#66 Anna Huttunen: Shaping Cities for Climate Neutrality - BBC 100 Women 2023

Episode 72 March 06, 2024 00:34:18
#66 Anna Huttunen: Shaping Cities for Climate Neutrality - BBC 100 Women 2023
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
#66 Anna Huttunen: Shaping Cities for Climate Neutrality - BBC 100 Women 2023

Mar 06 2024 | 00:34:18


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

This episode features Anna Huttunen, Climate Neutral Cities Advisor for Climate-KIC at Net Zero Cities. Recently recognised as one of the BBC 100 Women for 2023, she shared her insights on climate mitigation, the role of cities in achieving net zero emissions, and the importance of resilience and systemic change.

Additionally, the discussion touched on the broader theme of gender inclusivity in climate action and urban development.


Urban Innovators Global and BABLE Smart Cities are proud to announce the launch of the Urban Innovation Leadership Programme – an academic programme that is tailored and totally customizable for your organization. If this sparks your interest, you can reach out directly to us at [email protected] for more information.


Overview of the episode:

[00:01:39] Teaser Question: If Anna could nominate another woman who did not make the BBC 100 Women list, who it would be?

[00:03:25] ​Anna's Background

[00:08:50] Learnings from Lahti Projects

[00:10:13] Explaining the Citycap Project

[00:13:16] BBC 100 Women Nomination

[00:15:55] Advice for Women in Climate Initiatives

[00:17:31] Highlighting Climate Mitigation Benefits

[00:22:42] Gender Inclusivity and Climate Action

[00:24:43] Investment Plans for Carbon Neutrality

[00:27:08] Role of Private Investment

[00:32:17] Inspire Us: Our guest shares her personal philosophy on resilience and the importance of persevering through challenges in system change efforts

