An interview with Nadja Riedel, head of the Leipzig city SPARCS consortium, and Annamaria Riemer, head of the Professionalizing Knowledge Transfer Processes unit at Fraunhofer IMW.
On 12 December 2015, 175 countries signed the Paris Accord, in which they committed themselves to reducing the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius in order to limit the effects of climate change. Cities were among the key players at the Paris Summit.
In the SPARCS project, seven cities, including the city of Leipzig, are demonstrating in around 100 individual projects how individual buildings, blocks or districts can contribute to a sustainable and climate-neutral urban future with an intelligent energy system. They are using the methodological framework City Vision 2050, developed at Fraunhofer IMW by Annamaria Riemer, head of the Professionalizing Knowledge Transfer Processes unit, and Jörg Kosinski, a research fellow of the unit. The framework supports the cities in aligning their urban transformation and energy system transformation with the goal of climate neutrality in the long term. The methodology also supports other participating cities in the pilot development of their future visions.
In an interview, Nadja Riedel, head of the Leipzig SPARCS consortium in the Digital City Department of the City of Leipzig, and Annamaria Riemer explain what City Vision Leipzig 2050 is and how it helps to achieve the goal of a climate-neutral city.
Ms. Riemer, what exactly is so new and innovative about the development of a future vision?
Cities are facing major challenges - today more than ever. That's why tools are needed to help them develop ideas about a desirable future together, in a self-determined, local and long-term manner. City Vision 2050 offers a methodological framework, a toolbox that cities can use to develop their ideas.
What is new about it is that, until now, there has been no comprehensive set of tools to meet this requirement in Europe. Also special is that the long-term orientation (30 years into the future) of the future vision encourages those involved to think less about the question of how exactly the goal is to be achieved. Instead, the process allows - with a desirable vision of the future in mind – the consideration of completely new ideas that, from today's perspective, may not yet be feasible.
We are very pleased that we were able to conduct the pilot test with the City of Leipzig's Digital City Department, in order to gain valuable experience and develop it further for the benefit of the other six cities.
Ms. Riedel, how does the Digital City Department intend to achieve the ambitious goal of climate neutrality in Leipzig within the SPARCS project?
The SPARCS approach is to use digital solutions to create networks as a basis for a climate-neutral energy system. The SPARCS project is a pioneering project. It offers room for experimentation. The project opens up the possibility to try out individual solutions that otherwise might not be tested for several years or at all.
The implementation strategy in the SPARCS project is initially limited to smaller areas. If measures on a small scale turn out to be practicable and workable, they can be replicated on a larger scale. At best, we develop a blueprint with which, scaled to the city as a whole, we can achieve the desired climate neutrality.
In the SPARCS project, this only works in an interdisciplinary team of partners at the local level. The cooperation with e.g. the Leipzig public utilities and other companies in the project stimulates the search for new solutions, which ultimately creates synergies. The international exchange with Fellow Cities and Lighthouse Cities on a European level complements this learning process. We also benefit from close cooperation with Leipzig University in the field of energy modeling. These findings find practical application in the implementation.
Ms. Riedel, to what extent has the development of a future vision proven to be helpful for the project?
Drafting a picture of the future is a group task that is rather unusual for all participants. Within the framework of SPARCS, we devote ourselves to specific measures in order to be able to derive possible conclusions for future neighborhood planning. But especially with this implementation-oriented approach, group awareness of what we actually want to achieve and how things should play out in the distant future is not always fully given.
With the vision of the future from City Vision 2050, we took the time early on in the project to define the distant but most important goal for us in 2050 more precisely. This is helpful for the project and for the city, because we now have a clearer idea of how each individual SPARCS measure could fit into our vision of a climate-neutral Leipzig in 2050. For us, this is a positive contribution to the fact that we as a team can pursue the great project of climate neutrality in a more targeted manner.
We are building on this result. In our work at the district level, the vision of the future City Vision Leipzig 2050 can help us to make deductions and assumptions about what our common future might look like.
Ms. Riemer, how can other cities benefit from the methodological framework of City Vision 2050?
City Vision 2050 is a new development that is explicitly designed to be emulated in the participating cities of the SPARCS project. These cities will use the material and the provided consulting sessions to create their own City Vision 2050. They profit directly from the experiences made in Leipzig. Fraunhofer IMW also provides an adapted online version, which enables vision formation even under remote conditions.