#83 Łódź: From Textile Hub to Climate-Resilience Through Innovation & Community

Episode 89 July 10, 2024 00:35:47
#83 Łódź: From Textile Hub to Climate-Resilience Through Innovation & Community
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
#83 Łódź: From Textile Hub to Climate-Resilience Through Innovation & Community

Jul 10 2024 | 00:35:47


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

In this episode recorded live at the Urban Future 2024 conference, Anna Wierzbicka, Director at the City of Łódź in Poland, discussed with us the city's history, its transition to addressing climate issues, and the importance of community involvement in urban development.

She emphasised the challenges and opportunities related to sustainability, economic growth, and collaborative efforts with other cities and stakeholders.


Overview of the episode:

[00:02:55] Teaser Question: "If your city were an animal, which animal would it be?"

[00:05:55] Our guest's background.

[00:09:00] Discussion on the biggest challenges Łódź is facing.

[00:13:04] Achievements of the European Climate Pact and its impact.

[00:15:09] Cross-sector collaboration in Łódź.

[00:17:16] Balancing economic growth and sustainability.

[00:22:28] Communicating the urgency of climate action.

[00:24:16] Examples of successful initiatives in Łódź.

[00:28:46] Anticipating future technological changes and challenges.

[00:32:42] Inspire Us: our guest shares a story, a quote, or anything that has inspired them recently.

