Peter Newman, professor at the John Curtin University in Perth, Australia, began his conference on Monday, October 8, by emphasising how climate change is being felt all over the world and that the global system is not working. His conference opened the Re-City platform's "Facing climate change" conference cycle, which between now and May 2019 will hold twelve conferences led by different international climate change experts. This conference was held in a full auditorium of the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona.
This cycle is promoted by the Fundació Catalunya Europa in collaboration with BBVA, and supported by the Ajuntament de Barcelona, the Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona and the Generalitat de Catalunya.
The opening of the cycle coincided with the publication of the UN Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report, which Newman has coauthored. The report demonstrates how global warming higher than 1.5°C could have disastrous consequences for the planet, and warns that unprecendented measures must be taken to avoid the "irreversible damage" of climate change.
In spite of the report, the Professor in Sustainability was optimistic and hopeful. Newman argued that Climate change is bothlocal and global, anbd we are all experiencing a warming world. Although the consequences may be different depending on where we live, the truth is that the effects of climate change affect us all. This implies a need for great changes in the current energy system, transport, cities, industry and land use to achieve the objective of a maximum increase of the average temperature to 1.5 °C. These major changes can be achieved through decoupling, that is, halting our dependence on fossil fuels to maintain economic growth.
According to Newman, cities can play a crucial role, as they do not need to wait for legilslative changes to act. In fact, there are many examples of cities at the forefront of initiatives focused on flighting climate change and achieving decarbonisation. One well-known example involves the the use of electric public transport. However, there are also other less well-known initiatives, such as biophile cities bring nature closer to the inhabitants of large cities in order to improve life quality. These represent the need to plan, innovate and take risks to move towards sustainability.
Newman hopes that oil consumption can be reduced. He gave Australia and Denmark as examples of how this is possible, and stressed the need for disruptive innovations that improve cities. Self-driving vehicles for example are innovative, but unless they are shared they do not improve the planet. On the other hand, if they are, this is a form of disruptive innovation.
Newman also referred to good practices being carried out in countries such as Norway or China, where roadless trains powered by rechargeable batteries are already being tested. These are more stable, less expensive and less polluting than standard trains or conventional transportation. He also showed data on the evolution of economic growth in recent years which demonstrates that it is no longer linked to the use of fossil fuels, implying that growth is not incompatible with the development of the green economy and renewable energy.