Academic to present sustainable urban policy findings at Houston conference

Professor Richard Laing, from Robert Gordon University’s Institute for Innovation, Design & Sustainability Research (IDEAS) is to represent Aberdeen next week (Monday 30 April) as he heads to Houston, Texas for a two day conference - The World Energy Cities Partnership (WECP).

Here attendees will share experiences, contacts, and lend support in tackling common industry and city issues involved with the reduction of CO² emissions, the continuation of the use of fossil fuel and diversification to renewable energy.

WECP acts as a forum for energy cities to share academic findings which are particularly relevant to cities with a high concentration of firms active in the energy sector, specifically oil and gas. Professor Laing is due to present a paper on sustainable urban policy in a post-peak oil society, gleaning information from a three year research project he has undertaken as part of the University’s IDEAS Institute called CARE-North.

CARE-North is a research project for the North Sea Area, which concentrates on developing and implementing innovative carbon reduction strategies for urban and regional transport to maintain and improve accessibility in a more carbon-responsible way. These are vital stepping stones towards achieving EU 20-20-20 energy targets. Partners involved include Aberdeen City Council, West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (METRO), the municipalities of Bremen, Malmö and Gothenberg, the province of Fryslân and the Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI). RGU is the project’s sole academic partner in CARE-North.

He comments, “There are many problems associated with rolling out strategies concerned with CO² reduction and renewable energy in terms of sustainable transport, particularly when we consider public and stakeholder buy-in within societies which are historically reliant on fossil fuels.

“We welcome the opportunity to present at this conference, which coincides with the world’s foremost event for the development of offshore drilling, production, exploration and environmental protection, OTC. Our collaborative research and discussion with other universities including Stavanger, Houston and Perth will enable us to explore and engage in debate with delegates to find out how we can transfer ideals and put them into practice in a challenging political environment, including here in Aberdeen.

“By developing a research based network within the 19 ‘energy’ cities, we are moving closer to addressing strategic issues from different settings, angles and perspectives, and working towards putting together a best practice strategy for future direction.”

Professor Gunnar Nerheim and Professor Oluf Langhelle from the University of Stavanger, and Professor Joseph A. Pratt from the University of Houston will also present at the conference.

Notes to Editors:


As CARE-North’s sole academic partner, our six strong research team from Robert Gordon University’s Institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability Research (IDEAS) is exploring options and compiling recommendations to achieve CO² reduction through better and more sustainable urban transport.

We are working with partners around the North Sea including Aberdeen City Council, METRO, the municipalities of Bremen, Malmö and Gothenburg, the province of Fryslân and ICLEI.

We are looking at six factors to reduce CO² emissions:

Video conferencing

We are finding out how we can effectively reduce CO² emissions through the promotion of increased video conferencing use in organisations such as RGU. We have carried out a travel survey of RGU employees and are calculating the amount of time, money and CO² that can be saved by substituting 15% of staff journeys with tele and video conferencing.

Public Engagement

How ready are the population of Aberdeen City to engage with new travel ideas and efforts towards carbon reduction? We have been finding out online by asking almost 700 Aberdonians about their travel behaviours and responses to potential initiatives.

Delivering low CO² transport solutions in Scotland

While the solutions are out there, there are particular challenges involved in delivering green transport initiatives in countries like Scotland. We have commissioned consultants to identify some of the key technical, financial, cultural and institutional barriers to the implementation of low carbon transport policies in Scotland’s cities.

Urban design and sustainable transport

Our team has looked into various urban design options for Aberdeen, including redesign of the city centre that encourages increased use of low emission transport methods such as walking and cycling. We will present a conference paper on this following completion of our research.

Traffic Modelling

In another exciting part of our research, we have been helping to develop a piece of software which enables architects, engineers and urban designers to virtually test the effects road layouts and other measures have on transport behaviour. This software also enables the user to model things like speed limiters and GPS directions on CO² emissions and travel times. We have some fantastic visual material to accompany our report and academic paper - ask us for more information!


The final factor in our research will see us produce a series of succinct policy statements based on our research. These will focus on local and national CO² reduction efforts, decision making around this topic and provide advice across the whole of the North Sea region.

Issued by:
Lynsey Sheperd
AVC Creative Ltd
01224 248007