[00:33:21] 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. [00:00:21] Tamlyn Shimizu: 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. [00:00:31] Tamlyn Shimizu: 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. [00:00:46] Tamlyn Shimizu: So we are live here in Rotterdam at the Urban Future conference. So for the third year in a row, I'm a media partner and I'm really thankful and really excited to get the chance to speak to so many great speakers in the program. So today we are actually going to get a glimpse of the location of next year's host city of urban future, and that will be in woods, Poland. So I'm really excited to speak today to Anna Wierzbicka. She's the director at the city of Łódź in Poland who is also responsible for climate. So welcome, Anna. [00:01:18] Anna Wierzbicka: Hello. It's a pleasure to be here and it's a pleasure to be a host of next year urban future. [00:01:23] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, I'm really excited to get the chance to come and see your city. I've traveled a bit in Poland, but I've never been to your city. So actually, maybe before we get started, I would love for you to just where is it? What's special about your city, which is. [00:01:38] Anna Wierzbicka: The third largest city in Poland? It's located in the heart of Poland, in the heart of Europe. So just if you want to visit the center of Europe, you have to join us next year in 2025. What is unique for which was the second fastest growing city in the world after Chicago in the 19th century? [00:02:00] Tamlyn Shimizu: Oh, interesting. [00:02:01] Anna Wierzbicka: It was connected with the fact of the growing textile industry, and we believe since then that there was a saying, and it was also a very famous film in which we believe since then that there is a special attitude from our city because we had a saying, you have nothing, I have nothing and he has nothing. So together we have enough to build a factory. And this is how it started in the 19th century. And we believe in this episode till now. Right now, of course, we changed from the textile industry to more climate issues, more art innovations and involving business companies. And we are also involving many partners to create our city together. [00:02:55] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, really, really interesting. So thanks for giving us a little bit of a backstory I like to start us off with a little bit of a teaser as well. So I want to know from you, if your city were an animal, which animal would it be? [00:03:12] Anna Wierzbicka: I think it would be a unicorn. [00:03:15] Tamlyn Shimizu: Why? [00:03:16] Anna Wierzbicka: Because, you know, we have a civil budget and one there was a project dedicated submitted by the one inhabitants, and we have a monument of a unicorn. And then next to it we were building. It was somehow by accident, but we were creating central station for trams. And it is like white with a colorful roof, and it looks like a rainbow. So citizens call this place a stable for unicorns. [00:03:53] Tamlyn Shimizu: Ah, interesting. [00:03:54] Anna Wierzbicka: And that's why I believe unicorn is a perfect animal for our city. Because we are dreamers, we are believers, and we never surrender. And on the second hand, I would say that we are like Phoenix rising from the ashes. Because wood was really a city that was very rashly treated in the past times. Because when the textile industry collapsed, we were really the city that had no money. There was huge unemployment and all the people left, because there was no place to work. And we had no help from the national sources. And during the second world War, only one bomb fell to knowledge, which was at those times it was fantastic. But today we know that we didn't get the funds to rebuild the city. And we are the biggest tenement houses owner in Poland, which is crucial source for our citizens. We are very proud of it, because they are beautiful buildings, but they need lots of money to thermomodernize, to be secured somehow. Because when time goes by, the buildings need some changes, some help. [00:05:32] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. So, Phoenix and a unicorn. So we have two very strong mythical animals for you. So I love it. Now I want to learn a little bit more about you as a person. Actually, before we dive into some more challenges and all the work that you're doing, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What is your background? What led you into this work that you're at today? [00:05:55] Anna Wierzbicka: Yes. You know, before the job that I'm doing right now, I was responsible for the city, for the candidacy to host Expo 2022. And with my colleague, we were leading the team from the city hall that was responsible for this candidature. So we had to collaborate also with national government and with diplomats around the world to fight for the rights and to build the. The approval for our city to be a host. Unfortunately, we lost with Buenos Aires by four votes. We do not see it as a huge problem. Of course, we would love to win, but to be honest, at those times, and I believe right now, I will not lie, if I say that not everybody knows Łódź, but everybody knows Buenos. So when you lose with Buenos only by four votes, it's still a success. And I would say so, yes. And I would like to think about it like this. And after we were beating this candidacy and we were leading this project for five years, and suddenly it stopped because we didn't get the rights to it. Me and my colleague, we were also involved in some issues connected with expo horticulture nearby. So we were involved in climate, in greenery. And we came to our city hall and discussed with the mayor that this is the time that we should focus on this. And our mayor, she's also the ambassador of Green Deal for Europe. She's a member of committee of regions. So she's also very dedicated to climate issues. And we decided that we will create our department and we will