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The Third Industrial Revolution - key players



A true story


Mr. George Heartwell, Mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, in his presentation entitled “Grand Rapids: A case study in sustainable cities”, stressed the importance of having a sustainable strategy based on an integrated planning where the environment, the economy and the equity, are supported by both policy and practice. He believes that big changes can be achieved, in a relatively short time, if city’s government creates the right incentives for the community and the organizations to get actively involved in the city’s vision. He commented on the lack of national energy policy in the USA since President Bush withdrew the country from the Kyoto protocol negotiations, and the movement created among US mayors in order to achieve the goal of reduction of the green gases.


The journey to sustainability in Grand Rapids started 10 years ago, based on the improvement of citizens’ lives. The restoration of the river by the waste industry and the community was one of the main projects. This action was important not only for human health and for economic development, but also for what Mr. Heartwell called spiritual resource, the great cultural mix from Indians, European and Asian immigrants that rcognise the river symbolism. Now the river is among the top ten fishing rivers in the US and has become a city symbol.


Mr. Heartwell also spoke about the strategy for sustainability, applied since 2001, highlighting important projects concerning:


• Public transportation: they have increased the frequencies of urban transport, they have implemented the use of hybrid buses and Smart IT solutions and they have built the first nation’s green certified multimodal transit centre. The result is a double digit increase in use of public transportation, despite the modest population.


• Environmental design: they have implemented building retrofitting using energy-saving windows, they have installed geothermal heating systems and they are going to use 140 acres for a solar panel system.


• Energy conservation and production by renewable resources: They have been among the earliest users of biodiesel, ethanol and electricity for 100% of the public vehicles. At the moment, 23% of power demand is satisfied with renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro and biomass) and the goal is for 100%  by 2020.


• Human scale urban planning: the city has 100 miles of bicycle roads, 200,000 citizens participated during the city planning process and also three independent organisations of citizens were involved in different projects, such as changing urban parks, promotion of bicycle use and restoration of the river.


• Education for Sustainable Development: United Nations University recognises Grand Rapids as the first US centre for sustainable education.


Mr. Heartswell finished his presentation pointing out that all these projects are possible to be applied in every city, one city at a time, until the whole world  becomes a better place. For this purpose it is necessary to stop short-term thinking and adopt sustainability in order to be the future full of hope. As he says: “It starts today, now, with us”.


The perspective.


Professor Zhu Dajian, Director of Institute of Governance for Sustainable Development at Tongji University and Professor in the School of Economics and Management at Tongji University (Shanghai, China) in his presentation "Green Economy and China's Transition Development“, remarked strongly on China’s impact on resources and pollution using a concise application of the equation I=PAT. Making reflexive questions about what will be China’s population in the near future, what would be its consumption level and how fast the population consumes; he showed that, according to China’s current data,  for 2020 the impact will be increased in 11 times and for 2050 it will be 25 times the 2000’s impact.


He emphasised that in order to make the transition from brown to green economy they should produce eco-footprints. For China this will be achieved not only by using renewable energies, but also by a sustainable increase in energy efficiency and in terms of growth.


Professor Zhu also proposes a long term strategy of reduce the GDP growth rate. Now China has a lower level footprint than Europe and the US, but if it doesn’t take the transition path, Prof. Zhu shows an estimation/scenario according to which in 2050 China’s levels of CO2 emissions will reach the amount of developed countries. According to that he proposes three developing fields for policy prioritisation and action (decoupling stategies):


• Less resource input, decoupling of actual type of industrialization.

• New type of urbanisation → city clusters, not cities, half of China is inappropriate for urbanisation.

• Change ownership-oriented consumerism to sharing-oriented consumerism. 


The knowledge construction


Professor Sylvie Faucheux, UPGO President , FONDaTERRA President & Coordinator of the UVSQ Pôle "Chaires industrielles", in hers presentation " Sustainable campuses, a French example" presented the Green Plan, which is the French approach to sustainable development in universities and colleges. There is a common approach in this plan carried by two national councils: The French Council of University Presidents (CPU) and the French Council of Colleges (CGE). The Green Plan focuses on governance, education training, research, environment and social policy and community involvement.


The European Union and France have set a sustainable development strategy with nine key challenges:


• Climate change and energy.

• Conservation and management of natural resources.

• Public health, prevention and risks management.

• Global poverty and sustainable development challenges.

• Education and training. Research and development.

• Social inclusion, demography and migration.

• Governance.

• Sustainable consumption and production.

• Sustainable transport.


A further goal is to design a new scene of sustainable campuses international. Due to the need for an auto-evaluation tool for sustainable campuses, common for all higher education institutions, a self-assessment tool on sustainable development was created, called EVADDES.


After the presentation of the Green Plan, Professor Faucheux focused on the case of the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and made an analytical study of it. UVSQ is an institution open to the world with many international rankings and a high percentage of foreign students. It covers a wide range of sciences, with significant infrastructures, many academic programs and partnership agreements with universities around the world. The university is placed in the western Paris region, in a rich natural environment. It is committed to the national Green Plan framework since 2008 and it has its own sustainability office.


Although the university is relatively young; it has constructed a solid structure around sustainable development in which is recognised as a cutting edge university. Without any direct state aid, it has created strategic alliances with a wide network of collaborators within which are major players in the industry, foundations and even supranational organisations like the European Commission; the latter supports the programme "smart campus" recognising the university as large demonstrator in mobility solutions.


Within the framework of sustainability UVSQ has also created the Observatory of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, which offers many academic programmes in the field of environment and has six industrials chairs in the field of sustainable development, including the Econoving Chair. At the same time, it is supported by two partner foundations Fondaterra and Mov’eoTEC and it has been selected as Climate KIC by EU. In 2011 UVSQ became the first French university which made a contract with a private company (Cofely) for a partnership on energy efficiency. The objective is the reduction of heat, electricity and water consumption and the increase of using renewable energy.


The university has also organised many other actions in order to control the environmental impact, like smart grid technologies, smart building, and waste management. Finally, it has adopted an overall eco-attitude. There are two projects around food and health: Valterris project which is linking to the local agriculture, implement local products and “Assiette verte” (“Green Dish”) which aims to develop local networks from farm to table.


Reporter by

Kalliopi Ntanou - Master of Eco-Innovation student

Julián Humberto Muriel Velasquez - Master of Eco-Innovation student

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