[00:32:44] Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


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View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Tamlyn Shimizu: Welcome to Smart in the city, the BABLE podcast, where we bring together top actors in the smart city arena, sparking dialogues and interactions around the stakeholders and themes most prevalent for today's citizens and tomorrow's generations. I am your host, Tamlyn Shimizu, and I hope you will enjoy this episode and gain knowledge and connections to accelerate the change for a better urban life. Smart in the city is brought to you by BABLE Smart Cities. We enable processes from research and strategy development to co creation and implementation. To learn more about us, please visit the BABLE platform at BABLE Smartcities EU Urban Innovators Global and BABLE Smart cities are proud to announce the launch of the Urban Innovation Leadership program, an academic program that is tailored and totally customizable for your organization. [00:00:57] Tamlyn Shimizu: If this sparked your interest, you can. [00:00:59] Tamlyn Shimizu: Reach out directly to me Tamlin at BABLEsmartcities EU. You'll find it in the show notes as well for more information. [00:01:08] Tamlyn Shimizu: So welcome back to smart in the city. I'm really excited for the next guest on our show, and I think I will not even give too much away in this intro because I'm just eager to announce the guest. So please give a warm welcome to Anna Huttunen. She's the climate neutral cities advisor for climate kick at net zero cities and probably very well known right now because she was recently selected as one of the BBC 100 Women for 2023. Welcome Anna. [00:01:35] Anna Huttunen: Thank you so much. [00:01:39] Tamlyn Shimizu: I'm really excited to get into a lot of really who you are, the work that you've done in the past and also leading up to that. But before we get into all of that, I always like to start off with a bit of a teaser to get warmed up. And the teaser I selected for you today is if you could nominate one woman who did not make the 100 BBC women list but that you think should be on it, who would you nominate? [00:02:08] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, I think we're starting very hard right in the mean. There are a lot of women that I would nominate, but I think I would actually stay in Lati in this case and say that the nomination goes to Saravaramo, who was the former environmental director of Lati. I guess many of us call her the mother of the green Capital 2021. She worked very many years, very hard to bring the climate work up to speed, together with all the colleagues, of course. And yeah, she's a big thinker, big visionnaire, also very eager to experiment, innovate and try also some very crazy ideas that can speed up the change. Awesome. [00:03:06] Tamlyn Shimizu: We need more women like that and more women shouting out other women like that. So thank you for that. So let's dig into you. You have a really interesting background at the city of Lati. I know you're really into biking projects. Tell us more about your story and who you are. [00:03:25] Anna Huttunen: Yeah. Do you want a short or long medium? Yeah, let's go in the middle. Yeah. Actually, my background is a little bit in two disciplines. I have a master in social and public policy from Finland, from Helsinki originally, and then I have another master's from Freiburg in Germany, and environmental governance. And within that I also already little bit got into the urban governance sphere and I wrote my thesis in India on peri urban mobility. And interestingly, it also became a little bit gender perspective thesis as well. So that was definitely one finding of that study. During my career, I worked in research institutes. I worked in a ministry. When I was living in Germany, I was working at the Fraunhofer EAO. So I also saw BABLE to be born, actually, which is really cool. Also, therefore, to be here today. And from Germany, I moved back to Finland in 2018 to work for the city of Lati. And then again one half years ago, I then moved to Copenhagen to work at climate kick and the net zero cities platform. Yeah. I'm very enthusiastic about sustainable mobility, especially active travel, advocating cycling, walking, and also the health benefits of the active travel modes. I think, yeah, the cities have a very big role in enabling the better quality of life and healthier living spaces for their citizens. [00:05:21] Tamlyn Shimizu: Absolutely. And Copenhagen is a good example of that, of course. But I do want to get into a bit more of your work that you did at Lati. Can you tell us about any specific projects that maybe were the biggest ones that you learned something from? [00:05:41] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, I think this is a great question. I think I could speak like for 1 hour about the learnings during the years in Lahati. What was really great in Lati, actually, to give us a little bit framework, is that I could also shape the work a lot, and I was able to initiate a lot of new projects during the years and also working with all the different stakeholders in the city. I was very privileged to work on all different levels, from strategy making to implementation, and then also very grassroots level work together, just going on the field and meeting the citizens. And also, of course, working a lot with the local politicians. I think among all the initiatives and the work that we did, I think I have three big ones that I learned a lot from. First one is definitely the UIA funded Citycap project, and then probably the city center circulation plan project that basically failed in a way. I think we always learn a lot from failures. And then procuring the e bike share system, which is very popular in the city. And the Citycap project was very broad. That was a huge learning experience. We built an ecosystem for sustainable mobility, and we developed the first sustainable urban mobility plan for the city. And we also integrated it to the master planning process of the city. In Lahdi. They have a four year cyclical process for master planning, and it was something quite new to include the sump in there. We also built a smart bicycle highway during the project, which is of course great that you can actually also implement infrastructure