I don’t envy mayors. Gone are the days when smiling into cameras and birthday events with 100-year-olds were at the core of their tasks. Today, mayors are more like CEOs. Not only do they have to run the city government and connect with voters, they need to ensure jobs are created, young people are attracted to counteract the effects of an aging society, and so on.
Competitiveness among mayors’ top priorities Cities compete globally for businesses, investments, and increasingly for skilled workers. “Until recently, competitiveness was outside a mayor’s domain because the factors defining it were decided at national level,” says former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Today, with 80 percent of global output coming from cities and businesses formulating growth strategies around urban markets, cities cannot afford to cede their futures to national governments.”
Mayors have to create an environment in which businesses flourish, innovation happens, and cities grow. At the same time, budgets are shrinking and there’s little to no margin for compromise on living standards.
Recently, mayors have had to add another item to their substantial list of challenges – one with dangerous political and financial potential. Cities and governments are being sued for not protecting citizens from environmental threats and climate change.
In a landmark ruling in The Hague, a court has ordered the Dutch government to cut the country’s emissions by at least 25 percent within five years. The judges argued that the government’s plan to cut emissions by 14-17 percent was unlawful, given the scale of threat posed by climate change. Across Europe, citizen groups are already preparing to file similar cases over issues such as climate change, CO2 emissions, and overall air quality.
For most European cities, you can access almost real-time data on air quality and see that they sometimes exceed EU limits on KPIs such as PM10 or PM2.5 (dust particles). City administrations must go way beyond making bold statements or publishing fancy folders to show they’re taking these threats seriously.
Citizens increasingly scrutinize their city’s investment decisions and want them embedded in an overall strategy. As municipal budgets remain tight, more effort is needed to achieve the biggest environmental impact with the available funds. With hundreds of investment choices – and armies of industry lobbyists – it’s a difficult call to make and even more difficult to substantiate.
Getting maximum benefit from investments
German engineering powerhouse Siemens recently launched its City Performance Tool (CyPT), a highly innovative simulation that supports city governments with this very challenge: to identify the maximum positive environmental effects for a given investment budget.
“No city equals another,” Siemens VP Pedro Miranda said during last week’s Press Conference presenting CYPT findings for Vienna. “That’s why we’ve developed a solution – with experts from around the world and cities from three continents – that’s highly flexible and adaptable.” Data on the built environment, mobility, and energy infrastructure is used to establish a unique baseline for each city.
Subsequently, decision makers can simulate the influence of 70 technology and strategy options.
For Vienna, the CyPT confirmed that the ongoing climate protection programs started in 1990 were the most cost-effective solution for reducing CO2 and particulate matters, and also identified additional technologies in the fields of renewable energy, building retrofitting and e-mobility that could help the city achieve its environmental targets by 2025.
The CyPT offers insights for many urban challenges. A city with air-quality issues, for example, has numerous options, from boosting public transport to promoting electric vehicles. Each option requires investment and manpower, but which one (or combination) offers the best environmental impact per euro spent? This is what the CyPT is able to answer. The simulation tool identifies which mix of strategies and technologies maximizes the positive effects on air quality for any given budget.
Particularly impressive is the fact that the CyPT isn’t a fancy sales tool for Siemens solutions. In some of the technology areas, the company isn’t even active. “We really want to provide cities with an independent tool to quickly understand options and their effects,” concludes Pedro Miranda. “It helps cities save valuable time in finding a solution to their challenges.”
It is no surprise that cities from around the world are lining up to use the new simulation.