UK PM David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson open smart cities event

Clare Saxon Ghauri
10 December 2012

LONDON: Industry experts, politicians and city planners gathered at Urban Age in East London last week, for a two-day conference on how urban society is adapting to technology and environmental changes.

The event was hosted by LSE Cities and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society, and was opened by David Cameron, UK Prime Minister and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.

Beside the much-applauded £50 million towards East London's Sillicon Roundabout announced by David Cameron, a notable low carbon commitment was a £1 billion cycling infrastructure pledge, which was announced by Boris Johnson.

This year the general theme of the event was Electric City 2012, which featured a strong focus on low carbon, smart cities.

In a session entitled ‘A new climate for the urban economy’, participants discussed the green economy as a driver for growth and innovation in the UK. Here, Bruce Katz, Vice President, Brookings Institute, stated, ‘41% of clean economy jobs offer medium or long-term training. They are innovation and opportunity rich.’

Another participant, Dimitri Zenghelis, Senior Visiting Fellow of LSE, spotlighted how Copenhagen is rewarded economically for its resource efficiency, and how politicians are held accountable by the public for sustainable infrastructure.

To accompany the conference, Dimitri had co-authored an essay entitled Global Problems: City Solutions with Philipp Rode, Executive Director, LSE Cities and Nick Stern, Chairman, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE, which was featured in 'The electric city' a collection of essays and new data published alongside the event.

In the essay they write: ‘Cities are well placed to lead the process of low carbon innovation. […] [they] generate a fertile environment for innovation in ideas, technologies and processes.’

They continue: ‘Cities have become laboratories for action on climate change where learning and experience induces further innovation and falling cost in new technologies.’

The influential essay concludes with: ‘[…] all cities have scope to improve efficiency, make greater use of renewable resources and improve the environment for innovation, with significant economic as well as environmental returns. The investments and strategic decisions made over the next few years will determine where the winners and losers will be in rising to the challenge of a sustainable future.’

Kirsten Jack, Acting Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group said: "It is so great to see hard figures which prove the benefits a green growth approach can bring to cities in terms of jobs, training and new pathways for future development. In particular the session on technological innovations highlights the importance of our Agile Cities program in further supporting cities in bringing these fantastic innovations into play.

"Having David Cameron and Boris Johnson open the event makes it one of the most well supported smart city events in quite a while and I hope we continue to see such high-level government support around low carbon city initiatives across the world."

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