Edmonton City Centre Airport ICLEI Smart Growth

help build your smart city.

Ever since attending the 2009 ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton in June, I’ve been continually amazed at some of the positive change, innovative thinking, and idea sharing that is happening between municipalities across the globe.

While Canada’s provincial and federal leaders of all political stripes are failing to address some of the biggest growth issues of a generation – both on the environment and energy fronts – many of our municipal leaders are pioneering new ideas for implementing sustainability and smart growth strategies. Dealing with urban growth is difficult in cities where past politicians have embraced urban sprawl and bad urban renewal ideas. In Edmonton, City Council recently made a smart decision by voting for the phased closure of the City Centre Airport, which will create opportunities for future increased densification in the City core (a difficult and well-thought out decision for some Councillors).

Caution: Hazardous GirdersEdmonton City Hall in Winter

Important civic issues have awakened the citizenship in a growing number of Albertans who are taking action and forming groups like ChangeCamp Edmonton and Civic Camp Calgary to participate in shaping the future of their communities and politics in a non-partisan way.

Using the Internet, websites like CityWiki and Cities Exchange (ht Rurban Fringe) are providing forums for great information sharing about urban growth strategies. There have also been some exciting positive debates about open data and open source government in Calgary and Vancouver that will create more transparency and broaden the ways that citizens can interact with their municipal governments. It’s really encouraging to watch our cities move forward in a positive direction on many issues. When I look at how much has been accomplished thus far, I become more hopeful for what can be accomplished in the future!

ICLEI Peter Newman Richard Littlemore

iclei 2009 world congress edmonton: thoughts on sustainability.

Over the past week, I have had the privileged of attending and observing many of the sessions and keynote speeches at the ICLEI 2009 World Congress in Edmonton. The conference has left me hopeful and encouraged about the opportunities for sustainability in our cities. In Canada, as in many other countries, it has become clear that municipalities are light years ahead of national, state, and provincial governments in generating innovative initiatives and strategies to improve the sustainability of our communities.

Watching, meeting, and conversing with many of the over 620 delegates has left me feel optimistic. Originating from cities across North America, Asia, Europe, and Africa, the conversations and debates I observed at this Congress didn’t touch on political partisanship or ideology, but on actual ideas and direction (an increasing rarity among the national and provincial debates in Canada).

Peter NewmanTOD

During his speech to delegates on June 17, Australian scientist Peter Newman made some interesting points having to do with the current economic downturn. Newman suggested that the downturn in the world economy provides states the opportunity to create “the global green new deal.” It may seem far fetched that an overly natural resource dependent jurisdiction such as Alberta would embrace new great change, but if “the future is to be smart and sustainable,” as Newman suggested, Albertans should be pressuring their elected representatives not to be left behind.

While no one I spoke to at the conference suggested that the need for fossil fuels is going to disappear anytime soon, other oil producing jurisdictions are having serious debates about the ethics of their precious resources. In a conversation with a delegate from the City of Oslo in Norway, he explained some of the serious ethical debates that are taking place on a national level in his country. As Norway is also largely dependent on natural resource revenues, it seems like it and the Province of Alberta should be facing a number of the same ethical challenges.

The Norwegian pointed out that while Statoil (Norway’s national oil company) had recently purchased a large amount of shares in the North American Oil Sands Corporation (a deal that is reported to be worth $2.2CND billion), the investments in Alberta’s oil sands has spurned a national debate around the ethics of financial dependence on an unsustainable and environmentally damaging method of extracting oil.


During our conversation, the Norwegian made an observation that as an older society, the debate around oil and dependence on non-renewable resources in his country appeared to be more mature than the relatively young debate in Alberta. Although he was quick to clarify that he wasn’t making a judgment, I’m not sure he was far off the mark. While Norwegians have serious national debates about whether or not to simply leave the oil underneath the ground and live off the interest of their geographical resources, Albertans seem to get easily caught up in the staccato boom and bust cycles, all the while forgetting that we are the owners of the resource. As the owners of the resource, it is our responsibility to drive the debate.

Attending the ICLEI 2009 World Congress has taught me that while we do many things well in Edmonton, that there are many areas where we can improve. If “sustainable technologies work best at the local level of government,” as Newman suggests, where do our local government’s start? Referencing a recent article in the Telegraph, speaker Richard Littlemore suggested that “rebuilding our infrastructure in an intelligent way is the only chance we have.”

Collaboration and information sharing is a key to rethinking and rebuilding our cities. A partnership between the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and ICLEI has produced the Slim City initiative that provides a framework example of how this kind of collaboration can take place.

ICLEIBoris Johnson

TOD, POD, and GOD (transit oriented development, pedestrian oriented development and green oriented development) are some of the urban development strategies proposed by Newman in his speech and his book Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change. While some North American cities already provide positive examples of TOD (which can save 50% in car use and 20% of income) and POD development, the ominous sounding GOD initiatives may be less familiar.

