Event Reports

Making Sustainable Cities Work in Europe and Asia

International Workshop on Eco Cities in Brussels

On 17 September, 2013, the EU-Asia Dialogue organized an international workshop on“Making Sustainable Cities Work in Europe and Asia” in Brussels, Belgium. This event ofthe cluster Eco-Cities was attended by 35 participants.

These included, among others, representatives from UN-Habitat, OECD, European Commission, Cities Development

Initiative for Asia, MAN, Philips, City of Copenhagen, City of Helsinki, International

Association of Public Transport, Iskandar Regional Development Authority Malaysia, and

researchers from China, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, Thailand as well as

the United Kingdom. Particular attention was given to the aspects of transport and

infrastructure, energy and building as well as financing eco-cities.

In their welcome remarks Dr. Wilhelm Hofmeister, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Singapore,

and Dr. Annika Ahtonen, European Policy Centre, Brussels, emphasized the aims of the

EU-Asia Dialogue project and this workshop in particular. In times when 70 % of global

greenhouse gas emissions are produced in cities, it is essential to decrease land use and

plan as well as build carbon-neutral cities. Ways to tackles the emissions include pricing,

regulation and information provision.

Session I: State of Play – Towards Sustainable Cities in Asia and Europe

The workshop started with a presentation by Mr. Joris van Etten, Cities Development

Initiative for Asia (CDIA), Philippines, on “The Situation of Medium-Sized Cities in Asia”.

The key challenge for medium-sized cities is that senior servants have a long list of

wishes, but lack financial resources and capacities. They require roughly 100 billion USD

annually for infrastructure, but can provide only 40 % of this amount. Thus, CDIA tries to

bridge this gap by linking the cities to finance infrastructure throughout the whole

process from the planning to implementation. One central area of activity is urban

transport as this contributes greatly to the pollution. If interfered at an early stage, an

efficient public transport system might be set up.

Currently, Asian cities face severe challenges and contradictions. While 80 % of the

economy is based in cities, there are almost 200 million urban poor. Cities use 85 % of

the energy and produce 75 % of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Tools to improve the situation are prioritisation and pre-feasibility studies. Public-Private-

Partnerships are seen as a last option as these request a lot of coordination and


Van Etten concluded by emphasizing that medium-sized cities are the better target group

in Asia than the huge metropolitan areas. Firstly, they are expected to grow fast and

develop at least secondary functions. Secondly, they are already confronted with severe

ecological challenges. But, thirdly, they are still small enough to be managed properly

and become more eco-friendly.

The presentation by Mr. Adam Szolyak, European Commission DG Energy, Belgium,

focussed on “Initiatives by the European Union – the Example of the Convenant of

Mayors”. He highlighted that the challenges in Europe are similar to those in Asia, but

that the EU works within a different framework. The key determiner is the 20-20-20

target for climate and energy set in 2007. In order to achieve these goals, the local

governance units play a crucial role, for instance, through building regulations.

The Convenant of Mayors (CoM) is a new approach launched in 2008 with a voluntarily

commitment by cities. The initiative tries to empower cities by using a bottom-up

mechanism. However, it does not provide funding. At the moment 5000 cities,

representing 170 million inhabitants, participate in CoM. As the challenges for urban

areas are very complex, local authorities know best what needs to be done. While the

approach does not include the industry, it helps to achieve the 20-20-20 goals in cities.

Good progress has been made on transport, but other areas, such as noise reduction,

have proven to be more complicated, especially with regard to funding. The initiative

tries to function as a platform for exchange and bring together leaders with a socioeconomic

vision. The problem is that such developments in local communities require

long investment cycles and political changes, due to election results or budgetary cuts,

can hinder the planning security. While the technologies for making cities more resilient

are available, attractive business models and social change among the population are

needed for a successful transformation. The initiative faces one dilemma with regard to

capacity-building. While big cities need to implement eco-friendly measures, they do not

require capacity-building. On the other hand, small cities need to develop capacities, but

their actions have a severely smaller impact. With regard to the financing, multiplier

effects involving a number of stakeholders are important. In addition, public funding can

be conditional. For instance if the local authorities are planning to make investments,

they will receive a grant and if such investments do not take place, this grant can be

transferred into a loan.

Szolyak emphasized that the Convenant is a positive example of an integrated approach

which created spill-over effects. Concrete success stories can be recognized in

Copenhagen, Helsinki and Freiburg.

The discussion showed that especially transport is a common challenge for European and

Asian cities. An interesting aspect is the concept of elastic infrastructure which allows for

adaptations over time. This enables city planners to think in long-term plans since the

development of urban areas will not stop. Such innovative systems provide not only

improvements to current situations, but possible solutions.

