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January 27, 2020

European Cities to Use AI to Reduce Their Carbon Footprints

The European Union is, collectively, the third-biggest producer of carbon emissions. Furthermore, 70% of EU citizens live in urban areas, meaning that most of those emissions are concentrated around the EU’s major cities. Now, six of those cities have joined a new project, AI4Cities, that will use artificial intelligence to help those cities reduce their carbon footprints and, eventually, achieve carbon neutrality.

The 3-year, EU-funded project is being joined by Helsinki, Finland; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Copenhagen, Denmark; the Paris region in France; Stavanger, Norway; and Tallinn, Estonia. AI4Cities is divided into five phases: a preparatory phase, three pre-commercial procurement (PCP) phases (design, prototyping and testing), and one impact assessment and follow-up phase. 

The PCP process, which AI4Cities describes as an “innovative procurement tool,” involves the purchasing authorities defining their needs, followed by a “challenge” to suppliers to design solutions that meet those needs using AI and related technologies (such as 5G, IoT and cloud computing). AI4Cities says that a minimum of 40 contractors will be selected and funded for the first PCP phase, a minimum of 20 will be invited to prototype in the second PCP phase, and finally, a minimum of six will be undertake larger-scale pilots in the final PCP phase.

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, a global network of nearly two thousand local and regional governments that have made commitments to sustainable development will be responsible for developing a set of procurement guidelines, as well as for recruiting a group of cities to follow the PCP process and support its outcomes. 

“AI4Cities is a living example [of] how sustainability and innovation go hand in hand, providing practical answers to the challenges ahead,” said Philipp Tepper, coordinator of Sustainable Economy and Procurement for ICLEI. “Open-source solutions to drive climate change mitigation using the tangible tool of public procurement is timely and ICLEI welcomes the leadership taken by European cities.”

AI4Cities highlighted how the initiative could help European cities address particular urban carbon pain points, such as traffic congestion and inefficient transport (which account for 24% of carbon emissions in European cities) or building energy use.

“Cities and regions have a lot to say and do when it comes to climate action,” said Kaisa Sibelius, coordinator of the AI4Cities project. “We are very well placed to support our national governments in achieving the climate goals. AI4Cities shows our leadership and our willingness to use the power of pre-commercial procurement to boost innovation, artificial intelligence and sustainability in Europe.”