Urban Solutions and Smart City Development



  • Róbert Braun, SeniorResearcher, Institute for Advanced Studies
  • János Kocsány, CEO, Graphisoft Park
  • Diána Ürge-Vorsatz, Vice Chair of Working Group III, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Omar Al-Rawi, City Councillor, Vienna
  • Eileen O'Sullivan, Deputy Mayor of Frankfurt

Moderator: Fabian Zuleeg, Chief Executive and Chief Economist, European Policy Centre.


Across the world, we are facing a number of meta-transitions that will impact on all of us and profoundly change the way we live and work: the need to achieve sustainable development and combat climate change, the impact of digitalization and new technologies, ageing and societal change including migration, potentially rising inequalities between and within countries, and the long-term structural impact of COVID19 on economies, societies and health care. Urban areas will be profoundly effected by these trends, but they are also a key part in finding solutions to the challenges these trends pose, often possessing crucial policy levers, for example in areas such as planning and urban development, transport, smart and green economic development, social services etc.

Main takeaways

  • There are tremendous new changes, and we face difficult transformations
  • Cities have a very important role in making the urban environment climate-proof.
  • Most public spaces belong – especially in European cities – to cars which is an impediment.
  • The pandemic showed that we must be brave to reallocate public spaces.
  • In cities using electric vehicles cannot be the sole solution, because traffic and congestion would remain.
  • Smart cities are only as smart as people who make the decisions there.
  • Nowadays, every single building could be net zero energy user at least in Europe.
  • The slowness of decision-making is a big obstacle.
  • There are a lot of best practices, but it is deceptive; we tend to believe that everything will be solved, everything is smart, “zero” etc., but at the same time there is a lack of real action.
  • Behavior changes will not happen based only on information, we need significant shifts in our life for that to happen.
  • We must change our lifestyle which does not means that our quality of life will suffer from it.


Policy recommendations

  • Do not build new buildings, but make old ones energy efficient.
  • The first “green steps” are almost always unpopular, but we still must do them.
  • Create a majority that understands the climate challenge and who are willing to change.
  • Think out of the box and sell a solution in a way that people can accept it.
  • We need continuous experimentation, real-life small-scale experiments.
  • Optimize and use more share mobility.
  • Discover urban farming.

(The panel is organized in partnership with Graphisoft Park)