A second crucial aspect is the connection to the business sector. Are eco-friendly cities at

the same time attractive to businesses and investors? In order to be successful, these

two criteria have to be combined. This can result in innovative regions which can take the

major burden of reducing the urban emissions. In this context, Small-and-Medium

Enterprises (SMEs) are important as investors. While the big players go to global cities,

SMEs invest in medium-sized cities and can create spill-over effects. However, it has to

be acknowledged that not each city will be successful as the sustainable development

and the attraction of investors is a competition as well.

Session II: Making Transport and Infrastructure Sector more Sustainable

Mr. Stefan Klatt, MAN, Germany, gave a presentation on “Sustainable Transport - A

Business Sector's Cooperative Approach” in which he presented key findings of a study

conducted by MAN and the Technische Universität München. This study focussed on

mobility and asked transport planners what cities need to improve their situation. The

results show that transport planning is strongly influenced by the population growth. For

instance, the higher the density in a city, the more people use public transport instead of

private cars. Important influences on the development of transport are the economic

development, administration and municipality budget. In addition, the climate of the city,

travel time and quality of the public transport influence the choice of means of transport.

When the means of transport is chosen, people in less developed countries do not think

about the climate, but how to get from point A to point B.

However, local authorities have recognized the need to limit the share of private cars and

shifted from building roads to strengthening public transport. In this planning, buses play

an important part. They are more flexible and cheaper than Light Rail Transit systems,

though they might face traffic congestions. An idea to avoid this are Bus Rapid Transit

Systems where buses have separate lanes to avoid being caught in congestions.

Mr. Jerome Pourbaix, International Association of Public Transport (UITP), Belgium,

spoke on “Keeping Cities on the Move – Experiences from Asia and Europe”. In 2005, 7.5

billion trips were made in cities every day. Of this roughly 40 per cent took place in Asia

and 17 per cent in Europe. In both regions the use of private motorized transport is

much higher than public transport. It is noteworthy, that non-motorize transport was the

most popular in Asia accounting for 50 per cent of all trips.

The business-as-usual scenario for 2025 shows an increase to more than 11 billion trips

daily and an increase in the use of private motorized transport at the expense of nonmotorised

transport in both regions. This will have a negative impact on energy

consumption, CO2 emissions and congestions. However, this impact will differ

geographically. The global increase in energy consumption for urban mobility will be 27

%. While Europe’s share decreases in absolute terms and by 14 %, Asia’s portion will

increase by 128 %. The decrease in Europe compared to the increase in trips is due to

higher energy efficiency. UITP made another projection based on an increase of the share

of public transport by 100 % – meaning 30 % in Europe and 34 % in Asia. This would

keep the global energy consumption by urban mobility at a stable level and lower the

increase in Asia to 68 %. It would also enable the European countries to decrease its

share by 21 %; thus, being in line with the 20-20-20 targets.

In order to achieve such sustainable mobility and funding, UITP suggests four necessary

steps. Firstly, the cities have to provide lifestyle services targeting specific groups and

new segments. Secondly, a new business culture with more customer oriented services

has to be developed. Thirdly, visionary integrated urban polices with coordination

between public transport and urban planning needs to be put in place. Fourthly, smart

demand management, e.g. road tolls and financial incentives, can influence citizen’s

behaviour to use more public transport.

The third presentation of this session “European Sustainable Cities - The Danish

Example” was delivered by Ms Marie Kåstrup, City of Copenhagen, Denmark. She

stressed that the people of Copenhagen have the common goal to achieve a high life

quality. A key role in doing so is the support of bicycles. By now Copenhagen has 36,000

bicyclists which can even cause congestion on the bicycle paths. Similar to other cities

the share of private motorized transport increased in the mid-20th century. As a reaction

people demanded better conditions for bicyclists in the 1970s. Today the city has 426 km

of bicycle infrastructure, 75 % of its inhabitants cycle, own 625,000 bicycles and cycle

1.25 million km. Besides, cycling has a positive effect on health and is spatially efficient.

Therefore, cycling is part of Copenhagen’s climate, health and social policies.

Measures to support the use of bicycles include the development of cycle super highways.

These are bicycle lanes with less stops and short-cuts which enable the people to travel

long distances faster. Secondly, the city initiated a public bike share system which is part

of the public transport and involves the local public train operator. Thirdly, intelligent

traffic systems were introduced where cyclist will not have to stop at traffic lights. At the

end of her presentation Kåstrup highlighted that the main driving factor is time and

money and not particularly the concern for the environment. Thus, it is important to

make public forms of transport more affordable and faster than private motorized traffic.

