La Fabrique de la Cité's Newsletter #92

#92 - 13 August 2021

The smart city is dead, long live the climate-smart city!

The smart city is dead, long live the climate-smart city! This attempt to reconcile the city, digital technologies and the climate does not come from some digital giant or multinational trying to regain environmental virginity with oxymoronic slogans, but... from the United Nations.

The rationale is simple: climate change is massively due to human activities; cities concentrate more and more human beings and 70% of GHG emissions; consequently, they must revisit their development according to the climate imperative – there lies the true intelligence of the city of the future. Does this mean that the hierarchy of smart cities – those cities that bet on new technologies to enhance urban services – will be turned upside down? Immediately, attention is drawn to Singapore, which has been at the top of many smart city rankings for years. Is the "Lion City" about to be dethroned from its pioneering status?  

While the rivalry with Hong Kong is no longer an issue after China's political takeover of the former British colony, Singapore's approach goes far beyond highly effective territorial marketing. In particular, the work on energy consumption or indoor air quality is worth following with interest. First, because the energy issue is a challenge for the city-state, which is bound to efficiency, as the small size and climate of its territory prevent it from developing rapidly clean energy sources. Secondly, because the pandemic has come and gone; Singapore has managed it in a way that is both strict and pragmatic. In this respect, anticipated innovations in airflow control in buildings through a system that could be used in the event of a pandemic could have broader implications on a largely under-addressed, albeit major, issue: indoor air quality. More fundamentally, the Covid outbreak showed that Singapore has now understood that open data is fully part of the smart city.  – Cécile Maisonneuve, President

→ This op-ed is from Cécile Maisonneuve's bi-monthly columns and can be found in its entirety on the L'Express website here (in French).

No time to read? La Fabrique de la Cité has got you covered.


WATER SMART CITY – According to a recent UN report on drought, climate change is increasing the frequency, severity and duration of droughts, which contribute to food insecurity, poverty and inequality.  Add to this the fact that by 2050, the world's population is expected to approach 10 billion and the demand for water to rise by 55%. And by then, two-thirds of the population will live in cities. As cities continue to grow and experience more frequent droughts, planners need to think not just five or 10 years out, but 50 or 100 years out. Several solutions are on the table: recycle water, better measure uses, but most importantly, it is urgent to address the heart of the problem – climate change. (UNDRR, Bloomberg) – Yamina Saydi, Communications Officer


COASTAL CITIES AT STAKE – A few days ago, the Working Group I's contribution to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report delivered the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change. Among the numerous alarming points, the dark fate of coastal cities. Due to rise of sea level, and more frequent violent storms or extreme river flows, the perennity of cities which have benefited from their proximity with the ocean or the sea is at stake. For instance, it is estimated that 25% of the Vietnamese population currently live on land that will be inundated, and a massive migration movement have already begun in this country (IPCC, The New York Times) – Arthur Wienhold, Research Assistant

→ Related: our studies on climate resilience.


LET'S PEDAL – The University of Westminster recently released a study summarizing the benefits of cargo bikes over delivery vans. The study found that bikes can reduce carbon emissions by 90% compared to diesel vans and 33% compared to electric vans. And that's not all, it seems that they are also faster: in central London, the cargo bikes had a higher average speed and dropped off ten parcels per hour, compared to six for vans. This means that bike carts could deliver goods 60% faster than vans in city centers. In addition to reducing the amount of land used, electric bikes could lead to a rapid change in behavior, as recommended in the latest IPCC report. (Possible, Cities Today) – Yamina Saydi


PARIS 2024 – As soon as the Tokyo Olympic Games ended, all eyes turned to Paris. The Summer Games of 2024 promise to be different and less expensive as the organizers have put the stress on temporary structures and adaptability. Instead of an isolated, fee-based Olympic park, the Paris Games will be spread throughout the city and its suburbs. Instead of a dozen brand new stadiums, Paris will build only a handful, relying on temporary or older buildings for the rest. Competitions will be held in ad hoc structures scattered around the city: fencing at the Grand Palais, horseback riding at the Château de Versailles or wrestling in front of the Eiffel Tower. And for the first time, the construction budget (3.35 billion euros) is lower than the budget for the event itself (3.9 billion euros). Will these games keep their promise? See you in 2024 to find out! (Slate) – Yamina Saydi

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