Jonathan Andrews spoke with Chiara Barberis Savary, Head of Agenda 21-Service, City of Geneva, about the upcoming launch of an online sustainable platform at the 7th European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns and how the conference aims to be one of the most sustainable yet.
This is the 7th conference on sustainable cities and towns, what is the key theme for this year’s event?
The theme is: A green and socially responsible economy: a solution in times of crisis? This is the first European Sustainable Cities and Towns conference that gives pride of place to economic and social topics rather than purely environmental approaches, which reflects Geneva’s sustainability commitments.
The conference aims to be highly sustainable itself. In what ways will it achieve this?
The biggest impact of such conferences is travel. Participants are therefore encouraged to travel by train if possible and to compensate their CO2emissions on our website.
Furthermore, the CICG conference venue is exemplary in terms of environmental impact in many ways–effective waste recycling, cooling with lake water instead of air conditioning.
Will this be the biggest gathering of the event? How many people are expected to attend?
We are expecting over 1,000 participants in Geneva. The last edition in Dunkirk, France, 2010, attracted 1,800 participants, but that was before the European crisis in public finances.
Finance is a key theme for this year’s event. What type of financial institutions will be partaking?
UBS SA is our largest banking partner. Other speakers on sustainable financing include the European Investment Bank, the European Energy Efficiency Fund, INRATE, Z/Yen Group Limited and Sustainable Finance Geneva.
Is there a large private sector involvement?
Yes, the following partners are supporting this event: UBS, Givaudan, Caran d’Ache, Geneva’s Industrial Services, HelveCie, IBM, ABB, Gaznat, Mieux! Sustainable Living Fair, and Swiss Airlines.
What key announcements or initiatives will be launched during the event?
This event will serve to launch the new Sustainable Cities Platform, a one-stop Internet platform to help European cities and towns to navigate through various themes, initiatives and programmes for local sustainability.
More generally, the conference and Mayors Session will serve to take stock and reflect on sustainability as a way to resolve current economic, social and environmental crises in Europe today.
How many mayors will be attending?
Presently more than 70 mayors are going to attend the Mayors Session, which will be dedicated to the financing of public service in times of crisis.
Geneva will be showcasing some of its own projects. In what areas is Geneva a leader?
The City of Geneva is delighted to convene and/or participate in eight breakout sessions and six workshops on site in which it has developed expertise including sustainable procurement in practice, managing ecosystems and biodiversity, local food sovereignty policies, and sustainable neighbourhoods. Delegates will also be able to choose from six site visits including public health, migrant welcome, gender equality, and a cycling tour.
Until when are registrations open?
People can register before the conference (http://register.sustainablegeneva2013.org/online_registration.php) or register on-site. The earlier people register, the more likely that the workshops and visits they wish to select still have open slots.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of the event, or to build momentum on?
Geneva is now halfway through its first sustainable development strategic programme. This is the occasion to renew our motivation to continue.