During the discussion the need to address cultural aspects was highlighted. For instance,

in many Asian societies owning a car is an expression of success and a symbol of

prestige. This makes it necessary to change people’s perception. The implementation of

ideas can be a critical point. For example, India has also established separate bus lanes,

but they are still used by normal cars. This again requires a change of people’s mindset

and strong law enforcement. It was mentioned that the public transport used could be

even more eco-friendly if it is driven by solar power. Finally, it was suggested to divide

Asia into categories. The first group are states with a decreasing population, the second

one are strong states and the third group are increasing states with low capacities. While

category one and two can be successful in achieving sustainable urban development,

especially the third group face the hardest job with an urgent need to tackle these topics.

Session III: Towards more Sustainable Energy and Building Sector

Mr. Clemens Haury, European Commission DG Energy, Belgium, spoke on “The EU's

Approach to Energy Efficiency for Buildings”. He started by emphasizing why energy

efficiency matters. It increases a country’s competitiveness, makes it more sustainable

and ensures supply security. In order to achieve the 20-20-20 targets the EU has passed

several directives and initiatives on energy and building. The 20-20-20 goals are a

reduction of the greenhouse gas level by 20 per cent, an increase in renewable energies

to 20 per cent and a reduction of the energy consumption by 20 per cent by the year

2020. The first directive is the Energy Efficiency Directive from 2012 and the Energy

Performance of Buildings Directive from 2010. The latter includes a cost optimal

methodology to balance the energy consumption with the global costs. Another tool is

the ‘Nearly Zero Energy Buildings’ which requires new buildings owned or occupied by

public authorities to be nearly zero energy buildings by 2018 and all new buildings by

2020. However, the Member States themselves can define what ‘nearly’ means, but shall

develop national plans to give security to the construction sector. The Build-Up Skills

initiative provides training to construction workers and planners on the new techniques

these houses require. In order to make the achievements more comparable, the EU

develops standardisation rules and certificates. The energy savings require an investment

of approximately 850 billion Euros between 2011 and 2020. Thus, the EU currently

provides four funding mechanisms – the cohesion policy fund, ELENA facility, European

Energy Efficiency Fund (EEE-F) and Intelligent Energy Europe Programme with a total

volume of 6.652 billion Euros. Additional funds will be available from 2014 to 2020.

However, the involvement of the private sector is needed to achieve the goals. Especially

the EEE-F provides opportunities for private investors. A calculation shows that a full

refurbishment with ambitious criteria is not much more expensive in the investment

phase, but cheaper in the long run due to the running costs.

Ms Ifa Kytösaho, City of Helsinki, Finland, gave a pres entation on “The Finnish

Example”. She highlighted that it is always necessary to see the local context. For

instance, buildings in Finland are exposed to much colder temperatures than in Southern

Europe and require more heating while having less opportunity to use solar power. As a

result, the major part of energy consumption takes place in buildings (80 %). In order to

reduce the energy consumption, the city introduced several projects in new settlement

areas. The first one was Viikki in 1995 which included ecological features in building. In

particular, houses in this area needed 20 % per cent less heating than average projects.

In addition, buildings use solar energy for their water management. There were several

similar projects over the years which decreased the energy consumption, heating and

used traditional methods like wood construction.

Besides these local initiatives, the city cooperates closely with the state through energy

saving agreements and building codes. While the state provides subsidies, the main

investment is made through the inhabitants. The costs are calculated at 100 Euro per

sqm. If the energy price remains the same the investment will pay back in 50 years, but

if the energy price increased by 9 % annually, this will decrease to 17 years.

In order to be more sustainable, the city wants to create urban development areas to

diversify the location of jobs which will decrease the CO2 emission through less

commuting. Currently, the city experiences an enormous urban sprawl with more than

160,000 commuters each day. In addition, energy efficiency and reduction on energy

consumption are the main goals of the 2013-2016 strategy.

The last speaker was Mr. Walter van Kuijen, Philips, The Netherlands, who provided a

business’ perspective. He started his speech by highlighting that lighting comsums

roughly 90 % of all energy worldwide and that 75-80 % of this is non-efficient. Thus,

Philips has established a think tank on liveable cities which looks at inclusion, equal

opportunities and resilience of cities.

Van Kuijen then stressed three major points. Firstly, energy efficiency has to be included

in each strategy in the context of smart solutions. Philips is interested to team-up with

local authorities to help them incorporate energy efficiency and smart solutions in their

strategic planning. This will enable them to spread their investments and be successful.

Secondly, three % of all buildings should be renovated each year since they are outdated.

