Researching the cities of the future

Today, the climate impact of cities represents 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. At Lund University, researchers want to create models to reduce this impact. “We are a resource for social development”, says Professor Lena Neij from the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics.

Lund is an unusually dense city for Scandinavia, and Lena Neij is convinced that this type of medieval city also belongs to the future.

“In the long run, we cannot build cities in which we are dependent on cars. Urban growth is a major challenge, but could lead to exciting and innovative solutions”, she says.

Many of the solutions already exist – what is missing is the application of these solutions, in Professor Neij’s view.

“They could produce fantastic results. We see how buildings can become increasingly energy-efficient, how solar cells are built on roofs and new models are developed for refuse management”, she says.

In the light of this, she is holding out her hand to all those organisations that are working to reduce their environmental and climate impact; as academia is perhaps not the first port of call for the business sector and municipalities when they plan new, sustainable urban districts.

This is a shame, says Lena Neij, who in March was also awarded a Unesco Chair for her work on sustainable development and environmental policy.

“We really want to become a forum that brings together different initiatives and forces that work for more sustainable cities”, she says.

Even if cities have their obvious problems, Lena Neij still believes they have potential.

“Cities are a fantastic arena in which to work and they often work proactively and pragmatically to solve problems”, she says.

During the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, the then mayor of Toronto said: “while the nations are talking, the cities are acting.”

Lena Neij agrees, pointing out that decisions are primarily taken at local level. There, cooperation between academia, the business sector and the decision-makers in the city can be developed and function in the long term, she says.

“We see this type of cooperation being developed in many cities today”, says Lena Neij.

At local level, Lund University works with a number of research groups in the fields of housing, energy and wastewater management to create climate-friendly models for the cities of the future. The University also cooperates with the City of Lund on future environmental initiatives.

“In this way, the research is not only theoretical; we are also able to support the cities in practice”, says Lena Neij.

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