through an EU funding. And then we developed the world's first citywide pilot on personal carbon trading. And that was of course huge. It was model wise. The university did a lot of work on that to make it feasible and functional. It was technologically quite challenging. We had many companies working on the app itself and of course also on the back office of it. And something like this is also very challenging to communicate. So we also learned a lot that you need to be able to simplify things, you need to be able to bring different aspects on the BABLE in order to gain interest and get people on board. And yeah, also Covid came into the plane in the end. So that was also, of course, changing the game a little bit. But we definitely also got very interesting data about the mobility of the people in the city through this project. And I think we put in the Citycap project, I think we also brought the personal carbon trading back on the table to be discussed also from model perspective, because of course, we need some frameworks to reduce the emissions and communicate what are the borders and the boundaries that we should all keep in order to limit the emissions. It also relates not only on the transportation related emissions, but all the other sectors of life. So in that sense, I think it was also very interesting and very important work. Yeah. Should I also explain it to others? [00:10:13] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, please go ahead. Any of those learnings that you have are really interesting. [00:10:20] Anna Huttunen: Okay, perfect. And another project that I was very deeply involved, which is the failure one, in a way, was a project where we developed a circulation plan for the city. Blahti, like many other cities, is a very car dependent. And of course, the idea of restricting motorized traffic comes very easily political and ideological, even when the idea is to create more quality space for the citizens, improve the air quality, et cetera, at green spaces and so on. But what happened is that we had to rush in the process in order to get the council agreement before the elections. And that's something where we definitely did a mistake. We should have taken more time. We should have continued the process with the new council to actually root the work there as well and not find a compromise just at the end of the election round. Because, of course, when the next council comes in, they also want to understand what has been done, and if they don't fully agree, they do scrap the plan. And that's what happened in that case. So that was a lot of learning, I would say. Definitely. So take the time. The change takes time and work very intense in an intense way with all the people that need to be involved. And maybe the third project that I'm very happy about is the electric bike share that we procured for the city. It's called the monkey, and we got the citizens also to vote for the name of the bike share. And I think there we did very good choices on communication and engagement. And what I keep hearing, it has been very well received and it's also expanding in the city. So that's definitely something that you carry with you and you feel happy for the city that it's kind of bringing fruit, so to speak. [00:12:51] Tamlyn Shimizu: Absolutely. Three really good examples. And thanks so much for sharing those learnings. You were nominated at the beginning of this year, I think, for 2023, right? Or at the end of last year for the BBC 100 women. What has that meant to you and how did that come about? [00:13:11] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, it was a huge surprise and I felt very. [00:13:16] Tamlyn Shimizu: They don't tell you ahead of time or anything. [00:13:19] Anna Huttunen: They contacted me before saying that, am I okay if I'm nominated? And I was like, wow, of course. But this is huge. And also, why me? In a way? But I really take it also as a nomination that acknowledges the work that the cities are doing and what the people in all the cities that are really paving the way and creating the change for their citizens are doing. So, of course, I felt very honored to be on that climate pioneers list with 27 other women that also work on different levels, different initiatives and different projects around the world. I think I got the nomination because the work on personal carbon trading and the carbon trading model, it got a lot of interest all around the world during the project. And of course, I was the one, of course, often spreading the word of the project. And it was a very bold initiative to create this kind of framework, as I mentioned. And the personal carbon training was also one of Fluffy's green capital years spearheads. So that also, of course, adds into the importance of the initiative. But, yeah, I think we were very visible for the work that we were doing and it's great that it also got acknowledged. Of course, it's all the partners that were working on that, all the researchers, all the companies and all the colleagues in the city that were also working for making this happen. So it's shared acknowledgment, I would say. [00:15:27] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. I found it really inspiring personally to see someone working in the city environment getting that kind of recognition. So, yeah, thank you for all of that great work. I know you already shared some lessons that were great, but I wonder if you also have any messages or any pieces of advice for women working in climate initiatives or in the urban setting. Do you have any tips to share? [00:15:55] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, definitely. Keep rocking, I would say, and also find allies to work with. I think that's extremely important. You need to find the support. It might come from very unaccepted places sometimes, so that's definitely something to put resources on. I mean, there are always so many hurdles on the way and sometimes the frustration might get high, but there is always a way forward, I would say. And I think what I've also learned is that even though some of the discussions are very hard, they are very inconvenient sometimes. They get very personal sometimes. But I think it's also just important to try to learn from toast and then also kind of find new weapons in a way to work through these conversations. So I think that