try to combine all the issues that are very important for climate, for greenery, for blue infrastructure in one unit. And this is how it started. Personally, I'm not biologists, I'm economist and I'm a project manager. And I love issues that need some passion, that are the changing some urban tissue, that are somehow an adventure. [00:08:23] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, really interesting. It sounds like you have a very interdisciplinary background that's really led you into your climate roles today, which I'd love to hear, because I think you need that kind of focus and that vision to lead in some of these climate issues. In a lot of ways. I'm wondering. So set the scene for us. You've told us about the unicorn and the Phoenix and a little bit about your city. But can you discuss now what are the biggest challenges that you're facing within woods and maybe also some opportunities that you see moving forward? [00:09:00] Anna Wierzbicka: We have few problems. They are on different layers. One problem is, for example, that which is in the risk of drought, even though we have few rivers. There are small rivers, but most of them are put underground and they're connected with the sewage system. It is also historically connected with the textile industry and some past decisions. But right now we have to focus on the retention issues and how to keep the water in the ground and in the place when it's raining, for example. So we are creating a huge concept of, we call it blue green infrastructure, and we've already made the first step. The first step is to uncover one of these rivers and give it back to the inhabitants. And we already have a constructor for it, so it's really going, I'm not just saying about some ideas. [00:10:00] Tamlyn Shimizu: It's really been implemented now. [00:10:02] Anna Wierzbicka: Yes, right now. And we, this project, because this is a complex project, so we uncovered the river, but we are also doing some. We want to collect rainwater from roofs, from the buildings next to the river and to create a model of how to manage the water in the city. And this project was also very well seen by the European Commission and we got financing directly for the European Parliament. So this is the only polish project, put it directly into the budget of european parliament. [00:10:44] Tamlyn Shimizu: Oh, wow. [00:10:45] Anna Wierzbicka: And we are right now dealing with this problem, with this project. And I hope that when you come next year to Łódźh, at least you will see half of it. [00:10:56] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, because we'd love to. [00:10:58] Anna Wierzbicka: It will be, we supposed to be ending by the end of 2025, so most should be done by urban future next year. So this is one of the issues. The second difficult problem is, for sure, buildings and the energy efficiency of the buildings. As I said, we are the biggest owner of tenement houses in Poland. So this is a huge number of buildings that we have to tackle with. And lack of money and financial resources is not helping us, but we hope we'll find some solutions. Right now we are also the member of the city climate mission, the project by the European Commission, and there are other four polish cities, and we are creating the city climate contract. So we'll have exact data on how to. [00:11:48] Tamlyn Shimizu: For smart and climate neutral cities. [00:11:50] Anna Wierzbicka: Yes. On how to find the solution to be climate neutral. And we're trying step by step to introduce the solutions. And for me, the third important issue is the lack of knowledge building consciousness in the inhabitants, because nobody, maybe not nobody, but still we lack some information. There are some people who are not believing in the climate change, or they think that their step or their change is worthless because it's too little. [00:12:24] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. [00:12:25] Anna Wierzbicka: So we are also working on some educational issues. One of this is which schools for climate. This is the project which involves children to take the challenge. For example, can you imagine to have a day when you have only 4 hours of Internet or you have only three liters of water per day? These were the challenges that these kids took and they survived, and they said that they are proud that they finished it. So this is the most important issue, getting knowledge by experience. [00:13:04] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, really, really interesting. And thank you so much for outlining those challenges and also the progress that you're making to tackling those challenges. I also understand that you're in this european climate pact. Is that true? And so I was wondering, what do you think are the most significant achievements of the european climate pact? How have these initiatives impacted the environmental policies and practices and what are some key learnings that you're taking away from that project? [00:13:34] Anna Wierzbicka: I think in all the areas we are involved, the lessons from the european climate impact and collaboration with all the stakeholders is very important. For me, there is not only, I cannot say one example, we are extending knowledge and getting good practices in all areas and also for the city climate mission and smart cities mission. For me also, the very important issue for this is a collaboration with polish cities, so we can do some things together. And we are really very collaborative and we are, I think, in contact twice or three times a week. So this is really a booster in Poland for us to collaborate. [00:14:25] Tamlyn Shimizu: Very good. What kind of things do you do together with the polish cities? Like what can you do together and what are kind of the limitations of working together? [00:14:32] Anna Wierzbicka: Yes. For example, we've got a donation together as five cities we have a project that is called Nest, and in each city we have a seven hectare quarter where we