At a time where climate change and urbanisation are two of the most pressing challenges facing our planet, it has become increasingly clear that every individual's contribution matters. This was the focus of a collaborative event that recently took place in Brussels at the European Week of Regions and Cities. The "Citizen Science and Co-Design Tools for Cities" workshop, shed light on the pivotal role that citizens and economic stakeholders play in achieving net-zero carbon emissions, addressing city-wide air pollution, and building effective biodiversity strategies. COMPAIR joined ten cutting-edge citizen science and co-design projects which are already empowering local communities to actively participate in creating more sustainable and liveable cities.
The interactive workshop kicked off with moderator Martin Brocklehurst a representative, Kempley Green Consultants who emphasized the power of citizen science, which is the practice of engaging citizens in scientific research and data collection. Citizen scientists can provide invaluable data and insights that are essential for understanding and mitigating environmental issues.
By participating in this session we hope you become citizen science champions and be a voice in our society for change - Martin Brocklehurst
Next to speak was Thomas Osdoba from Net Zero Cities, who told us we all need to look more systemically at climate change, and that doing so is more than just tackling missions. Osdoba introduced the audience to the new concept of Climate City Contracts which go beyond standard climate action plans. These contracts help cities make shared commitments and investments with urban stakeholders to tackle the challenge of reaching net zero by 2030 together.
Sonia Gantioler from Eurac Research, Professor Ana belen Cristobal from the Technical University of Madrid, and Daniela Melandri from UniverCities discussed how best to empower local communities in achieving targets. All acknowledged that by involving citizens and economic stakeholders at an early stage, cities can harness their collective knowledge, passion, and resources to drive positive change.
Once the panel session concluded, the audience had a chance to go 'speed dating' with exisiting citizen science projects incuding COMPAIR, Aurora, Socio-Bee, DivAirCity, GreenScent, UPSurge, iChange, PSLifestyle, Impetus4CS, JustNature, and CrowdHelix,
The ten cutting-edge citizen science and co-design tools that were showcased during the workshop: included:
Air Quality Monitoring Apps: These apps enable citizens to monitor air quality in real-time using their smartphones, helping cities identify pollution hotspots and take immediate action.
Biodiversity Mapping Platforms: Citizen scientists can contribute to mapping and preserving biodiversity in their communities, aiding in the development of effective conservation strategies.
Energy Consumption Tracking Tools: Apps and devices that allow citizens to monitor their energy consumption at home and compare it with others, fostering competition and encouraging energy conservation.
Urban Heat Island Monitoring: Citizen scientists can use thermal imaging and data collection to identify urban heat islands, leading to targeted urban planning and cooling strategies.
Noise Pollution Measurement Devices: These tools help citizens track noise pollution in their neighborhoods, providing valuable data for noise reduction initiatives.
Community Garden Planning Apps: Co-design tools that engage citizens in planning and creating community gardens, promoting urban agriculture and green spaces.
Public Transportation Improvement Platforms: Apps that enable citizens to suggest improvements to public transportation systems, leading to more efficient and eco-friendly transit options.
Waste Reduction Challenges: Competitions and initiatives that encourage citizens to reduce waste through recycling and composting.
Wildlife Tracking and Reporting Apps: Citizens can report wildlife sightings and contribute to the conservation of local fauna.
Green Building Design Tools: Co-design platforms that involve citizens in the development of sustainable building projects, making cities more environmentally friendly.
For COMPAIR, Jurgen Silence from Digital Flanders and Kris Vanherle from Telraam enabled participants to be hands-on with sensors for monitoring traffic, and air quality alongside the resulting data visualisations which can be used to stimulate behaviour changes and influence policy. The COMPAIR station attracted a lot of interest from both cities and universities from across Europe.
During the workshop, it became evident that active citizen participation in these initiatives offers numerous benefits. It not only empowers individuals to take ownership of their local neighbourhoods but also fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility. Moreover, it provides cities with a wealth of data and diverse perspectives, enabling them to make informed decisions for a more sustainable future.
These innovative tools and the active involvement of local communities offer a promising path forward towards creating cities that are not only more sustainable but also more vibrant and inclusive. By providing citizens with opportunities to actively engage in urban planning and environmental conservation, cities can better work toward achieving net-zero carbon emissions, tackling air pollution, and implementing effective biodiversity strategies.