International Symposium on Urban Energy and Carbon Management: Challenges for Science and Policy and the International Workshop on Urban Energy and Carbon Modeling
February 4-6, 2008
AIT Center, Asian Institute of Technology, Pathumthani, Thailand
Urban development pathways chosen by cities determine global carbon emissions to a large extent. In 2005, the United Nations estimated that nearly half of the 6.5 billion world population lived in urban areas, mostly in cities, a substantial rise from the 29% who lived in urban areas in 1950 (UN, 2006) . Fossil fuels supply 80.3% of global commercial energy (IEA, 2006). In OECD countries, cities consume between 70 and 80% of fossil fuels nationally (OECD, 1995). In non-OECD countries the share could be higher because commercial energy is predominantly used in cities. Moreover, an additional 1.8 billion people will move to urban areas by 2030 (UN 2006). More urban populations living in developing countries (one billion additional people alone in Asia by 2030) means more consumption of energy than before and more carbon dioxide emissions, spurred on by economic growth and industrialization. The process of urbanization and the rise in per capita energy use to a certain level is an irreversible phenomenon; therefore, cities will play an increasingly greater role in carbon dioxide emissions than ever before. This provides us with a greater opportunity to reduce energy use and develop low carbon societies primarily through energy optimization and distribution efficiencies in dense settlements.
However, despite the importance of cities, they have not been a unit of analysis for energy and carbon emissions in past decades. That has started to change in recent years as climate change issues are becoming politically important on the global stage and as decentralization of environmental governance in developing countries is taking place. Past research, both modeling and policy analyses, followed a strictly sectoral approach in cities, lacked spatial concerns, and mainly addressed only buildings and urban transport sectors. It clearly lacked an integrated approach and ignored a system-wide-integration in cities. If integrated approach is lacked, many important components of urban systems will left behind which lead to non-optimal solution for cities.
In recent years, cities have gained prominence in climate change debates and a number of new initiatives from both research and policy dimensions have been initiated. Given these divergent initiatives, there is a need to coordinate the global research community on urban energy and carbon modeling (in close consultation with urban adaptation to climate change) and develop a communication platform to discuss a multitude of issues associated with science, modeling and policy analyses in this area. To this end, the Urban and Regional Carbon Management (URCM) initiative of the Global Carbon Project (GCP) and the Energy Field of Study of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) have made a joint effort to contribute to these areas. This is especially important since the urban carbon agenda has started to enter into planning considerations in many cities in developed countries. In addition, many big-cities in developing countries are increasingly trying to understand the impacts of alternate urban development pathways.
Structure of the events
The events consisted of a symposium and a workshop. The symposium focused on the policy issues and the science-policy interface between knowledge and actions in urban carbon management. The Workshop was technical in nature and designed primarily for researchers to address urban energy and carbon modeling.
The goals of the Symposium (February 4) were:
- To highlight the importance of urban energy and carbon in solving global carbon problems
- To present and discuss a state-of-art knowledge from the scientific perspective
- To share policy development trends in mega-cities in relation to energy and carbon management and critical research areas for which urban decision-makers are seeking guidance from science
- To assess the scale of disconnect between science and the needs for decisions makers in urban energy and carbon management area and to explore how to bridge such disconnects.
The goals of the Workshop (February 5-6) were:
- To develop an international urban energy and carbon modeling forum to create and share knowledge and expertise on modeling approaches, models, modelers, and their results
- To encourage the development of a comprehensive urban model that can assess alternate urban development pathways and urban practices in an integrated manner with urban energy and carbon as key (but not exclusive) components
- To encourage and conduct cross-city comparative case studies on urban carbon management
- To encourage to create and share urban scale data following a common template to increase compatibility and accessibility
This event was built upon the outcomes and achievements of the following past activities:
- International Conference on Carbon Management at Urban and Regional Levels: Connecting Development Decisions with Global Issues, 4-8 September 2006, Mexico City, Mexico.
- International Workshop on Urbanization, Development Pathways, and Carbon Implications, 28-30 March, 2007, Tsukuba, Japan.
- Third Annual Workshop of the Asia Energy Environment Modeling Forum (AEEMF) on How to Model Low Carbon Economy in Asia, 30-31 May, 2007, Beijing, China.
- Carbon Management in Cities: Gaps in Policy Discussions and Scientific Understanding, Official side-event at UNFCCC COP-13, December 6, 2007, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Bali.
Carbon Neutral Event
The event was a Carbon Neutral Event. All emissions related to the event such as travel and accommodation of participants and speakers were offset by purchasing high quality carbon credits. (See Carbon Neutral presentation).
Shobhakar Dhakal, Global Carbon Project
Ram M. Shrestha (ram[AT]ait.ac.th), Asian Institute of Technology