are trying to build a model transfer, a model approach on how to change this area to be energy efficient, to get the green transformation. And then we want to, on basis of these five areas in different cities, we want to create a model that will be replicable to other cities in Poland and in Europe. [00:15:09] Tamlyn Shimizu: Very interesting. So you're kind of using collaboration as this tool with other polish cities. I'm wondering how you're using it also cross sectoral, as in how have you tried to foster collaboration in your city, among public, private, academia? How is that working in which it's. [00:15:29] Anna Wierzbicka: Quite a good way. We are create. We've created such an idea activity which is called ecopact, to which we invite every stakeholder, inhabitants, universities and business partners. For now, we've involved, I think, 60 or 70 companies and they gave us donations, financial support for climate actions, different ones. Some are involved with unconcreting of some spaces. We also got help in installing water devices in schools or for some social campaigns. So it's a huge collaboration. And I think in Poland we are the biggest. We are the city that has got the biggest number of part business partners in such initiative. [00:16:18] Tamlyn Shimizu: Why do you think that is? What do you think is the key to driving more collaboration with these partners? [00:16:27] Anna Wierzbicka: I think that it's the project that we offer and the idea that they right now know that it is important, because at the beginning it was very difficult to convince them. I remember once someone said at the beginning it was a very lonely journey, but right now everybody is more convinced that this is the right thing. And for example, when we managed to convince one company, it was easier to convince the second one. And then I finally got to the situation that they were calling me and they said, oh, my God, you involve them. We are also willing to join. [00:17:09] Tamlyn Shimizu: And the domino effect. [00:17:10] Anna Wierzbicka: And it's a domino. Yes. And it really works. So it's really fun also to be together. [00:17:16] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, really interesting. I like to play devil's advocate a little bit on so, and I'm sure that you've heard this from, you know, constituents, from citizens also, that a lot of people argue that ambitious environmental projects can hinder economic growth. There's these parties saying, no, we need to focus more on the economic growth. People are in poverty. All of these aspects, particularly in cities, striving to attract investment and create jobs. You hear this argument. How do you respond to those concerns when you hear it? Yeah, I would love to hear how you're kind of balancing this economic growth and sustainability effort. [00:18:00] Anna Wierzbicka: You know, for me is the saying that nobody promised it will be easy, but we gotta keep moving. And we are having crucial data, crucial facts. In Poland, we used to have lots of snow. Now it's sometimes snow, not snowing at all. So this is a fact. And for me, once we had an industrial transformation, and right now we will have to face the green transformation. And this is not the way of how to explain whether it's okay, whether it's not okay. We have to get on the train and go. And I believe, and I speak with many companies, that they have to adjust to some needs, they have to adjust to the world that is changing and the ones that will not adjust will simply die. [00:18:58] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. [00:18:59] Anna Wierzbicka: You know, once I heard one guy speaking, one very, for me, important idea, and he said, remember Kodak? Everybody from our generation remembers Kodak. And he said, I don't want to be Kodak because it doesn't exist anymore. And for me, we have to adjust. We have to find a solution. And for me, the issue is to how to do it or not to convince everybody not to do it. [00:19:29] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, yeah. I guess I'm also thinking that the economic growth can, to find the points where you can foster economic growth at the same time as meeting sustainability goals, to find the sweet spot where both can be true. I'm wondering if you have any kind of examples that come into mind where you think, wow, this is great for economy at the same time as being great for the planet. [00:19:55] Anna Wierzbicka: Yes, sure. Reduction of using water. Okay. I do not mean don't use it at all, but if you try to use it a little bit less, you will have the secure future for water systems and it will get some savings for you. The same is for the buildings. If you transform the building to be less energy consuming, you will be prepared. So you will have a good solution for energy savings and money savings. I know that there are people, they have to see the economical arguments. I know it. [00:20:36] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, exactly. [00:20:37] Anna Wierzbicka: We are trying to find such solutions. Some data. Data. It's not sometimes easy, but not everything can be secured. But for example, even having in mind european taxonomy, it's changing. And even the financial institutions right now, they will give some credits only under some circumstances. So if you're climate neutral, if you take care about the environment, so it is also economical advantage or disadvantage for someone. But if you are not involved in protecting the environment, you will not get credit from the bank. [00:21:24] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, yeah. It's so bizarre to me because you mentioned the droughts that are happening in this kind of urgent pressing, where people can see it for their own eyes. Also starting to really feel the effects of climate change. And I just came from the south of Germany, where we had immense flooding, the worst floods of the last for a long time, I think. So it's kind of. I just want to put this kind of in a heartfelt way