High wellbeing with low energy demand towards modern net-zero cities (IIASA, GFSE, AEA)

According to the latest report of the IPCC, we are in a crucial decade to effectively mitigate climate change and to limit global temperature increase to well below 2°C. The buildings sector exerts significant impacts on climate, accounting for 40% of energy consumption, 33% of greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of raw material consumption and 40% of waste generation worldwide, and becomes  the prime emitter of greenhouse gases when taking into account embodied energy of construction materials.

According to Eurostat, despite the overall population decline, urbanization in Europe will continue to increase, reaching up to 84% in 2050. This induces further growth of new built even in developed countries. Globally this growth is even more substantial. According to the World Bank, an increase from 5 to 7 out of 10 people worldwide will live in cities in 2050, which will lead to salient increase in environmental, social and economic pressures in urban areas.

While the urban environment is generally a slow mover due to the long turnover rates of technological and social solutions, demand-side innovations ranging from sufficiency, energy efficiency improvement, infrastructure and urban redesign can offer fast and long-lasting energy savings and avoid harmful lock-ins. Sustainable, passive level building design creates buildings that are environmentally responsible and resource efficient throughout a building’s lifecycle. Societies require energy and materials to provide appropriate mobility, decent shelter, and social services for all, but these could be met in a variety of ways, ranging in energy demand levels. In summary a combination of avoiding energy demand while providing the wellbeing benefits, improving technological and infrastructural design, as well as shifting away from polluting energy and material sources towards more sustainable sources can lead to the desired rapid transformation with SDG co-benefits.

In light of the environmental and climate targets, rolling-out solutions that work with very low energy demand can risk the so-called “low-carbon gentrification”, and social exclusion of low-income families in the given neighborhoods. For example, energy retrofits under market conditions can contribute to a decline in the share of affordable housing in a city, while the higher-priced segment grows, with a potential increase of segregation. Therefore, integrating social components into sustainable cities policies is highly critical to reduce rather than increase social inequalities and vulnerability.


Opening by Moderator, Ms. Irene Giner-Reichl, President of the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy (GFSE)

Presentations                                                                                Bas van Ruijven, Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA): “Demand-side solutions that enhance transformation towards net-zero cities”
Alessio Mastrucci, Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA): “Technological, social and systemic innovations to impact on energy demand change in cities”
Elisabeth Sibille, Energy Efficient Buildings Expert at klimaaktiv: “Solutions for viable and high-quality building refurbishment in Austria”
Daniela Huber, Head of Property Management at Sozialbau: “Energy Transition in the Dwelling Stock, the end of oil and gas floor heating systems in non-profit housing”

Panel discussion and Q&A with the audience



Nov 03 2023


9:45 am - 10:45 am