The 15-minute city is a sustainable transport project launched by Carlos Moreno, a Columbian-French scientist, with a passion for innovation, at the Countdown, a global initiative by TED, an organisation that is known for spreading ideas on different topics that can change the world. At this critical juncture, the event’s aim is to speed up solutions to the climate crisis. The goal is to build a better future by halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In this play for a zero-carbon world, the 15-minute city will take centre stage.
A university professor and a specialist in intelligent control of complex systems, Carlos Moreno also works in the innovation ecosystem, with initiatives and applications focused on smart, sustainable and sensitive cities. In the video available on the TED channel, he starts with a certainty when talking about his project: that governments, cities and businesses are the three key players when it comes to planning and putting in place the transition needed by people.
"Who live in cities, big and small” because so far those people “have accepted the unacceptable. In cities our sense of time is warped, because we have to waste so much of it just adapting to the organization and long distances. (...) I would like to offer a concept of cities that goes in the opposite direction to modern urbanism. I call it the 15-minute city. And in a nutshell, the idea is that cities should be designed or redesigned so that within the distance of a 15-minute walk or bike ride, people should be able to live the essence of what constitutes the urban experience –to access work, housing, food, health, education, culture and leisure".
Paris’ transformation process
Ecology, proximity, solidarity and participation are the words underlying the transformation. “We need to make urban life more pleasant, agile, healthy and flexible. To do so, we need to make sure everyone –and I mean everyone, those living downtown and those living at the fringes –has access to all key services within proximity.” This scheme involves “turning schools into neighbourhood centres in the evenings” and having digital workshops in parks so they can be shared, because the digital transformation is another key element in all this.
The first city to take up Moreno’s idea is Paris, where Mayor Anne Hidalgo, re-elected last June 2020, came up with a policy for putting the project into practice. In line with this, “Hidalgo has suggested a big bang of proximity, which includes, for instance, a massive decentralization, developing new services for each of the districts –a reduction of traffic by increasing bike lanes... new economic models”. Paris’s mayor made the 15-minute city a fundamental pillar of her electoral campaign and was rewarded for it.
With the “quarter-hour city”, as she calls it, “the aim is to offer Parisians what they need on or near their doorstep to ensure an ecological transformation of the capital into a collection of neighbourhoods. This would reduce pollution and stress,” the mayor explained to The Guardian, “creating socially and economically mixed districts to improve overall quality of life for residents and visitors. ‘Paris is independent, lively, vibrant. It is capable of inventing a new history without forgetting its past’.”
Low climate impact metropolis
Carlos Moreno’s idea of the 15-minute city, besides adding to the quality of everyday life, would play an important role in protecting the environment. An innovative urban policy focused on environmental sustainability goes hand in hand with the ongoing energy transition. That transition leads to a decarbonized future, of sustainable energy, digital experience and innovative services, transformed into real projects by companies, politicians and society.
Among the projects embracing this path is one by Eni gas e luce in partnership with OVO, which after a successful first test in the UK, has now come to France. Kaluza is a technological platform which, thanks to digital connection systems, optimises the use of energy produced by consumers themselves with a view to lower carbon impact and a more flexible energy system. At a time when CO2 emissions are at alert levels, reconciling the needs of people with those of the planet becomes a duty for everyone.
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