Reflections on the 2022 Evolving Cities Conference


NetZero Group attended the International Conference on Evolving Cities last week, 13-15 July 2022. A conference arranged by the Energy & Climate Change Division, University of Southampton. Chaired by Professor AbuBakr Bahaj and Dr Stephanie Gauthier.

1 in 14 people have either taken a break from a relationship or have ended a relationship because of disagreements over the thermostat... You are guaranteed statistics and data at The International Conference on Evolving Cities – some more ‘surprising’ than others.

You are also guaranteed to be exposed to academics of all ages at the top of their game providing insights into research that has the potential to change our lives.

As the UK lives through its first Heat Wave Emergency many of the presentations directly addressed the challenges of decarbonising our world – from the creation of a 100% renewable energy system for NEOM in Saudi Arabia to the use of phase change materials in plaster to improve property insulation in Italy, the options of replacing existing CHP plant in the University of Southampton and the use of a water pit in China as a thermal store. As a visitor to the conference, you are struck by the talent – the ability not only to develop complex solutions but also the ability to communicate those solutions in a way that non-academics can access that knowledge and learning. If you are interested in the future, these conferences provide a glimpse of what it could be like.

Some of what you learn, you almost already know, the fact that the poorest global countries contribute least to carbon emissions – which is also a reflection of our own country with the poorest priced out of consuming energy resulting in ill-health and increased cost for the Health and Social Care system.

A ‘perception’ enhancing presentation by Professor Nick Tyler on how people ‘see’ a cityscape and the implications for design and wellbeing chimed with that of Professor Alan Penn on the spatial mapping of deprivation within communities.

In several presentations ROI was used. We use ROI as the standard measure for supporting decision making when investing. It is measure that creates significant problems for the situation we are in. Until we start using some form of ROC – ‘reduction in carbon’ as the determinant of decision and subsequent action we will continue to put our planet in peril. Time really isn’t on our side as we get caught up in the ‘tyranny of the urgent’ as opposed to addressing the matter of utmost importance – our own survival.

Organisations, like the University of Southampton are doing, must first calculate their carbon emissions considering scopes 1-3. Then set targets to reduce and proceed to detailed planning to deliver sustained reduction. In addition to commitment and investment there is need for a high degree of competency just to start the process of accurately calculating your starting point. There is much to do in the next 28 years.

Perhaps Alan Whitehead MP (Shadow Minister for Energy) summed it up best when addressing decarbonisation, ‘We just need to damn well get on with it’.

NetZero Group attended the event and group Director, Alan Wilson, delivered an engaging presentation on sustainable business and how, if done right, the challenge of decarbonisation and retrofit could not only help the UK deliver net zero but generate opportunity to create improved lives and ‘level up’ at a local level. To find out more about NetZero Group, get in touch.

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