Eight Things I learned in the Citynet – Kuala Lumpur Regional Training Centre 33rd Emission Reduction and Low Carbon Society Workshop
by: EnP. Ermin Lucino, MPM, AICP, PMP®
If a city is not pedestrian/bicycle-friendly and lacks efficient green public transport; then it is not inclusive, smart and sustainable. Leaders should ensure and prioritize strategies that will promote the walking, biking, and use of public transport and provide adequate facility supporting these activities. As such, the people should also demand these services/facility from their city leaders.
The City of Santa Rosa in the Philippines (https://santarosacity.gov.ph/home/) became a member of CityNet early this year (2019). CityNet is the largest association of urban stakeholders committed to sustainable development in the Asia Pacific region. It has a network of cities has grown to include over 135 cities, NGOs, private companies and research centers focused on addessing to Climate Change, Disaster, the Sustainable Development Goals and rising Infrastructure demands. My city is now part of this big network. (https://citynet-ap.org/)
I am fortunate to be invited to participate in the CityNet – Kuala Lumpur Regional Training Centre Workshop 33rd Emission Reduction and Low Carbon Society last April 21 to 24. The activity is jointly organized by: CityNet, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, International Urban Cooperation (IUC) Asia and Global Covenant of Mayors (GCom). It was well attended by different participants from Asia. The diversity of the participants made the discussion really interesting.
The workshop focused on urban solutions to climate change and its related challenges in cities. The solutions are focused on energy and transport. The training geared towards climate change mitigation and adaptation actions with the goal on emission reduction and building low-carbon society on the city level.
Topics focused on the following:
– Basic Principles and Climate Actions on Greenhouse Gases (GHG) Emission Reduction
– Climate Action Plan in Asia Pacific
– Low Carbon Solution Policies
– Strengthening Infrastructure to Support the Implementation of Low-Carbon Strategies
It is my first time to visit Malaysia. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur International Airport at around 5pm. It is a 4-hour plane ride from Manila. What I noticed immediately was the diversity or the mix of people from different Asian countries, airport staff included. I also noticed the presence of the Train Station in the airport. It means that you have the option to ask someone to fetch you with a car/use a taxi or use the train to get to Kuala Lumpur city which is around 45 minutes away. When I reached my hotel. I noticed that the roads in the city are not really wide. There are many one-way roads. What got my attention is the space they provide for pedestrians. I learned later that they even have an elevated airconditioned pedestrian walkway! They seem to care and provide ample street space for pedestrian.
Now let’s go to Manila. Well, things have been improving. Instead of train, we now have the Point to Point Bus System. So people now have options. The Clark Airport looks promising though, I learned that the train system will be revived and improved from Clark to Manila to South of Luzon (including Santa Rosa!).
The urban planners in the Philippines, especially the young planners are now also advocating adequate public spaces for people. Sadly, there is a project in our city that is being somewhat opposed by the people. It is the conversion of an existing busy street immediately beside a river into a promenade and construction of a new road beside it away from the river. The people seems to prefer road widening than a promenade. Do they object for a safe space for people who wants to walk? This only shows that we still need to engage the people more and early in project planning and implementation.
The workshop is a 4-day activity. The first day is devoted to the appreciation and to experience the KL car free morning. I participated in the second day which is the workshop proper. I missed the experience of the KL car free morning.
There are many good speakers/topics discussed during the workshop. The second day was devoted to the general impacts of climate change, global agenda/targets, strategies for low carbon society, and building the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventory. The topic started from a macro perspective and later zoomed in the important role of cities. Each city tried to compute its emission inventory using the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan Template. It is apparent that the issue is not the use of the template but the availability of reliable data from cities. (https://www.covenantofmayors.eu/IMG/xlsx/SECAP_Template.xlsx)
The third day focused on several real-life cases/projects on different (diverse) cities lowering their GHGs, Yokohama city with its high technology solutions and Bharatpur city with its practical and innovative project. The half of the afternoon was directed towards a group workshop. There are four groups: renewable energy, energy efficiency, pedestrianization, and eco-mobility. I joined the eco-mobility group. Below is our output:
The fourth day focused on CityNet Infrastructure Cluster meeting. KL presented specific Strategies for Infrastructure as follows: green mobility, smart city, free wifi, low carbon society, solid waste management, and KLRTC as Center for Sustainable Development.