would be a piece of an advice that I would give. Perfect. [00:17:12] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, keep on rocking, women and what is, I guess one message from what you've learned or all of your experiences that you think needs to be proclaimed louder, like it needs to be getting more recognition. [00:17:31] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, well, I think we should be a lot more louder about the fact that everyone benefits of climate mitigation and adaptation. We should talk more loudly about the cop benefits of sustainable mobility and the climate actions and also work on the monetarization of them on local level. This is an ongoing discussion, but we should be better and we should use the co benefits better to communicate to different groups of people that have different background, different interests, different priorities. I mean, it can be different aspects of health, it can be related to energy security, it's the quality of life, it's job creation, economic activation of city centers and so on. And I think this could also help in the hard discussions that many cities are facing, for instance at the moment in relation to budget discussions, when the economic situation is harder and you need to prioritize all the time. And then of course the climate actions are also at stake. So this is definitely something that we should be louder about. [00:18:59] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. So now I want to switch a little bit into your current role, which I think aligns a bit with what you were just speaking about. Of course, now you're working with net zero cities, which, by the way, we're also somewhat involved together with Galway and Helsingburg. And I'm wondering, what would you say to people who don't know much about it? What is your main goal around net zero cities? [00:19:27] Anna Huttunen: Oh, yeah, definitely. Well, maybe first is to say that net zero cities is a platform that supports the implementation of the EU's mission on climate neutral and smart city cities. We work with 112 cities around Europe and support their journey on becoming climate neutral by 2030 by providing tools, services and pilot funding. And of course, I think the goal and the challenge go hand in hand because the change and climate neutrality will require systemic change and it will require bringing everyone on board for the transition. And we know that the city cannot do it by themselves, but variety of actors need to be involved. So, yeah, I guess definitely the goal and challenge go hand in hand. The ambition is very high and we only have six years to go, but the ambition is still the most important thing that we have. So we try our best to get there with the resources that are out there. [00:20:57] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, and they're big goals. Right. So I've talked to a lot of the cities who are involved in it and they definitely feel like 2030, it's already here, basically, we're already behind. [00:21:12] Anna Huttunen: What would you say to that? [00:21:14] Tamlyn Shimizu: Is 2030 actually going to happen? How can we actually get there? [00:21:21] Anna Huttunen: It's going to be hard. And again, I think I would reiterate the word ambition. I think the ambition is the most important thing. Of course, maybe not all 112 cities will get to climate neutrality exactly by 2030, but some will. And that's the goal that we all have to work towards together, learning from each other, sharing the best practices, sharing what didn't work, figuring out, solving the political barriers, finding new finance ways, et cetera. So it's common work to be done together? [00:22:15] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. I want to touch on kind of going back to this women's angle and also on these inclusion aspects. When we're talking about climate, maybe sometimes we forget the piece about equity and inclusion. How do we address these at the same time and make sure that we're transitioning in an equitable way? [00:22:42] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, I think that's very crucial part of the whole process. And within the net zero cities, we also say that the just transition is in the heart of the whole journey. So the change needs to happen in a way that no one is left behind. And we also need to make sure that not only the climate aspect is acknowledged, but equally the social aspects of the change are taken into consideration. The cities also need to plan how they will include the marginalized groups in the work. And so that's definitely super important. And I think this again relates to the importance of the co benefits of green transition when it comes to enabling the same possibilities for the cities, encouraging active travel, creating new jobs and offering new possibilities for the citizens throughout this journey. [00:23:58] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, very important points there. I want to deep dive into. You mentioned it before, right, that this climate transition that we're trying to do is beneficial for all and it can also have economic benefits. A lot of people see the euro signs or the dollar signs on the cost and we need to look at, of course, the return on it and all of these kind of economic factors. How do you think cities should approach the development of investment plans to ensure that projects are financially viable and effective in reducing carbon emissions? [00:24:43] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, well, maybe here again as a background for our listeners. So within the city's mission, the cities have to develop this climate city contract, which have three parts. So the first part is the commitment documents, where they should have the municipal commitment, but also multilevel and then stakeholder commitments, how the stakeholders will support the journey of the city. Then they will, with the stakeholders, develop the action plan where they figure out how they will become carbon neutral by 2030. And as a third piece, they come up with this investment plan that should describe the investment pathways to 2030. And basically, first they need to figure out how much it will cost to become carbon neutral by 2030. Because in the end, the cities have very little like around 10% in their hands when it comes to financing the transition. So