The German cities of Vauban and Frieburg are considered to be successful examples of how green-oriented development can produce sustainability. A car-free village powered by solar energy, mobilized by light rail transit and bicycles, and filled with space to grow food locally sounds Utopian, and it directly challenges the comfortable culture of over consumption.

Change is never easy, but the over 620 ICLEI delegates who traveled to Edmonton from around the world this past week have made me hopeful that there is at least one level of government that is prepared to rise to the challenge.


iclei world congress 2009 edmonton: transit chart.


A chart used by Peter Newman in his presentation at the ICLEI 2009 World Congress in Edmonton this afternoon.


iclei world congress 2009 edmonton: day three in words.

The Concrete Cycle

Urban Strategy Expert and founder of ICLEI Jeb Brugmann talked about the concrete supply chain in China, which includes the recycling of concrete from Hong Kong to build new cities in Mainland China, rather than mining new concrete. The City of Edmonton has operated a Sustainable Aggregate Recycling Program for concrete since 1978, which saves the city around $10.4 million per year.

Pecha Kucha Edmonton 4

Mastermaq has a recap of last night’s Pecha Kucha Edmonton 4. While the large audience of over 600 made the event much less intimate than previous Pecha Kucha events in Edmonton, there were some good presentations including Myron Belej and Trevor Anderson. I’ve been very skeptical of NextGen‘s mandate in the past, but if they focus on organizing events like Pecha Kucha, they stand a chance in changing my mind (not that they should focus on changing my mind).


Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel awarded the winners of a Edmonton’s Zero Footprint Challenge with a brand-new Prius. As usual, the day wouldn’t be complete without Scott Hennig and the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation pointing out something negative about the initiative.

Young Municipal Leaders

Thanks to Councillor Don Iveson, Mastermaq and I were invited to the meeting of ICLEIs Young Municipal Leaders, a loose group of municipal leaders within a common age range. I was encouraged to hear that the group wasn’t satisfied with sitting at the ‘kids table‘, but also recognized the perspective their age could offer and the knowledge they could gain from some of the older representatives in ICLEI.

Rather than division by age, participants saw the generational gap as key to a positive partnership in ICLEI, rather than a hierarchical relationship. I also thought it was very telling that as traditional politicians continue to discuss important issues in private low-key meetings, this group discussed the potential that online conversation through social media and wikis could have on important discourse. Very encouraging.

Participants in the Young Municipal Leaders meeting included Leduc Councillor Dominic Mishio, Deputy Lord Mayor of Adelaide Stephen Yarwood, Freiburg Councillor Sebastian Muller, Spruce Grove Councillor Jeff Acker, Melbourne Councillor Cathy Oke, Lahti Councillor Eero Vainio, former U of A Students’ Union President Michael Janz, and Kelowna Councillor Angela Reid (among others).


You can follow the ICLEI conversation on Twitter and take a look at my photos on Flickr.


iclei world congress 2009 edmonton: day three in pictures.

Mandel PriusKey Trends

ICLEIParkallen Ecomobility

Welcome to ICLEILinda Osinchuk

YEG CIty HallStreet Performer

Boris JohnsonMyron Belej

Pecha KuchaJane Jacobs


iclei world congress 2009 edmonton: day two focus on eco-mobility.

If I could pick a theme for day two of the ICLEI World Congress (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) in Edmonton, it would be Eco-Mobility. The Global Alliance for EcoMobility describes Eco-Mobility as mobility without dependency on the private, Eco-Mobility includes a wide range means of travel, most of the presentations I attended yesterday were focused on bicycle mobility. Here are some points I picked up from yesterday’s presentations:

Edmonton is one of the most car dependent cities in North America.

Copenhagen (Denmark) is aiming to be one of the environmental capitals of the world. Since 1995, bicycle traffic has risen by over 40% in the Danish capital city.

– In Tilburg (Netherlands) the primary focus is to remove obstacles by improving bicycling parking. There are currently 12,800 bicycle parking spots in Tilburg, with an extra 2,800 spots planned for 2010 and 2,000 spots planned for 2012. Tilburg’s 2003 ‘Balanced Mobility’ cycling plan treats all forms of mobility as equally important. Current plans are to build 1600m of bicycle networks.

– Challenges of increased bicycle mobility includes increased theft. Each year, 4,000 bicycle thefts are reported per year in Tilburg, a big problem that needs to be addressed.

Changwon (South Korea) has a goal to increase bicycle transportation to 20% in 2020. Some Changwon businesses offer $24 per month allowance for employees using bicycle-transportation to work, and the City Bicycle Centre offers free bicycle classes to housewives.

