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Sustainable and resilient cities: the responsibility and opportunity of the business sector

"We publish the summary of the session on sustainable and resilient cities that took place in Fide on Monday, February 22, from 16.00:17.30 p.m. to XNUMX:XNUMX p.m., within the framework of activities of the ESG Forum: environmental, social, and governance aspects in organizations."
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Last Monday, February 22, from 16.00:17.30 p.m. to XNUMX:XNUMX p.m., we attended the FIDE to a new online session of the ESG Forum: environmental, social, and governance aspects in organizations.

The session was moderated by German Granda, General Director of Forética and Member of the State CSR Council and co-director of the Forum together with Charles of the Tower, Of Counsel at the Baker McKenzie Department of Labor and a Labor Inspector on leave of absence, and Ivan Gayarre, partner of Sagardoy Abogados and State Attorney.

They participated as speakers Marcelo Catala, VP of Urbanization Solutions for EMEAA at CEMEX, Daniel Raven, General Director of ASPRIMA, Mariano Fuentes, Delegate of the Urban Development Government Area of ​​the Madrid City Council; and Irene Ogea, Head of the Corporate Social Responsibility Department at Engie Spain.

The session was about Sustainable and Resilient Cities: The Responsibility and Opportunity of the Business Sector, and intervened as the first speaker Mariano Fuentes, first of all explaining the three main areas of urban action addressed by the Madrid City Council with the aim of making it a more prosperous and comfortable city.

  1. Improvement of mobility and public space. In the Madrid to come, marked by the large green infrastructures projected around large communication nodes that facilitate mobility, we will finally lose the fear of looking up and finding tall buildings - the Madrid skyline of the future - with a sufficient supply of housing and services for citizens.
  2. Renaturalization of urban spaces, an aspect that is often forgotten but important for the city to be greener, more walkable, more livable and more breathable.
  3. Improvement of habitability in the city and reconstruction of the local economy through commerce, activity in the neighborhoods or the cultural offer.

Mariano points out that the period of confinement and the restrictions imposed on de-escalation have served to realize the importance of renaturalizing and making large cities like Madrid more livable and friendly. The COVID-19 pandemic and its triple crisis - health, economic and social - have put large metropolitan areas around the world in the eye of the hurricane and have served as a catalyst for change accelerating pre-existing global trends. Starting from the basis that cities will not be dismantled or a massive return to the countryside will occur, it is necessary to bear in mind that our strengths as cities are precisely what makes us weaker in the face of the arrival of diseases such as COVID -19. In this sense, signing of the Villa Agreements has served to ensure the future of the city and to ratify the key measures for the recovery of the crisis, allowing to combine mobility and urban planning (residential priority areas, bike lanes, etc.), as well as to improve the public space with more space for the pedestrian, more security in access to educational centers and making public space available to citizens to teach or telework.

Another important milestone has been the Color Island strategy, which was born as an integral commitment to transform and modernize Madrid through the renaturation of the city, the action against the climate change and the improvement of THE ENVIRONMENT urban; with the aim of stopping associating the city of Madrid with the idea of ​​a space affected by climate change, polluted, territorially unbalanced and that depletes its soils through unsustainable use.

Again, one of the lessons learned from the pandemic is the importance of the street as a shared space. Therefore, the objective of renaturalizing the urban space seeks to create environmental corridors, connecting walkways between green spaces, new parks and squares for families or new pedestrianized areas (more trees, more benches, more children's areas, more security, more lighting and more spaces. natural within the city). The Producing neighborhoods project, for its part, seeks to put into production those soils that have no use and find a productive agricultural activity.

It also highlights the important effort of the City Council to improve the sustainability of the city and the comfort of the buildings through the ADAPTA programs (pioneering plan that subsidizes the realization of works to adapt homes where people with reduced mobility or sensory disabilities reside) and REHABILITA (project to improve accessibility, conservation, energy efficiency, and health of buildings in Madrid).

Finally, Mariano recalls that the public sector cannot undertake all the improvements that the city needs: business activity is essential. The public-private partnership it enlarges and improves the objectives, in addition to making them more affordable, something important, since the City Council does not have the economic capacity to finance all the improvement projects of the city. It is civil society, especially through companies, who can lead urban development. The municipalities set the rules, draw a strategic course and manage economic and social priorities; But they work hand in hand with the private sector to make all citizens jointly responsible for what they want for their urban environment.