the stakeholder is super crucial in the transition, both the citizens and the companies. So the cities really need to leverage funding and policies to make these large investments on things the city does not control happen. Right. And that's also a lot about behavior change. And within the net zero cities, we work closely with the cities on developing the investment plans, but especially in the implementation of the investment plans, we have the mission cities capital hub, where we have a lot of resources to support the cities finding the needed investments. And I mean, public private partnerships are of course also super important on this matter. And then many cities also use procurement to change the markets and to decarbonize their processes. And where we, for instance, have good examples on the emission free construction sites and heavy duty vehicles, et cetera. So yeah, a lot is happening on the field. Yeah. [00:27:08] Tamlyn Shimizu: And I'm also wondering a little bit more about the role of private investment in this. Can you elaborate a bit more on what you think cities should be doing with attracting and leveraging private investment? [00:27:23] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, I think it's working together with the cities first, figuring out what are the bankable projects and where the funding or the financing sources could come from. And then it's also, for instance, to work with the public companies to utilities to see if there are possibilities to move from the very traditional ways of funding the actions together with different kind of capital, investors, banks, insurance companies, et cetera. So I think there is a lot of innovation also to be done because as we know, the money is out there, we just need to find a way to direct it to the cities and to the transformation in the city. [00:28:17] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, very good point. It's not really the lack of money, just the lack of direction of the money right into the right resources. Yeah, a good point. What do you think is slowing us down? What will accelerate cities in reaching the 2030 and what is slowing them down? [00:28:37] Anna Huttunen: Yeah, I think some of the issues are very much related to policy and regulation. And again through this, also on behavior change, and also in general, behavior change is very slow. Right. I think it's about finding the right policy mix, the right carrots and the right sticks, and that's something that we definitely need to concentrate on. And of course, it's always finding the political consensus. So we need to work on finding the discourse that speaks to everyone and we can get everyone on the same front going to the right direction, which is easy to say and very hard to do, right? [00:29:29] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yes, I think one of the hardest things to do, get everyone on the. Yeah, absolutely. So at the end of this main interview part, I like to give you the open floor if you'd like it in case. We talked about a lot of things. I know, but maybe you have something else in mind that you say, oh, the listeners really need to know about this. Do you have something for the open floor? [00:30:00] Anna Huttunen: Oh, what would I. Wait, let me think about for 1 minute or 2 seconds. Well, maybe. Yeah, I don't know, maybe just to encourage everyone to get involved in the transition, work with the cities. It's not about the mission cities, it's about all the cities in Europe. And we all need to act together to reduce the emissions. So the cities need partners to do this and speed up the journey. So, yeah, I don't know. Get involved, get active, do your part. [00:30:53] Tamlyn Shimizu: Perfect. And if that wasn't inspiring enough for you, we have our segment today that we selected, which is called inspire us. You've already inspired us quite a lot, Anna, but I wonder if you have a favorite quote or a favorite saying that really maybe encapsulates your personal philosophy. [00:31:14] Tamlyn Shimizu: Inspire us just a little bit with a story, a quote or anything that has inspired you recently. [00:31:26] Anna Huttunen: Um, yeah, I get very easily excited about new ideas. And then of course, sometimes you also hit quite hard. Right? I am also an ultra runner where you have highs and lows regularly, so you also get used to that. So I think I would like to say that, well, it's my own saying that resilience is the key when you are working towards changing systems. I mean, if there is a low, there will always be another high, and therefore we should never give up trying. That's maybe my own philosophy, but probably someone else has said similar things. [00:32:13] Tamlyn Shimizu: That's what I also heard in a lot of your lessons learned and what you were talking about in this whole interview. Right? It's keep going, keep trying women, keep rocking. So I see you living out that a lot. So, yeah, it's a good message to have, for sure. So now we have our final question. It's the question we ask every single guest who comes on to this podcast, and it's to you. What is a smart city? [00:32:44] Anna Huttunen: Well, for me, a smart city is a human sized city that should enable and notch more sustainable choices for the residents and always try to improve the quality of life of the residents. [00:33:05] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, very well put. Yeah, perfect. I just love the question because you can really tell people's different perspectives when they answer it. And so now we've collected, I don't know, 60 plus different definitions from experts around the world on what they think. A smart city is. Wonderful. So with that, that's all I have for you today. Thank you so much for coming on, sharing all your knowledge, your insights, your story. I really, really appreciate it, and it's been a big honor. Thank you. [00:33:38] Anna Huttunen: Thank you so much. [00:33:40] Tamlyn Shimizu: And to all of our listeners, thank you as well. And don't forget, you can always create a free account on BABLEdesmartcity EU. You can find out more about smart city projects. Get inspired with solutions and implementations. Thank you very much. [00:33:54] Tamlyn Shimizu: Thank you all for listening. I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban life.

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