Fundació Catalunya Europa RE-CITY

Peter Newman

Decarbonize cities to fight global warming


"Climate change is perceived throughout the world: the global system is not working." This is how Peter Newman, professor at the John Curtin University in Perth, Australia, inaugurated the conference on Monday, October 8th,. Conference that opened the cycle "Facing climate change" which is part of the Re-City platform and from now until May 2019 we will offer twelve conferences with different international experts.

This cycle is promoted by the Fundació Catalunya Europa with the collaboration of BBVA and with the support of the Barcelona City Hall, the Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona and the Department of "Territori i Sostenibilitat" of Generalitat de Catalunya.

The opening of the cycle coincided with the publication of the special report of the UN Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC), in which Peter Newman is coauthor. This report warns that global warming higher than 1.5°C can lead to disastrous consequences for the planet and warns that the action must be taken with "unprecedented measures" to avoid "irreversible damage" of climate change.

In spite of the report, the professor in sustainability was optimistic and hopeful at the conference that offered in a full auditorium of the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona. "Climate change is local and global," warned Peter Newman. We all share a world that is warming. Although the consequences may be different depending on the point of the planet where we live, the truth is that the effects of climate change imply us all. This implies great changes, explained Newman, in the current system of energy, transport, cities, industry and land use to achieve the objective of a maximum increase of the average temperature at 1.5 °C. These major changes go through decoupling, this is, stop depending on fossil fuels to maintain economic growth.

The expert insisted on the fact that it is a local and global challenge, where cities can play a crucial role. "Cities do not have to wait for legislative changes to act," said Newman. In fact, there are many examples of cities that are at the forefront of initiatives that fight against climate change and affect decarbonisation. One of the paradigmatic examples is the use of electric public transport, but there are also other less known initiatives as biophilic cities, which seek to bring nature closer to the inhabitants of large cities in order to improve life quality. For Peter Newman, "we must plan, innovate and take risks to move towards sustainability."

"I hope that oil consumption can be reduced, and we have good examples, such as Australia or Denmark, places that have shown that it is possible", affirmed the Australian professor. "We need a disruptive innovation that improves the cities". For example, the autonomous vehicle, if not shared, is innovative but it does not improve the planet. On the other hand, if shared mobility is applied, it becomes a disruptive innovation. Newman explained more cases of good practices that are being carried out in other countries, such as Norway or China, where trackless tram is already being tested, powered by rechargeable batteries that are more stable, less expensive and less polluting than trains or conventional transportation.

Peter Newman also showed data on the evolution of economic growth in recent years that show that it is no longer linked to the use of fossil fuels, given that growth is not incompatible with the development of the green economy and renewable energies.