– For Canadians who oppose increased bicycle infrastructure because of our cold winters should know that similar arguments were made in Rio De Janeiro (Brazil) about the intense heat. Heat tuned out not be one of Rio’s biggest challenges: bad bike lanes led to four cycling deaths in Rio over a short number of years.

– About half of the air pollution in São Paulo (Brazil) used to come from factories, but now 90% of emissions come from motorized transport. Increase bicycle mobility is a viewed a a solution to car air pollution.

– With a population of 34,000, Koprivnica (Croatia) began promoting bicycle mobility after the end of the Cold War, when the introduction of western automobiles drastically increased local air pollution. In 2008, Koprivnica won the European Mobility Award.

– The Local Motion Eco-Mobility Project in the Edmonton community of Parkallen focused on showcasing and encouraging Eco-Mobility through pilot project improvements and Eco-Mobility education. Community education included local programs, improved bike route marking and the development of a local community map (aka, the Parkallen Field Guide).

I would also like to add how impressed I am with the (likely) hundreds of Edmontonians who have volunteered to help with the day to day operations of the ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton. They’ve been doing excellent work!

(As most of these points were jotted down quickly during the sessions, apologies if there are any minor inaccuracies)


iclei world congress 2009 edmonton: day two in pictures.

YEG SignGOA Sign

Don Iveson and Ben HendersonParkallen Ecomobility

Welcome to ICLEIkoprivnica

PerformerDon Iveson Interview

ICLEI Ray Danyluk

video: minister ray danyluk speaks to the 2009 iclei world congress.

Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ray Danyluk, welcomed the 2009 ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton this afternoon.

Bärbel Dieckmann David Cadman ICLEI Ray Danyluk Stephen Kabuye Stephen Mandel

iclei world congress 2009 edmonton: day one.

I attended the opening plenary session of the 2009 ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton‘s Shaw Conference Centre. The 628 ICLEI delegates will face a rigorous agenda over the next four days. Congress delegates have flown in from around the world, including over 100 delegates who do not speak English.

David CadmanStephen Mandel

David CadmanStephen Mandel

(The great caricatures were drawn by Roy Blumenthal)

The 2009 ICLEI World Congress opened with speeches from:

Stephen Kabuye, ICLEI’s Vice President, Mayor of Entebbe, Uganda
Stephen Mandel, Mayor of Edmonton
David Cadman, Deputy Mayor of Vancouver, Canada & ICLEI President
Ray Danyluk, Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs
Bärbel Dieckmann, Chairperson, World Mayors Council on Climate
Change, Mayor of Bonn, Germany

Of all the speakers, Cadman was the most passionate. As President of ICLEI, he used his time at the podium to urge delegates to lobby their state, provincial, and national governments for serious action on sustainable development and climate change. As this year’s COP15 meeting in Copenhagen approaches, the world’s municipalities will play a key role in advocating for serious action on the international stage. Even though it was only the first day of the Congress, I get the distinct feeling that municipal frustration towards regional and national inaction on sustainability and climate change is a common feeling among delegates.

GOA BoothStephen Mandel

Critics may point out the irony of holding an international sustainability conference due south of Alberta’s Energy Beach, but the 2009 ICLEI World Congress will give Alberta’s cities an opportunity to highlight some of the innovative sustainability initiatives that are being implemented at a local level. With an increased international spotlight on Alberta’s potential as an even stronger energy leader (and the irresponsible way that we are currently exploiting our resources), the Government of Alberta may feel an increased international pressure to become serious about cleaning up the way we are allowing oil companies to extract our natural resources.

For up-to-the-minute coverage of ICLEI over the next week, I will be uploading photographs on Flickr and joining the discussion on Twitter at #ICLEI. For more information on ICLEI, check out Mastermaq’s Guide to ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton.


iclei comes to edmonton.

Over the next week, I will be reporting live from the 2009 ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton. ICLEI is an international association of over 1000 local governments from around the globe who are committed to sustainable development.

Mack Male has posted an excellent guide to the ICLEI World Congress that I would recommend any ICLEI-curious Edmontonian. As Mack pointed out, this is going to be an important conference as ‘more than 500 mayors, councillors, and other delegates from more than 800 cities around the world will visit our city to discuss environmental sustainability.


iclei 2009 congress in edmonton.

On a similar topic as my post on Toronto Mayor David Miller‘s Tower Renewal presentation, you may be interested to discover that more than 740 delegates from around the world will be visiting Edmonton from June 14 to 18 for the 2009 ICLEI World Congress. ICLEI is an international association of over 1,078 local governments that have made a commitment to sustainable development. Alberta members include the Calgary, Edmonton, Didsbury, and Red Deer.

On June 16, Congress Delegates will have a chance to learn more about some of the innovative urban growth projects that the City of Edmonton is implementing, including the Local Motion/Eco-Mobility project in the community of Parkallen.