Greenshift Europe: Enabling Smart, Sustainable Cities

Greenshift Europe

Greenshift Europe

The following article, featuring yours truly and my newest initiative with Vin Sumner — Greenshift Europe — is included in a Copenhagen Climate Change Conference publication for New Europe magazine this week.  Your feedback welcome!

Greenshift Europe is a movement promoting ICTs to fight climate change,” says Vin Sumner, CEO of UK-based Clicks & Links, and an expert in applying information and communication technologies to address climate challenges.  Sumner and Cheryl Miller, founder of Zen Digital Europe, have recently joined forces behind Greenshift Europe to promote ICTs for building “smart,” sustainable communities across Europe.

“First and foremost, we aim to lower the footprint of ICT itself,” says Sumner about the principles behind Greenshift Europe.  “Then, we look at how ICTs can make the way we do things today, like powering our homes and public buildings, smarter and more energy efficient.  And finally,” he adds, “we plan and build ICT infrastructures in our communities, like free, public broadband networks, which help transform our behavior in a direction that will have less impact on the environment.”  The last of these, according to Sumner, represents the ultimate, digitally-driven, green “shift.”

Announced this week by EUROCITIES, a Greenshift Europe and City of Manchester-led initiative called the “EUROCITIES Green Digital Charter,” [download pdf here] builds on the Greenshift principles, and calls on European cities to publicly commit to deploying ICT projects to fight climate change.  Emphasizing the role cities can play as important catalysts for achieving climate goals, signatories of the Charter pledge to undertake specific actions using digital technologies “to increase energy efficiency, facilitate emissions reductions and forestall climate change.”

“The EUROCITIES Green Digital Charter might be seen as a kind of ICT ‘component’ of the Covenant of Mayors,” says Cheryl Miller, a veteran ICT consultant who has partnered with Sumner to promote Greenshift Europe.  “Covenant of Mayors signatories have committed to surpassing the European climate goals for 2020,” says Miller.  “And both the European Commission and EUROCITIES acknowledge the important role ICTs can play in enabling cities to achieve their climate objectives,” she adds.  The European Commission DG Energy launched the Covenant of Mayors in February of 2009, and today it has almost one thousand signatories.

At the launch of the EUROCITIES Green Digital Charter last week, Leader of the Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, explained that while signing the Charter is good for the environment, it is also potentially good for a city’s economy.  “One of the greatest means for innovation lies in exploiting ICTs to contribute to a greener digital world,” said Sir Richard.

With fourteen major European cities signing up to the EUROCITIES Green Digital Charter in the days leading up to the Copenhagen talks — including Manchester, Reykjavik, Stockholm, Vienna, The Hague, Birmingham, Ghent, Nantes, Genoa, Zaragoza, Murcia, Lisbon, Bristol and Tallinn — the Charter would seem to represent a kind of green “shift” in Europe which many welcome.