The year 2020 started fresh with anticipation, momentum, and excitement. For example, look back at this Forbes article published at the end of 2019, covering 2020 as the year of sustainability. At the beginning of the year, there was a lot of hope for sustainable advancements in our cities. But did they happen? Yes, we believe that 2020 was still transformational, even despite COVID-19. ✅ And we checked off many sustainable achievements from the list this year that moved the needle in climate action. Here is our Futureproofed 2020 year in review, a global look at climate action, a reflection on our progress, and a celebration of our user’s achievements!
🌍 The year the earth stood still
We can’t acknowledge our achievements at Futureproofed without first acknowledging 2020 global events. The year 2020 was a difficult year. Difficult for businesses, individuals, cities, and the environment.
If you remember, we began 2020 with raging and devastating bushfires in Australia, millions of acres of land were burned, animals and humans lost their lives. Record-breaking high temperatures and lack of rainfall fueled those massive fires. A major example of our changing climate and the devastating impact that climate change is already having on our planet.
This article could include many notable events (like this one) from this year, but the pandemic is a huge part of the story. It continues to linger with us. COVID-19 has given us a glimpse of what liveable cities look like with cleaner air, no traffic cities, and noise pollution. More liveable cities. Here are a few examples of how our cities became more sustainable in 2020:
🌬️ Cleaner air
European countries still suffer from premature deaths and reduced life expectancy due to poor air quality. As many as 400,000 premature deaths across the continent. It’s too early to tell if COVID has had a long-term impact on air quality, but we do know that we saw a “60% reduction of certain air pollutants in many European countries where lockdown measures were implemented in the spring of 2020.” Cleaner air, more liveable cities.
🚆 Traveling local
We know that personal and business air travel is a major carbon contributor. The year 2020 allowed us to pause and see the beauty of local, sustainable travel. European governments encouraged local holidays this year, and maybe those can become a regular theme? Traveling locally, and by train, for example, has an impact on the longevity of our planet. It also supports the local economy and jobs.
🚴 Sustainable mobility
Overnight, the bike became a major source of city transportation. Citizens chose to bike to work, to the supermarket, or their planned activities. This is a major shift in city mindset, painting the picture that you as an individual can benefit greatly from making the bike your main form of transportation.
And cities stepped up to the challenge. The city of Berlin installed pop-up bike lanes within weeks—making the city more accessible and safer for bikers. The same actions happened in major European cities like Milan, Paris, and Brussels. Now the question remains: Will those bike lanes remain in cities? Will citizens stay motivated to choose the bike (over the car)? Is this a phase, or just the beginning of a larger shift?
🌳 Nature in the city
With more local travel and time spent at home, it’s without a doubt that citizens took more action to enjoy their local green areas. Citizen participation in city green areas and local parks increased in 2020. Urban green landscapes acted as a buffer zone for citizens to escape, enjoy the fresh air, and to recharge. We expect green spaces to grow in the coming year and encourage cities to add them to their climate actions.
🗳️ Climate on the political agenda
Climate was back on the political agenda for many countries worldwide. EU climate neutrality was a major theme, and in October, the European Council communicated the importance of “stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambitions.” United States president-elect, Joe Biden, commits to a 100% clean energy economy by 2050 and rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. We agree that only a global political and systematic commitment to climate policy will move the needle on climate change.
Yes, we made sustainable progress in 2020 — but our success is a small swing in the right direction. In 2021, at Futureproofed, we look forward to helping you push these actions further and making them mainstream.
Helping more cities on climate action. Building more sustainable infrastructures. Making clean air normal, increasing sustainable mobility, and improving nature in our cities as a top priority in city planning. Transforming our cities to be more liveable and attractive. 💪 Working for total city transformation.
🤝 We had your back in 2020
The year 2020 wasn’t perfect. It had many challenges, and at Futureproofed, we listened and heard your challenges pushing for climate action in your cities (while navigating a global pandemic). Not easy.
