This month, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, addressed the world’s largest property event, MIPIM, and laid down a stark warning to those involved in delivering our future. He stressed the importance of creating resilient and sustainable cities, and that climate change is the “most pressing threat standing in this path.”
Oslo is the 2019 European Green Capital. Oslo won this title because of its approach to biodiversity, public transport, social integration and citizens’ health, with a theme of ‘a city for everyone, putting people first’. That includes having now made the city centre practically car-free and banning heating oil by 2020. All this takes time and vision.
In 2017, Oslo made subtle alterations to traffic flow to favour cyclists and public transport, with a clear focus on improving city life. The city has embraced the concept of the ‘urban lab’, testing and analysing gradual changes before they are made permanent. Bike lanes are cleared when it snows; businesses are encouraged to generate ideas on how they can improve the environment and generate electricity; and all new vehicles in the public sector must be electric. Foraging in the public parks is actively encouraged and public transport is available to key outdoor sites. The Norwegian Trekking Association has worked closely with the public transport network to ensure that its network of cabins is just a walk (or in some cases a kayak) away.
In short, the most ambitious targets are made deliverable by breaking them down into bite-sized pieces. Residents and businesses alike understand the journey they are on together, and what is expected of them.
So, what can we take from this? We need a plan for our region, not just Cambridge, that is bigger and more holistic than anything produced to date. It needs to show how we will all live, work, socialise and enjoy leisure time in future, in ways that are carbon-neutral and resilient to climate change – taking into account expected population and employment growth. Without such a plan, how can anyone judge new development and transport schemes as being good?
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 27 March 2019.