WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities Hosts Third Livable Cities Symposium
WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities organized the third Livable Cities Symposium on November 19-20 in Istanbul, with over 400 representatives from local governments, the private sector, NGOs and universities in attendance. The Symposium focused on creating smart and energy efficient cities—hosting a total of 45 speakers from 13 different countries. Arzu Tekir—Director of WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities—opened the event by announcing the expansion to a cities program in Turkey, and the change of our name from EMBARQ Turkey to WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities.
Over two full days of talks and break-out sessions, the Symposium covered a variety of topics—tackling the question of how to make cities livable spaces. The first day of the event featured 7 sessions on urban growth and climate change, sustainable transport solutions, smart cities, financing, and road safety. Day 2 of the Symposium held three focus groups: the first discussed sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMP) training tools in collaboration with the EU SOLUTIONs Project, the second homed in on urban design, and the final talk was the building efficiency round-table.
Rising to Meet Turkey’s Growing Energy Demand
Canan Ediboğlu—chair of the board of directors for WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities—kickstarted the conversation on energy efficiency in Turkey by identifying the problem: energy demand is estimated to increase up to 37 percent by 2040, and demand for electricity is expected to increase by 80 percent. The primary source for this rising demand for electricity is Turkey’s rapid development and urbanization. Indeed, by 2030, approximately 80 percent of Turkey’s population will live in cities, with urban development expected to continue growing.
To increase efficiency, the Symosium called for a major reduction in the energy consumption of urban transport. As solutions, speakers identified enhanced public transportat in urban areas, the establishment of smart bike networks, pedestrianization projects and awareness campaigns to promote energy efficient vehicles.
The General Manager of İETT (İstanbul Public Bus Authority), Mümin Kahveci, announced some exciting new developments for the city in the “Cities Are Key to Green Growth and Climate Change” session. Kahveci reported that İstanbul has already obtained around 3,000 new, environmentally-friendly buses and will purchase nearly 1,000 more to improve their transport fleet. Expalining why, Kahveci noted that the investment in the new buses were the result of public surveys they conducted on how to increase the quality of public transport. The majority of individuals surveyed indicated that the old vehicles did not meet their standards, and were polluting the city.
Getting Sustainable Urbanization Right
The Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, Ani Dasgupta, explained that Turkey’s urban development is a chance to expand in new, sustainable ways. Describing cities as centers of innovation, Dasgupta made clear that sustainable cities in particular can function as engines for the development of a healthy, more equitable society. Indeed, while cities grow, more people immigrate to urban areas, matching expansion with an increase in consumption and demand for goods and resources. In the face of a growing urban population, we must seek out solutions to make cities more livable places for everyone. As an example, Dasgupta highlighted the case of London—where car use has steadily dropped—to illustrate how a city can both grow, improve mobility, and be sustainable. Dasgupta urged Turkey to implement similar solutions that respect its local context, such as investing in and learning from the bus rapid transit (BRT) system in İstanbul.