Eight Things I learned from Attending the Workshop:
1. Cities are both the source of problems and the provider of solutions in addressing climate change and its effects. In 2050 almost 70% of world population will be living in cities. Most GHG emission will come from cities. Cities pursuing a low carbon development will definitely affect its GHG emission. The impact of targeting cities in reducing the increase in GHG in the air is both practical and efficient. Low carbon solutions in cities will help countries achieve the 1.5°C commitment.
2. The target safe limit to an increase in global temperature is only 1.5 degrees Celsius. An increase beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit will bring significant negative global effects. Several countries committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement.
3. Data in the form of GHG inventory is important. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. There are different ways to gather data. It is tedious but it is a necessity. Investing in data collection will provide leaders important information in deciding/pursuing relevant and effective strategies and projects.
4. Inadequate data should not hinder cities in implementing low carbon development. The truth is data is not always available. Getting data may also take time. Even with an inadequate data, leaders may still pursue strategies towards low carbon solutions and activities. However, cities should not stop in acquiring relevant data to make effective decisions in the future.
5. Low carbon solutions may or may not involve the use of high-technology modalities. Strategies may include the use of recycled water in cooling or heating a building, use of a software application that provides information for efficient use of public transport, hydropower from dams, etc. These are costly and high technology solutions. However, cities can still opt to pursue low-technology solutions like promoting the use of bikes, planting trees and application of local policies regulating GHG emissions in their localities. There is no reason for cities from both developed and developing countries not to pursue low carbon solutions.
6. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, eco-mobility, and pedestrianization are some of the strategies cities may implement towards a low carbon society.
Energy efficiency means using less energy in the conduct of regular activities. These may mean changing light bulbs, use of aircon timer, use of appliances with inverters, etc. Renewable energy is the use of an energy resource that is replaced rapidly by a natural process such as power generated from the sun or from the wind. Ecomobility is a means of promoting walking, cycling, public transport, wheeling (using any man powered vehicle with wheels) in an integrated fashion such that a synergy is developed (https://ecomobility.org/about/)
Pedestrianization means prioritizing spaces to pedestrians only as compared to motor vehicles. This has helped build a sense of community within a small area and provided an alternative safe option of travelling short distances without using an automobile.
7. Support of stakeholders (ownership) is non-negotiable to ensure success and sustainability. There are cases when exclusive bikelane facilities were provided but there is a low bike usage or there is adequate public transport provisions but people still prefer using their own cars when travelling around the city. Some strategies to promote ownership of projects include early involvement of stakeholders in planning, continuous partnership during project implementation, monitoring, and evaluation, enactment of local policies supporting the project, etc.
8. Cities should support and learn from each other. There are cities employing advance activities and there are cities that only started initiating low carbon solutions. Cities should collaborate with each other. Cities should learn from the experience of advance cities and the practical solutions being observed by new cities. Collaboration. It is true that each city has a different context and culture but the objective of controlling GHG emission and trying to save our planet cut across the issue of contexts and cultures.
The City of Santa Rosa has both ambitious and practical projects that aim in lowering the GHG emission in the city. Some of these projects are the construction of the Santa Rosa People’s Eco-tourism park, the promotion and facility for bikelanes and pedestrian spaces and the aggressive setting up of solar streetlamps in the city, among others. There is inadequate public green park facilities in the city. People go to malls during weekends to spend time with their families. The Santa Rosa People’s Eco-tourism park is a 15-hectare plan/project along the Laguna Lake. It will provide the city with the needed public green space that will bring social, economic, and environmental benefits to its constituents. The city is also in the stage of finalizing the Santa Rosa Bikelane and Pedestrian Conceptual Plan. The plan will guide the city in promoting ecomobility and pedestrianization in the years to come. Lastly, the aggressive establishment of solar streetlights not only illuminated the whole city but also promoted renewable use of energy, social, economic, and gender and development concerns.
As a City Planner, I took note of the things we can improve in our city as a result of this workshop. First is the continuous effort in gathering data. This may include activities such as active capacity building in data collection. Second is to promote awareness with regards to the importance of the 1.5°C Global temperature increase limit and how cities can contribute. Activities should gear on educating and promoting general awareness of government officers and constituents on the importance of aspiring for low carbon society, learn strategies that promotes low carbon activities and commit to the goal of lowering GHG emission. Lastly, our city should collaborate more and learn from other advance Asian cities. I hope that we can partner with Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Metropolitan Government of Seoul in South Korea in learning their experience and success in promoting ecomobility and pedestrianization.
I also hope that more cities would join CityNet. This is my first time to attend a CityNet activity. I learned so much and I know that my city would benefit from the knowledge I gained from participating in the activity. I can’t wait for the next activity and future collaboration with other Asian cities.