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Urban integration: key issues in building sustainable cities

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What is being done to drive the transition toward a more sustainable society? Nicky Stubbs recently went to the Urban Integration conference held in Sheffield to find out.

The number of people living in urban environments globally surpassed the number of people living in rural areas in 2006, according to Christopher Kennedy, professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto. This is particularly alarming, given that the trend is expected to continue well into this century, and that until now, efforts at creating more sustainable urban settings have been pretty lethargic.

In the UK, multiple strategies of mitigating the effects of climate change have been disconnected from each other, often creating inconsistencies and even counteracting productivity. This was found to be the case in a study carried out as part of the COST Action Network on urban integration. Researchers at Newcastle University said that a lack of communication between the government and local councils meant that local efforts to make urban environments sustainable were often undermined.

One of the main issues that local authorities face is that they are increasingly being told that it is their responsibility to ensure systems are put in place to meet carbon reduction and energy efficiency targets, and in an age of austerity, do more with less. Strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change are therefore not clear or concise.

Much of the problems comes from a lack of clarity in guidance”, says Dr Oliver Heidrich, one of the researchers at Newcastle. “Whereas the previous Labour government set out regulations and guidance more clearly, the Conservatives prefer to devolve powers to local level, which creates inconsistencies.

In addition to this, councils are seeing their budgets slashed. In some cases, this has lead to strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation and the need to address a changing world being put on a backburner because of dwindling funds.

This fragmented approach is not entirely restricted to the public sector. Academia has attempted to come up with viable solutions to create more sustainable cities, but using multi-disciplinary approaches and often working in isolation – that is, until now.

Richard Dawson, professor of Earth systems engineering and chair of the Centre for Earth Systems Engineering Research (CESER), says that a coalition of academics from various backgrounds was needed.

We decided that we needed to create a more integrated approach to address the conflicts that can often arise in planning and sustainability issues in the urban environments. This is where the COST Action Network came from”, he said.

A two-day symposium last week, held at Sheffield City Hall and hosted by Sheffield Hallam University, brought together some of Europe’s leading researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including architects, engineers and policy analysts.

Dawson says, “One of the main issues was the multiple approaches that are used to understand climate change. This is not helpful when ultimately everyone is working toward a common goal. It took us nearly two years to break down the language barriers across the different sectors.”

Another issue faced by people working to come up with practical solutions to mitigating the effects of climate change is one of financial constraints. Dawson said that funding for the initiative had been very tight, meaning that the representation of experience at the event – although wealthy – was mainly reserved for European institutions and thus concentrating primarily on European cities.

There does seem to be a wider desire to engage in sustainability and that is reflected in the political processes, particularly in Europe where the EU sets out directives for member states”, he adds.

The results of these stringent EU directives certainly shine through in the results. Europe is generally seen as one of the leaders in sustainability, but more must be done to ensure that the policies are followed through efficiently.

On a global scale however, the picture is still pretty bleak. Poorer countries which have very little financial power can often find it much more difficult to operate within a sustainable industrial and urban environment. Western consumerism is often driven by these countries, and whilst creating jobs and some form of wealth, the environmental and social conditions are sometimes compromised as a result.

If we are to truly have an effective transition to a more sustainable society, the collaborative approach taken by the 90 academics as part of the COST Action Network initiative needs to be mirrored in political and diplomatic processes.

It is unhelpful, illogical and damaging to both the planet and its custodians to place profitability and economic prosperity before the needs of the natural environment. Cities are increasingly becoming a big part of that picture and unless global efforts from the public and private sectors and civil society working in partnership adopt this approach, the world we pass onto future generations will be very different from – and much more inhospitable than – the one we live in today.

Further reading:

Urbanisation is only evil when we forget our duty to the environment

Future Cities: a blueprint for sustainable urbanisation

Sustainability in the city: Reykjavik, Iceland

US mayors unite to improve energy efficiency in city buildings

Climate change, sustainability and ‘human values’ on agenda as Davos kicks off

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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