The 47th annual Earth Day (April 21, 2016)

On April 21, AmCham and the Foreign Commercial Service of the US Embassy joined hands to celebrate the 47th annual Earth Day—a global environmental initiative with its roots in environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The event at the US Ambassador’s residence attracted over 80 people, including Polish parliamentarians, city officials from around the country, and government representatives, such as Andrzej Piotrowski, Deputy Minister of Energy, and Piotr Naimski, Secretary of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and government plenipotentiary for strategic energy infrastructure.

Welcoming his guests, Ambassador Paul W. Jones said that the world is at a crossroads when it comes to taking care of the Earth, as according to global weather forecasts 2016 will be another record hot year in a row. He noted that while the problem of global warming still needs effective policies to be tackled, city planners face the challenge of rapidly growing urbanization. While today over half of the global population lives in cities, by 2050 it will increase to two-thirds, Jones said.

Smart Cities

One solution for this problem may be the concept of Smart Cities, which is about creating a cleaner, more sustainable urban environment. This requires smarter collaboration among all stakeholders—government, NGOs, businesses and researchers.

The ambassador said that the US government has been supporting Smart Cities with the Global Cities Team Challenge, an annual event bringing together representatives of cities around the world to share their experiences with Smart Cities concepts. He said he hoped that some cities in Poland will be represented in Austin, Texas, where the next gathering of Global Cities Team Challenge participants will take place in June.

Another speaker, Tony Housh, AmCham Chairman (APCO Worldwide), picked up on the ambassador’s remarks about the need for collaboration between stakeholders, and said that to make the Smart City concept reality, all bits of information that are critical in understanding how cities work need to be gathered and analyzed so municipal authorities can see patterns of asset and resource usage, traffic, energy consumption, and other types of information. He added that AmCham member companies have huge experience helping authorities in the US, as well as in Poland and globally, address the most pressing issues.

For instance, IBM has run projects to demonstrate interconnectivity benefits in Katowice, Łódź and Lublin. The advanced Smart Cities solutions help local governments better understand, predict and intelligently respond to different patterns of activity and events on a daily basis as well as on a long-term planning level.

In Warsaw, Coimpex, a development and investment organization, helped master-plan parts of the city with the development of an innovation campus in the northern district of Młociny, and is in the process of developing a transit-oriented neighborhood in Warsaw which will encourage walking and cycling with appropriate infrastructure.

Housh said there are also innovative and practical technologies companies are introducing to help sustainability and Smart Cities projects reach their goals.

United Technologies, a family of companies including Otis, Carrier, Chubb, Kidde, Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace, provides high-tech systems and solutions used around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and industrial waste. This focuses on how industry can limit negative impacts on the environment while delivering solutions for Smart Cities programs.

Housh added that the future of Smart Cities is efficient, environment-friendly production and value-added services, but for these sectors to thrive cities have to remove barriers in the digital world. With a true digital single market, new, innovative digital solutions can appear, generating environment-friendly jobs for citizens of environment-friendly cities. With this in mind, governments and businesses should support innovation and education as well as uninhibited cross-border data flows through broadband digital technology platforms. 

To make all that reality, Housh said, it requires efforts from society, business, public policy and community leadership. Only working together can they make sustainable development a reality “in our generation and for future generations to come.”

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