that I'm just worried that people will only notice when it's too late, when they really, really feel the effects. Like you're just starting to see it. You're really, oh, why is it so hot? Oh, we haven't gotten enough rain. Oh, we got really bad floods. Like, why is this happening? What do you think is the best kind of heartfelt plea right now? To communicate with people on making this a priority to politicians, to making this a priority that kind of appeals to the human nature. [00:22:28] Anna Wierzbicka: For me, the most important issue is to explain everybody that each, even a small step is important, because there are people who believe I'm only one person sitting somewhere in one apartment. What my attitude can change? It can change a lot. If it will change one attitude by each person, we'll be 100% ahead. It is really that we have to sometimes change the mind for small steps. I know that we cannot be also fanatics because we have to sometimes optimize our approach. But we were trying to involve authorities because I believe that politics should also be speaking about it, because it's their role. They're responsible for small towns, bigger cities or national countries. Yes, but authorities, like sportsmen or actresses or actors, they should be speaking loudly about it. We were able to involve some authorities in Poland, some famous basketball player or some youtubers also right now, and they were saying what they are doing to protect the environment, for example, water, to use less of water or less energy or to eat less meat. They were explaining, and there were lots of followers after them. So I believe this is also the issue. Just to learn children, which can influence their families, speak by the name of the voice of authorities and try to do your best by your own. [00:24:16] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, really, really good words to move forward on this. You've already given a few really good examples of actions that you're taking to overcome some of the challenges. But I'm wondering if you also have another example at all of a unique use case or something that you're doing in your city that could be really replicable on a larger scale in other european cities. A case that comes to mind for. [00:24:42] Anna Wierzbicka: Me, this is this educational program, because this is easy. [00:24:47] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. [00:24:48] Anna Wierzbicka: It's not time consuming during the lessons because this is the challenge for the children to do at home. And our examples after doing this first episode of this project were like this. These children got the lesson. They said, we are proud, we will repeat it. We will involve our families to eat less meat, to do some other challenges. It's learning by experience. Right now we are having the second phase. In the first phase, we had 100 children. Right now we are having 200 children and they are really involved. When I hear that young people say that they are proud it should happen in each city in the world. [00:25:39] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, yeah, really good example. So I'm hearing a lot of amazing initiatives that you're doing. But of course, always the question is, are we doing it fast enough to really combat everything? How can we accelerate these changes quicker? Because these dates, these 2030 dates, for example, 2050 dates are fast approaching. I'm wondering what tool or what is missing that would help you accelerate the changes that you're making. Is it money? [00:26:16] Anna Wierzbicka: What is it to you in Poland, for sure? And in which for sure this is lack of funding. And of course, we are also facing some problems by law. What I mean, the buildings we are having are under the conservation protection and we cannot do everything to adjust them to the future needs because of the conservation rules. And this should be somewhere simplified to make the impact on the buildings and to transform them. So these are the issues. Also one important issue for me. Maybe we should also focus on some solutions that are future solutions. I see that many cities introduce the actions or projects that are up to date for today, but we should think with some, we should create some platform with NGO's, with universities and business sectors to introduce, because I do not want to plan today the solutions for 2030, which will be created today, because in 2030 they will be not so modern. There will be new solutions. And I believe that in our technological systems and in the development of the world, I believe that in very many heads there are solutions created for 2040. So I would like to know them and to start introducing them today. So then we are getting faster and faster. For example, in Poland, it was somehow by accident, there were cash payments and then there were checks. We didn't manage to buy by law to introduce checks. So we skipped this stage, and we are having credit cards, and so we were faster than others because we skipped this one stage. So, for example, right now we are speaking about photovoltaic panels, which is obvious, but I dream about changing it for photovoltaic windows or something, which is coming just to be prepared for the future solutions. [00:28:46] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. Anticipating that, I was listening to, we had a side event yesterday, and I was listening to a keynote speaker speak on AI, right, a very important topic that everyone's talking about right now. And one thing that he was saying was that right now we're trying to plan all these parking solutions and everything, but he believes that very soon we'll just have autonomous cars in which a lot of these parking solutions will completely change. We're trying to build things for cars driven by people, while in the next ten years, he believes it will be all autonomous now. So are we planning for now, or are we planning for the future? [00:29:22] Anna Wierzbicka: Just exactly. I totally agree. And