So­ci­eties must seek to take care of those ‘men­aced’ by costs of green shift


>> BARCELONA: Rent­ing a pair of jeans, work­ing on an aban­doned house­boat ren­o­vated as an of­fice, or liv­ing in a por­ta­ble home made from a ship­ping con­tainer — these are just a few ways res­i­dents of the Dutch cap­i­tal Am­s­ter­dam can play their part in help­ing save the planet.

Three years ago, the city launched a quest to be­come a “cir­cu­lar econ­omy” — re-us­ing prod­ucts and ma­te­ri­als, and min­imis­ing waste — by 2050.

It now has 73 re­lated projects un­der way, ac­cord­ing to Eve­line Jonkhoff, a strate­gic ad­viser on the ini­tia­tive.

The cir­cu­lar-econ­omy push is part of a wider ef­fort by Am­s­ter­dam to help meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agree­ment to curb cli­mate change, she told a con­fer­ence on smart cities in Barcelona this week.

Other cli­mate tar­gets for Am­s­ter­dam fo­cus on end­ing the use of nat­u­ral gas by mid-cen­tury and putting in place a clean pub­lic trans­port sys­tem that does not con­trib­ute to planet-warm­ing emis­sions by 2025.

But key to the suc­cess of the city’s push to­ward car­bon neu­tral­ity is en­abling ev­ery­one to par­tic­i­pate, Ms Jonkhoff said.

“All these changes re­quire very high in­vest­ments, and we need to make sure this tran­si­tion is af­ford­able for ev­ery­one,” she said.

Fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments will be needed to help res­i­dents buy so­lar pan­els and elec­tric cars so they are “not just for the happy few”, she added.

How to make of­ten high-tech mea­sures to limit global warm­ing avail­able and ap­peal­ing to much of the pub­lic — in­clud­ing the el­derly and the poor, who are of­ten left out de­spite be­ing most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate stresses — was a key fo­cus of the Barcelona con­fer­ence last month.

In Oslo, city au­thor­i­ties are in­tro­duc­ing a new con­ges­tion charge in rush hours and ad­ding more than 50 new road toll sta­tions in a bid to de­ter pol­lut­ing traf­fic.

But “many peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence this as a chal­lenge if they don’t have the money to pay,” noted Daniel Rees, political ad­viser to the Nor­we­gian cap­i­tal’s deputy mayor.

Shift­ing to cleaner modes of get­ting around will re­quire suf­fi­cient pub­lic trans­port, safe bi­cy­cle lanes and a net­work of charg­ing points for elec­tric ve­hi­cles, he said.

And if cities start us­ing au­ton­o­mous buses in the fu­ture, al­ter­na­tive jobs will need to be found for driv­ers, he added.


Barcelona Mayor Ada Co­lau, mean­while, high­lighted “cli­mate jus­tice” as one of four pil­lars of the Cata­lan city’s cli­mate plan, adopted ear­lier this year.

The city aims to boost sup­port for the tenth of res­i­dents who strug­gle to pay for en­ergy, and to im­prove hous­ing to save on en­ergy costs and re­duce health risks from ex­treme weather.

Barcelona — which faces more in­tense heat­waves, rain­storms and droughts — is also dou­bling its bi­cy­cle lanes, ad­ding 1.6 square me­tres of green­ery per per­son by plant­ing trees and cre­at­ing pub­lic gar­dens, and “pedes­tri­an­is­ing” some city blocks, among other mea­sures.

Teresa Rib­era, Spain’s minister for eco­log­i­cal tran­si­tion, told the con­fer­ence ur­ban poli­cies on cli­mate change can im­prove cit­i­zens’ lives in the form of cleaner air, bet­ter-in­su­lated build­ings, en­ergy sav­ings and more parks.

“Greener and health­ier cities are also safer cities, and more at­trac­tive places to live,” she said.

But Spain’s so­cial­ist-led gov­ern­ment, which came into power in June, is also aware that not ev­ery­one will win if it steps up ac­tion to de­car­bonise its econ­omy, as it is promis­ing.

Last month, in a push to close most of Spain’s coal mines by the end of this year, Madrid made a deal with unions to in­vest 250 mil­lion eu­ros (9.3 bil­lion baht) over the next five years in af­fected prov­inces, mainly in the north­west.

The money will sup­port en­vi­ron­men­tal restora­tion, early re­tire­ment, and train­ing for min­ers to take up green en­ergy jobs. It would be spent un­der a pro­posed sys­tem of “just tran­si­tion con­tracts” be­tween the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties that would bring in busi­nesses, uni­ver­si­ties and oth­ers.

In Barcelona, Ms Rib­era told jour­nal­ists that mod­ern so­ci­ety must “pay at­ten­tion to those groups who feel men­aced by the trans­for­ma­tion” to a low-car­bon econ­omy, and should of­fer sol­i­dar­ity. “We need to help those re­gions see a pos­i­tive, con­struc­tive fu­ture,” she said.

In De­cem­ber, the Euro­pean Union launched a platform to sup­port 41 re­gions in 12 coun­tries that em­ploy 185,000 peo­ple in coal min­ing to shift the fo­cus of their economies away from pro­duc­ing dirty fuel and to­wards clean en­ergy.

“The just tran­si­tion con­cerns us all,” said Elena Vis­nar Mali­novska, head of adap­ta­tion in the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s cli­mate ac­tion di­vi­sion.

“Coun­tries and cities have to start de­sign­ing [cli­mate] poli­cies that min­imise the eco­nomic and so­cial dis­rup­tive im­pacts ... and re­ally max­imise the ben­e­fits,” she said.

SO­LAR SO­LU­TION: Staff from an al­ter­na­tive en­ergy com­pany in­stall so­lar rooftop pan­els at a house in Bangkok.

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