Secondly, Daniel Raven focuses his intervention on the following points:

  • It is essential that the Administration count on the private sector to carry out the necessary changes in today's cities and advance in sustainability and resilience. The urban regulations of the Town Halls are decisive in order to change and adapt cities in terms of sustainability.
  • Cities are competitors with each other and have to be managed to attract talent and therefore investment and offer the level of welfare demanded by the inhabitants of the city itself or of others. In this sense, teleworking offers a very clear opportunity to those cities that go ahead in adapting the regulations so that business investments can be made with the aim of offering what society is demanding at all times.
  • It is essential flexibility of urban planning in the change of uses to adapt to the realities of each moment and incorporate degraded areas of the city to the forefront with changes that allow regeneration and made available to society and its agents due to the fact that resources are scarce, and in many cases have already had an impact that we must take advantage of.
  • It is also vital Reduce bureaucratic procedures and digitize processes so that speed and systems are the same in the public and private sectors.
  • La legal security it is key in the whole cycle. For cities to be truly sustainable and resilient, standards are essential.
  • We must take advantage of the resources that have been allocated in the past to give an opportunity in the necessary changes in urban rehabilitation and regeneration.
  • It is important to teach what is sustainability and resilience in schools and universities. Sustainability is not a term exclusively related to greenhouse gas emissions but goes further, it is therefore necessary to address it from schools, promoting the depth of the message from the bottom up, both in companies and in Public Administrations.
  • We have a historic opportunity to take an important step by leveraging the European Union's Next Generation recovery and resilience funds to achieve our goals.

Then Marcelo Catala tells us about the importance of including the sustainability in the broad sense as an essential part of the Company's Vision, consistently reflected in a Strategy aimed at creating value for the different stakeholders and based on a Management Model that transversally involves all areas of the Company, in order to achieve Objectives tangible / measurable -aligned with the SDGs, as in the specific case of CEMEX.

And precisely for the achievement of the SDGs and the Green Deal, Marcelo emphasizes the relevance of ensuring a Sustainable Urbanization anticipating that cities will continue to be a key vital epicenter, despite the profound changes we have experienced in the last year that are making us rethink what the cities of the future should be like.

Marcelo therefore recognizes as an urgent challenge -which constitutes at the same time a phenomenal opportunity- the need to build healthier and safer, renatured, circular, smart and inclusive cities. It emphasizes the essential role of the Construction sector in this endeavor and explains how CEMEX is betting in a way determined by the innovation, digitization and a strong climate ambition as fundamental vectors to build cities that are more sustainable and humane.

He gives us some examples of innovative and sustainable solutions offered by CEMEX to respond to the needs of our cities - solutions that are already helping in Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, San Francisco or Mexico, and that it hopes will also contribute to the success of future projects in Spain (some as transformational as the from Madrid New North):

  • Designing building materials carbon neutral (eg with the line vertua CEMEX) and that facilitate the renaturation
  • Promoting the use of Special Mortars for the necessary renovation of the housing stock
  • Boosting the industrialized vertical construction -more sustainable, efficient, fast and adaptable (eg with the creation of Wallex)
  • Facilitating a sustainable and inclusive horizontal mobility, both intra (eg with viapath for bicycles and pedestrians) and interurban (eg with high-tech prefabricated for rail transport)
  • Digitizing construction processes (eg with the platform CEMEX GO)
  • Reusing waste urban, both recycling them into new materials and facilitating production processes (eg as an alternative fuel)

Finally, Marcelo reiterates CEMEX's commitment to be one of the driving forces behind Sustainable Urbanization, pointing out in any case that achieving this great common goal will require the effort of all and very particularly of the Public-Private Collaboration. Along these lines, and in the short term to accelerate the exit from the crisis, he emphasizes the importance of a efficient and smart allocation of Next Generation EU Funds, focusing them on those projects and actors best trained to develop their potential and take our cities to the next level.

Finally, Irene Ogea highlights that making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable is one of the objectives set by the United Nations in the 2030 Agenda (SDG 11). But to materialize this opportunity it is necessary to change the way in which cities are planned, financed, built and managed.

Cities play a fundamental role in the fight against climate change. Although cities occupy only 3% of the earth's surface, represent between 60% and 80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions.

Consider also the vulnerability of cities to climate change and natural disasters: floods, water stress, energy shortages, food shortages and air quality. Strengthening urban resilience is crucial to avoid human, social and economic losses.

While many national governments have set targets to align with the Paris Agreement, it should also be noted that cities have set ambitious targets. Cities have the advantage of having authority over land use, transportation, waste management, and water management. They are well positioned to implement sustainability policies. But to do so they have to face complex challenges.

Cities face an ongoing challenge related to rapid growth. This growth is accompanied by a increased demand for jobs, transportation and affordable housing, as well as a higher consumption of energy, water and waste.

In addition to the usual challenges and new demands for services, cities have had to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. In this sense The coronavirus pandemic has put cities to the test that have had to face not only new demands for services, but also almost unthinkable drops in revenue collection.

However, the COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted how changes in uses and habits in cities can lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions, reductions in energy consumption and therefore savings in economic resources that can be achieved. derive to alleviate other types of vulnerabilities in cities.

Some of the following actions can help cities address current trends and external pressures, while implementing projects and policies that meet the needs of their citizens:

  • Decarbonize transportation
  • Strengthen construction requirements
  • Increase access to green energy
  • Implement regulations
  • Set goals and report progress
  • Build coalitions

ENGIE's goal is to continue leading the urban transformation process. To do this, consider seven principles for the design of a resilient city and net in emissions which are based on: putting the user at the center, flexibility, vision of the future, considering multiple energies, taking communities into account, working on adaptation to climate change and seeking innovative solutions in terms of financing.

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