especially, there's also one japanese architect, I do not remember the name, but he said, we have enough buildings in our world. Stop building new buildings. Use the ones that are already in place. And another issue is, everybody is speaking about AI, but I don't know whether you've heard that to generate one graphic, one picture, for example, for Instagram, it is the same amount of energy that is necessary to charge one phone for 100%. [00:30:02] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, yeah, I've heard this, actually, I just moderated a session right before this about this changes. The title is this changes everything, how digital and green can go together. And actually, of course, we talked a lot about this topic, and I think it's a very tough topic, and this is kind of the situation I also presented to our panelists, to our fireside chat, as well as, you know, how can we balance, I guess, this energy usage from AI with the potential benefits it could have? And I think it's all about how you're applying the AI. How can we use AI for good. I think we're at the point we're not going to stop AI, right. So we only have to figure out how can we channel it in the best way possible so that we're really using it to go hand in hand with green solutions. Right? [00:30:54] Anna Wierzbicka: Yes. For the good purpose and not for fun. [00:30:57] Tamlyn Shimizu: Not for fun. [00:30:58] Anna Wierzbicka: It's not easy because everybody likes fun, but somewhere to balance it. Yes. [00:31:04] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. I know we've talked about a lot of things, but I do like to give you kind of an open floor right now in case you think that we didn't get the chance to touch on something that is really important that you really want our listeners to know about. Do you have something that comes to mind that you really want to talk about? [00:31:22] Anna Wierzbicka: I for sure would like to invite everybody to watch for 2025. I believe we are really a last undiscovered city. So you have to come and discover it. Just to mention we are the city of four cultures from historical point of view, because there were four nations, nations building our city, Poles, Jews, Germans and Russians. So it is a city that is really dedicated to national and international audience. So I hope you will come next year and you will feel the spirit of our city together with us. [00:31:58] Tamlyn Shimizu: I will be there for sure. [00:31:59] Anna Wierzbicka: I am glad to hear it. [00:32:01] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. I cannot ever miss an urban future conference. I think it is one of my favorites of all time. And I really love being here in the atmosphere and getting to meet people like you. [00:32:12] Anna Wierzbicka: This is climate. With climate. [00:32:14] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, exactly. So now we get to our segment, and our segment that we chosen for you today seems a little ironic to me because I feel like you've already inspired us quite a bit. But it is a segment called inspire us, inspire us just a little bit with a story, a quote or anything that has inspired you recently. Do you have something that comes to mind? [00:32:42] Anna Wierzbicka: Yes. For me, this is always the saying from which you have nothing. I have nothing and he has nothing. So together we have enough to build a factory. This is always crucial saying for me, and it is always up to date it and it is relevant to all the issues. No matter whether you are speaking about business, climate change, or leading a city hall, it is always up to date it. You don't need any resources. Just be a believer and it will happen. Just step by step. Create some ideas, create your adventure and change the world. [00:33:21] Tamlyn Shimizu: Really? Yeah, really good words. So with that, I have just one question left for you, and it's the question that we ask every single guest because I think, you know, that we like to say here at BABLE, you know, smart city, whether or not you want to debate that term or not, of course, is always up for discussion. But what I think is really interesting to ask every guest is to you what is a smart city? [00:33:48] Anna Wierzbicka: For me, a smart city is a city that is co created with everybody. That involves people, business stakeholders, everybody. This is the city that is open for different opinions, different suggestions, and it really tries to see other points of view and it's open for its inhabitants. [00:34:13] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, good point. I love the co creation aspect and the bringing people together. We've asked now, I don't know, we must have asked around 100 plus people now on the podcast. So we're consolidating all the different definitions and it's really fun for me to see. So obviously that's also a popular, some kind of co creation aspect is really a popular answer. So wonderful. So that's all I have for you today. It's been a really big pleasure for me to get the chance to talk to you. I'm really now especially looking forward to coming to visit you next year. So thank you so much for taking the time today. [00:34:49] Anna Wierzbicka: Thank you. It was really a pleasure and a good fun to speak with you, really, thank you. [00:34:54] Tamlyn Shimizu: Thank you so much. And I also want to thank Urban future for hosting us again for the third year in the row for this episode and also the other episodes that we're recording here. I'm definitely looking forward to next year, and I want to thank all of the listeners as well. So don't forget, you can always create a free account on BABLE Dash smartcities EU. You can find out more about how cities are building these different initiatives, their projects, solutions, implementations and more. Thank you very much. [00:35:23] Tamlyn Shimizu: Thank you all for listening. [00:35:24] Tamlyn Shimizu: I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban life.

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