Afternoon Panel Session: Day 1 (sustainable cities)


Geoff Mulgan – Director, Young Foundation

Hamish McRae

Tony Juniper

Sarah Mukherjee (Chair)

Wayne Hemingway MBE

Chris Murray

Nigel Hugill

A panel discussion on sustainable cities

Is aspiration inevitably linked to a higher carbon footprint?

Rapid growth: People coming from rural areas to cities increase the demand for energy and resources to match that new lifestyle they are pursuing. When people get more democratic rights their needs also grow – highly educated professionals are more likely to move to cities (or have 2 homes!) so how can we ensure

Aspiration is inevitably linked to a higher carbon footprint. Wayne Hemingway says that a bottom up approach to regeneration. Sustainable regeneration is usually down to people who have a desire to make life better, a passion – not money. He refers to the lower east side, and Hoxton. Implanting creativity – Wayne says he spends his money on getting the working class in to an area who will bring with them passion and creativity to make things better.

Responsibility and ownership: people come in to areas of regeneration and do not feel part of the process. Instead they come with a shopping list mindset. Eric Pickles is saying – transfer ownership – this will bring with it responsibility. At the moment we are instlling estates with private sector development which isn’t working. It is clear that the coalition is thinking this…. we will see whether it really happens but if t does it will be really interesting (Chris Murray )

Questions from the audience:

It’s one thing to talk about new cities – but how can a city like London become more sustainable?

Chris Murray: it won’t be rural to urban migration that we will be the issue. It is the megacities and how they function.

Nigel Hugill: transport needs to improve.

Geoff Mulgan: different principals of organisation need to be in place for change to happen. There are catalysts, and reinforcers – a combination of something that is top down (e.g. Government making us be more green) and grassroots – action by citizens to change.

Wayne Hemingway: he who can pay the most rent must stop! it is ruining our cities. In Paris they manage it but we keep making all our cities ‘uniform’.

Hamish McRae: you need to work with what you’ve got. And one size will not fit all.

Tony Juniper: waste management, technology, policymaking to enable and incentivise sustainability. The discourse needs to be changed: we are not going to be in the dark, not go on holiday, see witch doctors. AT the moment this is how it is portrayed. This is not a journey of sacrifice – it is about being smarter. Cheaper, more efficient, moving things forward. What are our choices? the signs say that rapid change is needed. We need a different way of looking at the world. It is not state capitalism. But our place in nature and our place on earth needs to be re-evaluated (see a book called Harmony – putting people back in nature). A new service to nature, to humankind, through policy. It is exciting.

This is an opportunity (from a woman from New Frontiers) – and in this room of the suited and booted it is all too easy to shy away from ‘hugging pandas’ – we need a paradigm shift (and that should start in business).

Quality matters: size is not the thing that matters in terms of migration. What we need to be careful of is migration to other countries.

What is critical for UK cities going forward – what does a city need to look like in the future? 20/30 years from now?

Dilemma for cities: creativity and simulation comes from migration and different ideas coming in. This has fed prosperity – e.g. New York. What about other areas – people on the outside? how do we reconcile the need of a city to get the influx of new ideas without the poverty that comes from people who are detached

Wayne Hemingway: we need cheap rent. It worked in Copenhagen. In Amsterdam with the red light district, every time one of the buildings that was used a knocking shop was on the market, the government bought it, and people who had a good idea that was not related to prostitution, were given cheap rent for 18months or so to give it a go. We could say – if a shop is empty, it must be given on the cheap to those that need it.

Biosphere reserves – unless we embed a new way of thinking we are wasting our time. What are the thoughts on this new paradigm?

Do we actually WANT cities to grow? Liverpool has a declining population but that is in the minority. Does the panel have views on the implications on agriculture, etc (the wider implications)

Question: There is a process of transformation. How can we manage the process of recapturing the quality of life?

Question from Beyond Green: there are so few examples of this ‘stuff’ being one or being done well, makes things difficult. Beyond Green set up their own property development to put its money where their mouth is. Can you give us some examples to inspire others to change? or to do more than the 5% change that most people do after all these good ideas.

Geoff: Copenhagen

Hamish: Chelsea (magnet for talent).

Tony: Holland and cycling and habitat restoration, Sweden or Norway for building standards, Switzerland for its transport efficiency, the Dutch organic farming, Icelandic fisheries.

Chris: Christianio, Detroit

Nigel: St Pancras station – retail, trains, the building, links in the UK

Question: Cities and population growth is at the moment unmanageable. The panel is talking about making changes – but is this really possible?

Geoff Mulgan: We are in need of new techniques for collaboration. It is only when the informal networks kick in that you get results. Look at the London collaborative project which involves top managers in London working together. It is low cost and a no-brainer – more of this?  The Government must have an honest discussion, about phasing, and about who pays.  Most people do not want to live in big cities if you ask them. Hamish is correct that the compact city is the only sustainable option then we are in trouble.

Nigel Hugill: is collaboration key to making cities successful in terms of sustainability? With this fluid politics we get pendulum swings and this feels like one now. if we give people more ownership and responsibility. Central gov and the sensation of money coming down to you has been detrimental.

Chris Murray: stop putting all our eggs in one basket. We need a polycentric not a monocentric approach to growth. Growth in one area does not mean decline in another. Recession, spending cuts and devolution feels painful at the moment but with devolution we can start to spend on what is needed and then drive the economy in those areas.

Tony Juniper: Relationship between growth in resources and growth in populations – the demographers said 9-11 billion people – and we are at the lower end yet it is still a third more than we had. These people will be aspiring an that will in turn increase carbon footprint – big controversial issues embedded in this. can we really meet the  needs to meet the needs of all these people without killing the planet? Probably – yes – but only if we make this paradigm shift that is so needed.

Hamish McRae: There won’t be a paradigm shift. People in growing areas (countries) will not change. So we need to find other ways at the margin to fine tune ways of living… to be more appealing and positive. This is where we need to focus.

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