google AirView, traffic and community-collected data to inform new designs of urban spaces where citizens can enjoy the local environment with improved air quality levels and vibrant public spaces. Miljøpunkt Amager maps existing data, while its partner Gehl Architects will design new spaces in the city’s Ørestad-Amager district.

The project also takes an innovative approach to participation, engaging citizens and involving them in the process.

Through a digital toolbox set up by Miljøpunkt Amager’s team, citizens can share their inputs and opinions and volunteer to carry air sensors during their daily routines, measuring their own everyday exposure to air pollution. 

“All citizen inputs are now being analysed into insights together with data sets covering the full area. The results will be presented first at our Advisory Board meeting in April. And when COVID-19 allows, citizens will be invited to engage again with the insights in the design process,” says director Dorte Grastrup-Hansen, Miljøpunkt Amager.

Read more about these inspiring projects, the Action Fund and how cities are innovating for sustainable development.

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Priscilla Castro
Written By

Communications and Member Relations Officer, ICLEI Europe.

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