Our team stepped up to support you through 2020 (and we will continue to do so in the new year). Our customer success team organized five digital webinars on ‘corona & climate’, ‘co-benefits & corona’, ‘communicating climate action’, and ‘building your climate plan.’ Our FutureproofedCities Talks went digital, and we saw cross-city collaboration grow. To reach a total city transformation, we believe that this level of collaboration and partnership is key.
Access to quality data is a common narrative amongst our users. This year, we introduced a new digital tool called LaunchPad, as an open-access tool helping city teams quickly source local, reliable, and recent data for a climate action plan.
We understand that recent and quality climate data is one of the biggest obstacles standing in your way of progress. With LaunchPad, our goal is to change that narrative. That way you can spend less time collecting data and reporting, and rather focus on how to scale up successful climate action.
And if we were to continue to dwell on our successes for a minute, we also launched the new Futureproofed website, our FutureproofedCities video, and introduced FutureproofedBusiness to pilot users.
🏙️Every action we take at Futureproofed — or a new tool that we introduce, we strive to honor our mission: making cities more attractive and future-proofed. Here at Futureproofed, we’re on a mission to help you realize your climate plans and reduction targets. One city. One municipality. One province. One business at a time.
🙌 Year of action on the ground
We can’t wrap up 2020 without acknowledging just a few of the many actions that our users have taken in climate this last year.
🏅Climate champions in Flanders
Things are moving in Limburg -— and we’re so very proud of them! Their ingenuity in pushing for progressive governmental policy and budget, and their call for more climate-related investments overall. We highlight six lessons learned from the province of Limburg in this article. Another example is Oostende. They’ll adapt the city to climate change by creating a green-blue ‘river’ through the city to cool the city and buffer it against extreme precipitation and floods. Antwerpen has big ambitions for the future, as they want to reduce their carbon emissions by 50-55% in 2030. And also Vilvoorde is ambitious, and they call for more budget as well!
🤝 Saint-Gilles scales up climate ambitions
The municipality of Saint-Gilles has defined its climate ambitions for 2030 with the help of FutureproofedCities and organized an online press conference to communicate on the topic. Our tool allows them to calculate their measures and monitor the progress of their plan in the long term. The internal municipal services have also started to collaborate on the tool and have shared actions on the public page. In 2021 they will start a participatory process to bring all stakeholders in the territory around the table.
📈 Tracking climate progress across the Province of Brabant Wallon
The inter-municipal association in BW, in the Province of Braban Wallon, Wallonia, has joined our community, which now counts 68 Walloon communes (or one-fourth of the region). BW launched in 2020 alongside FutureproofedCities to implement its climate plan, but also to fuel its Smart City strategy. The regional overview allows their team to follow the progress of the municipalities both in their globality and in their specificities. Our tool has enabled municipalities that already have a climate plan to enhance it, and those that don’t to build it successfully to meet European ambitions for 2030.
Another example in Wallonia is Pont-à-Celles. They’re one of the first Walloon cities to brand a new team dedicated to their climate plan this year. Our tool and partnership helped them take ownership of the plan and build a strong collaboration between the different municipal services. Together, they’re working on a housing renovation project in partnership with the Province of Hainaut, the ADéL of Pont-à-Celles, and the municipality of Seneffe. This supra community project aims to help and accompany the citizens in their approach and create local employment.
🎯 Building a territorial action plan in Pôle Métropolitain du Grand Amiénois
Futureproofed had the honor to welcome the Pôle Métropolitain du Grand Amiénois as the first French member of our community. FutureproofedCities has been chosen to help them build their territorial action plan and facilitate its appropriation by elected officials. FutureproofedCities also allows collaboration of the different territorial referents, who meet every month to work as a team on the objectives to target.
Our team is happy to support you on these actions, and we look forward to championing your progress in 2021! In the next year, we plan to help you scale up city transformation to a new level, get more cities on board, and to continue to bring you the best product and support for your city's climate journey. Our direction is set, our actions unfolding, and our mission is even more clear: Making cities always more attractive and future-proofed.
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