Sustainable Cities and BASE Birmingham




Future Cities 1

You know that you are at a good conference when you’re disappointed that you can’t go to more of the presentations. That was the case for me at the Base Birmingham event this week. For anyone who is not familiar with Base it is an event that focuses on low carbon aspects of the built environment and infrastructure. It currently takes place in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Nantes and Glasgow and each conference highlights the challenges and innovations in these cities. In Birmingham delegates heard about what makes the city smart, its future transport strategy and learned about better solutions to energy provision. The City Council outlined its Green Vision which includes reducing carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2026/7 and Professor Andy Gouldson and the Centre for Low Carbon Cities spelled out exactly what Birmingham would have to do in terms of investment in energy efficient and sustainable measures to truly become a green leader.


On the transport side excitement about HS2 was palpable in the city. Transport providers Centro had commissioned a report into the potential benefits for the city of the new high speed rail ink reporting these as being 22,000 new jobs and £1.5bn per annum to the local economy.  It is busily planning its local connectivity strategy. “We have got to do our best to capture all of these benefits,” Centro director of strategy and policy Tom Magrath told the busy morning transport workshop, explaining that it would be investing in its local connectivity package between 2019 and 2026 in time for the proposed HS2 coming online in 2026. This was reinforced later by HS2 Chair Doug Oakervee who described that although HS2 had really been promoted as being all about speed with its London to Birmingham in 49 minutes it was really going to become the new backbone of the UK rail network with the West Coast Main Line set to reach saturation in the middle of the next decade.

Delegates who were waiting to hear from London’s first elected Mayor Ken Livingstone were not disappointed. Reflecting on the challenges facing cities of the future he was candid  about the problems that cities must solve and conceded that if he could change anything about his tenure as Mayor he would have acted faster and done more about carbon reduction. This is significant as Ken Livingstone did a lot. It was he who gathered together the leaders of the 20 biggest cities in the world and got them to agree to minimize the energy losses in all public buildings – a legacy that still sees major global cities such as Toronto, Tokyo and Paris making vast improvements to their buildings and has lowered the cost of retrofit measures.  Looking to the future he warned about the huge energy losses in electricity transmission and said that local generation was the next big challenge for cities.

“I wonder if he will mention Thatcher” pondered a fellow attendee as we listened to his presentation. Well he did. He noted that she had relentless drive but commented that it was a shame that all her policies were wrong. “A politician with her drive and the right policies could rule the world,” he said.

Having gone so well it seems likely that Base will return to Birmingham but next stop for this event is London on 11 July. NCE will be covering the issues in its next Sustainable Cities report produced in collaboration with Base. Are you making London a smarter and more sustainable place to live through innovations in the built environment? If so get in touch.

Read the Sustainable Cities intro feature here

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