VB Project Idea: The North Sea Energetic City (NORSE)
Cities across the North Sea Region face a collective need to respond to the demands of climate change, and to make a transition towards resource efficient and environmentally sustainable economy. This is against the background of a strong recent history in the Region of leading World Energy Cities, which will transition in the coming years towards lower-carbon energy production and technology. The aim would be to move towards a Region which can enhance the living standards of occupants, though the adoption of integrated strategies concerning urban design, mobility and industrial and economic growth.
The consortium of cities and experts included within the proposal draws on regions and locations which face particular shared challenges, related to the sourcing, production and refinement of energy fossil fuels, coupled with challenges pertaining to their continued position within industries including fishing and shipping.
Cities in the anticipated consortium have been pro-active in the development of ambitious plans to deal with the realities of changing industry, society and demographics, with specific agendas concerning energy and energy flows. These include the nature of new urban developments which extend the cities themselves, and approaches to sustainable transport across the region.
There is strong evidence from work undertaken within the Region, however, that there is a pathway between a high carbon model of urban development to the low energy, low carbon, highly sustainable municipalities that a number of progressive European municipalities are aspiring to become by around 2030. All municipalities’ (and organisations) can be placed somewhere along this pathway.
It is proposed that the policy making of progressive, low carbon, low energy municipalities are characterised by strong ‘institutional alignment’. That is, strongly vision-driven governance, where policies interconnect and are similarly driven by a low-carbon strategy, which has the capacity to improve quality of life, inward investment and cross-sector benefits. There is a need for all institutions of regional governance being aligned around a shared vision integrating energy, transport, land use planning, housing and resource sustainability. Exploration of how that alignment can be developed and become embedded will form a central strand of the work.
Where one has the ‘unaligned aspirational centre’, municipalities may aspire to be low carbon and low energy, but progress will often be made on a project to project basis, usually with a few individuals working in silos.
The new challenge, therefore, is to find ways to engender greater institutional alignment, to allow the aspirational unaligned centre (learning from the progressive municipalities) to create more effective shared vision that policy makers and stakeholders can align themselves to.