Digital 3rd KoMet-Conference discussing ways to climate neutral and resilient cities - Summary
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
"Smart Metropolitan Solutions – Pathways to Climate-Neutral and Resilient Cities".
was the topic of the 3rd KoMet Conference organised by the Competence Field of Metropolitan Research (KoMet) of the Ruhr University Alliance (UA Ruhr) on 6 December 2021 in cooperation with the Emschergenossenschaft.
Against the backdrop of the EU Commission's European Green Deal, the discussion focused on the following central questions: How can smart city approaches be used to deal with current challenges of a climate neutral and resilient city development from a technological, economic, social and ecological perspective? Which (un)desired side effects are connected to the concept of the smart city? How can resilience and sustainability be brought together in an intelligent way?
The conference kicked off with a keynote speech by Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General of POLIS, the leading network of European cities and regions working together to develop innovative technologies and strategies for urban transport. She addressed the ecosystem of urban mobility and pleaded for the intelligent integration of public transport and the linking of public transport, shared mobility and active modes of transport such as walking and cycling. The key note ended with the plea to use the "Momentum for Change through Covid and Climate Change" to initiate smart, sustainable transformation processes.
Afterwards, three panels addressed the smart city concept from different perspectives.
Panel I: Climate change and climate neutrality
Under the moderation of Prof. Dr. Stefan Greiving (TU Dortmund), the invited experts - Prof. Dr. Jörn Birkmann (University of Stuttgart), Dr. Wolfgang Beckröge (Regionalverband Ruhr, RVR) and Jürgen Schultze (Sozialforschungsstelle, TU Dortmund) – discussed the concepts of climate neutrality and climate resilience as orientation points for spatial planning, the strategy of the Metropole Ruhr to become climate neutral by 2045, together with the plenum after their inputs. Among other things, possible conflicts of objectives between climate protection and adaptation were discussed, as well as the sometimes problematic "division of labour" between rural areas, in which energy is generated and climatic compensation is achieved, and urban areas, for which these functions are provided. There was a consensus that urban areas also have to take on burdens.
Panel II: The Smart Journey is Underway – Shaping Our Cities in the Future
PD. Dr. Ani Melkonyan-Gottschalk (University Duisburg-Essen) moderated the discussion between and with the experts Prof. Dr. Pedro Marrón (University Duisburg-Essen) and Maryke van Staden (ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainabilty). The focus was on the question of how the holistic concept of the smart city should be conceived and designed in order to be sustainable: Which political framework conditions are necessary for this? Which concepts have established themselves as best cases? Based on the approach currently pursued in Paris, the 15-minute city was thereby identified as a best case. Furthermore, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) for the technological development of smart cities and their social implications was debated. After the discussion in the plenary, it was summarised that the holistic concept of the smart city should primarily be a “resident-oriented” concept.
Panel III: Challenges of digitalisation
Under the moderation of Prof. Dr. Markus König (Ruhr-University Bochum), the invited researchers Prof. Dr. Jens Martin Gurr (University Duisburg-Essen), Joshua Gelhaar (Fraunhof ISST Dortmund) and Ralf Benzmüller (eurobits e.V.) discussed together with the audience the (un)desired side effects that are connected to the concept of the smart city. They agreed that positive tendencies towards a more responsible and resident-oriented digitalisation of cities can be observed in Europe due to the development of smart city concepts (from generation 1.0 to 3.0). Nevertheless, the collection and storage of personal data by private technology companies is still not compliant with the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). According to experts, this is due to the GDPR demanding sovereignty of user data, which is not yet technologically realisable. Approaches to building a reliable data infrastructure are currently being researched and tested in projects such as IDS, Gaia-X and Self-Sovereign Identity. Until its implementation, the GDPR and thus the resident-oriented smart city is still a “paper tiger”.
The event was concluded with a digital fishbowl discussion.
Digital Fishbowl: A critical confrontation with Smart City Approaches.
Moderated by Prof. Dr. Thorsten Wiechmann (TU Dortmund), Nina Frense (Regionalverband Ruhr), Prof. Dr. Uli Paetzel (Emschergenossenschaft), Dr. Jan Fritz Rettberg (City of Dortmund) as well as Dr. Thomas Wilk (MHKBG NRW) examined smart city approaches from different perspective and asked how well the Ruhr region is positioned with regard to the use of smart city approaches for a resilient and sustainable transformation. The common conclusion was that the "window of opportunity" opened by the debate on man-made climate change, but also by the current Covid pandemic, for a development towards smart, sustainable and resilient cities must be used. Fast action is therefore necessary to use the "momentum for change" and to overcome the "parochial thinking" that is still widespread in the region. As a matter of fact, the pressure to act is of fundamental importance, which is – as an example – currently lacking in the construction industry, where it leads to below-average innovative strength. The municipal side expects more support and coordination from the federal government, the state and the region in order to use the opportunities offered by smart technologies. Another issue that the objective-orientated transformation faces is that the time-wise limited legislature periods lead to the politicians focusing primarily on short-term goals rather than long-term solutions. However, the Ruhr metropolis is a “professional of structural change”. The task now is to use the transformation strength and acceptance for the development and implementation of a regional smart city strategy.
Despite the short-notice switch to a purely digital event due to pandemic conditions, the conference counted a total of 150 participants. This booklet compiles the keynote presentations and papers from the three panels. We sincerely hope that the KoMet Conference 2022 can again be held in presence.
The documentary including all presentations can be found HERE.
For the organizing team of the KoMet Conference 2021:
Prof. Dr. Stefan Greiving (TU Dortmund)
Prof. Dr. Markus König (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
PD Dr. Ani Melkonyan-Gottschalk (Universität Duisburg-Essen
Speakers of the Competence Field of Metropolitan Research:
Prof. Dr. Jens Martin Gurr (Universität Duisburg-Essen)
Prof. Dr. Uta Hohn (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
Prof. Dr. Thorsten Wiechmann (TU Dortmund)