This will benefit the energy consumption and will also be cheaper in the long run. In

order to do so, more sustainable financial assistance is required from the public through

public-private-partnerships. He stressed that directives of the EU also need to be

enforced and not only launched. Thirdly, a platform is needed where the different

stakeholders can interact. This will multiply and accelerate the progress.

During the discussion the intention of the business sector was questioned. While

companies have to see a financial benefit from its investments, it was highlighted that

they make money mostly at the initial stage, but that the products are working longer

nowadays and help to improve the lives of people. Some companies also provide socalled

energy audits to analyze the situation and give recommendations. In most Asian

countries the energy demand will increase over the next years. For instance, it is

expected that India’s energy production will quadruple in the next 15 years.

Session IV: Meeting the challenges of eco-cities

Prof. Yoshihisa Godo, Meijigakuin University, Japan, discussed the topic „Meeting

Current Challenges to Eco Cities in East Asia”. He emphasized that many Asian cities are

in disorder due to high population density and fast economic growth which results in

speculation. In addition, many governments followed the path of deregulation. The

consequences were abolishment of planning, apartments in factory areas, introduction of

registration systems, violation of land use regulations and a disproportionate emphasis

on landowner’s intensions. Another problem is that Asia tries to copy ideas from the

Western industrialized countries in an attempt to catch up. However, they lack people’s

engagement and efficient planning. Thus, more transparency is needed to avoid fallacy of

the system.

Tadashi Matsumoto, OECD, France, gave a speech on “Financing Eco-Cities”. Financing

urban development is one of the key issues when developing sustainable urban areas,

especially in times of limited public budgets. Thus, the key role of governments is to

provide laws which lay the foundation for further investments. In order to maximise

advantages of city-level action, they have to be linked with multiple policy goals.

Secondly, as an operator of urban systems (transport, water, energy etc.), they have

diversified revenue options and can work on various issues using different funds and

tools to acquire more money (tax, fees, charges etc.). They need to set strategic goals,

enable policies for green investments, establish financial policies and tools, build capacity

and promote green business as well as consumers behavior. Barriers for private sector

engagement are lack of investment opportunities, insufficient returns, high risks and lack

of available sources of financing. If the local governments provide such framework and

opportunities, the private sector will be willing to invest.

The final presentations “The Case of Public-Private-Partnerships” was delivered by Mr.

Hans Martens, European Policy Centre, Belgium. He highlighted that public-privatepartnerships

(PPP) can balance the lack of financial resources which exists at the local

level. The local governments have to provide project assets and a certain guarantee to

start the initiative, but from there market financing can take over the majority of the

burden. However, the public sector remains a decisive factor as it does the planning and

decides what has to be done. Martens named several conditions for successful PPPs.

These include a predictable revenue stream, investments in typical areas (digital and

energy networks, transport) and investment in new areas (e.g. energy efficient buildings).

PPPs on renewable energy might be more difficult as the market is sceptical of the

success. Thus, governments have to subsidies them. While PPPs can complement the

public funding, they are not the final solution, but offer alternatives where they are

applicable. Martens suggested a virtuous circle which means that government should use

the pension funds for investments to start PPPs which will then give returns that can be

used for the pensions and further investments. An example of such successful PPPs is

New York City where it worked to improve the transport system.

The conference was able to discuss key challenges to sustainable urban management in

Europe and Asia. The discussion showed that the situation is quite polarized with a

number of success stories, but also clear failures due to low level of law enforcement and

a lack of responsibility. In addition, there is a strong competition between the countries

which explains why not all of them can be successful. Especially medium-sized cities

should be the target of eco-friendly management as they are expected to grow in Europe

and Asia. This, however, does not mean that efforts on primary cities should be reduced.

Depending on the local context, sustainable urban management has to tackle different

aspects which is way there will not be one role model to follow. It was shown that there

are many initiatives nowadays in Japan which lead to more transparency, accountability,

long-term planning, partnerships, empowerment and participation of people, efficiency as

well as effectiveness. This is again a good climate for investments and the policies helped

to make a difference. An important aspect of sustainable urban management in most

cities is public transport. A high share of public transport can decrease the travel time

and pollution. This process requires support from the public as they have to accept the

change and limitation of private motorized transport. As the example of Copenhagen

shows, if the people are convinced of the benefits of public transport, they can even push

the government to work in this direction. With regard to PPPs, it was highlighted that the

governments have to ensure that the partnerships are economical sustainable and

address the issue of vulnerability since the cities are becoming more dependent on the

investors. In order to share experiences and solutions from Europe and Asia a forum for

constant exchange should be initiated. The Convenant of Mayors could be an example for

such voluntary exchange.

Eco-Cities Workshop Brussels