President and CEO of Siemens AG Peter Löscher affirmed all cities can benefit from the results of the Green City Index, and the index helps cities to learn from one another.

Mr Peter Löscher gave VietnamPlus an exclusive interview after the recent release of the Asian Green City Index in which he provided some suggestions for cities like Hanoi to improve their environmental issues.

- What is the background that led to the initiative of the Green City Index?

Urban areas are responsible for 75 percent of global energy consumption and 80 percent of CO2 emissions. So the battle against climate change has to be decided in cities. We want to enable the world’s metropolis such as Hanoi to combine healthy growth with a high quality of life. That is why we have initiated the Green City Index. The study provides information on effective technologies and environmental solutions to help cities with this effort. It also provides in-depth city profiles that describe the challenges, strengths and weaknesses of each city and highlight emerging best practice and innovative ideas that others might wish to follow.

- Asian Green City Index was released a little bit late, as the region has been long coping with environmental problems while recording high growth. Could you please give an idea why the Asian index came after those in Europe and Latin America ? Any difficulties in carrying out this project in the region?

Asia was the third region where we did this study – after Europe and Latin America , and by far not the last one. There are many more to follow, for example North America and Africa . But it doesn’t matter whether you do the study at the beginning or at the end of the Green City Index series. What counts is that you do it. Because it delivers successful strategies for sustainable urban development and forms an objective basis for a fruitful exchange of ideas between city planners in the regions. Cities have to be places worth living in it over the long term. And as you said, this applies to Asia , with its booming conurbations, more than anywhere else on earth. In the last five years alone, the number of inhabitants in Asian cities has been increasing by about 100,000 a day! This is having an enormous impact on the infrastructure: with the additional number of inhabitants, correspondingly more energy, clean water, transportation and energy-efficient homes are required. And for Siemens as the green infrastructure pioneer this means a huge potential!

- An EIU expert said at the recent press conference to announce the Asian Green City Index that the index does not aim to rank cities in an order of being green but it could help cities to know where they are to make improvements. Do you think city authorize will take this into account, and if yes, will they be given a hand by green technology pioneers like Siemens?

From our experience we can say, that both the European and Latin American Green City Index have already helped cities to learn from one another. They are developing a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses regarding issues of urban sustainability. And we are fully committed to support them with information on efficient climate protection, and to partner with them in developing comprehensive, sustainable infrastructure solutions. Siemens has a broad experience from projects in cities all over the world and the largest range of clean technologies – from efficient and clean energy generation, transmission and use to public transport, water treatment systems or building technologies. In fiscal 2010 alone, Siemens generated revenue of around €28 billion with its environmental portfolio. Projects in Vietnam are also contributing to this.

It is clear that Hanoi has a lot to do to be really green, not only because it wants to climb up this index ladder. Hanoi ’s environmental governance is well below average in the Asian Green City Index - togsether with “Land use and buildings” and “Sanitation.” Transport and water are big concerns too. What are your recommendations for the city in the immediate future?

Every single measure that contributes to sustainable urban development is of high importance. The Asian Green City Index could be a good basis for further steps. It delivers – for the very first time – the full picture of Hanoi in terms of environmental performance. Based on the outcome of the study that 45 percent of the city's water supply is lost through system leak, one immediate approach could be to upgrade the existing water systems and raise the population’s awareness of saving water. In addition, public mass transport systems such as metro, bus rapid transit or trams would be beneficial both for the people and for the environment. And Vietnam does not need to start from zero. The country already has good green initiatives such as the energy conservation program and the Vietnam National Energy Efficiency program. Promoting them extensively and taking concrete actions is the key to a green and livable Hanoi !

- It is said that the index will likely be announced every two-three years or so. It is understandable when listed cities manage to improve itself, but what about other cities that are not included. Do you think this index will give any impact on them?

Definitely! All cities can benefit from the results. As already said: This Green City Index provides in-depth city profiles that not only describe the challenges, strengths and weaknesses of each city, but also highlight best practices and innovative ideas that others might wish to follow. Just one example: Usually people do not think about buildings, but the astonishing fact is that buildings are responsible for 40% of global energy consumption. Siemens has proved that by applying intelligent building technologies, 30% energy consumption can be saved. A proof for this is our Siemens Center in Beijing , China . The same could be achieved with buildings in Vietnam .

- There was a suggestion at the panel discussion in Singapore after the press conference that rich cities should help poorer cities in environmental issues. Do you think this can be done and how difficult it can be?

When researching the Asian Green City Index, we already found some interesting examples where richer cities provide financial support and expertise to poorer cities. Take Japan for instance: The Yokohama Waterworks Bureau, recognizing that it had benefited extensively from a British engineer’s technical assistance a century earlier, began inviting experts from developing-world cities to attend training programs.

Siemens is also active in this field: In 2009 we founded a board with experts from our relevant divisions and cross-sector functions such as corporate technology that jointly evaluates the cities’ infrastructure requirements and develops tailor-made solutions for municipal customers. Also, in recent months, we have built up a powerful team of 50 account managers that offer cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh our Siemens portfolio from a single source. Last but not least, Siemens also has financing solutions for cities that want to invest in energy-saving technologies when they have budget restrictions: We call this Energy Performance Contracting. The model is simple: We provide our clients energy saving technology and they can finance that by the money saved from reduced energy consumption. So there is no additional investment for our clients. You can imagine, this model is already very successful – around the world./.