A SPACE FOR INNOVATION
”Of course it is possible to have electric vehicles in Russia and it doesn’t have to cost a lot.” Martin Messer Thomsen says as the taxi pulls up outside the newly opened ExpoForum in St. Petersburg. During the next three days, from 21 till 23 September, the monumental convention centre will be the backdrop of the IX International Innovation Forum, where both Nordic and Russian speakers have gathered to discuss the future of green mobility. Danish Messer Thomsen is one of the speakers. Working as an Electric Vehicles consultant and as chairman of the Danish EV Association, he represents one of Denmark´s leading voices on the future of Electric Vehicles. Together with other green technology enthusiasts, such as the Icelandic Ambassador in Russia Berglind Asgeirsdóttir and the Finnish Managing Director of Wirma Markus Lankinen, he has come to Russia to underline the urgent need for risk-taking and innovative research on green mobility.
The International seminar on “International youth initiatives of regional “green startups and ecomobility“ was organised by the Institute, the Polytechnic University and Leontief Centre on 21 September.
The large hall dedicated to the Innovation Forum was crowded with people browsing the different stands in order to learn more about the latest research on environmentally friendly behaviour. One of these stands entitled “Global partners in St. Petersburg” represented the Nordic Weeks in St. Petersburg.
This year´s programme has been drafted by The Danish Cultural Institute, The Consulates General of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in St. Petersburg, the Embassy of Iceland in Russia, and the Finnish Institute and is supported by the Committee for External Relations of St. Petersburg. From the 20th of September till the 10th of October St. Petersburg was to be the host city of the festival and the Innovation Forum was therefore just the beginning of a number of events addressing green mobility and sustainable living.
A GREEN DRIVE
When artist and founder of the CO2 Green Drive Festival, Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen, talks about his work he makes sure to highlight the difference between this and former art projects.
Fuglsang has, in other words, an ongoing drive towards climate issues and strives to make his project «CO2 Green Drive» known across the globe. Using electric, hybrid, and bioethanol vehicles as brushes, cities as canvases, and a custom designed Smartphone app as paint, the CO2 Green Drive project tags every city it comes by with its message of climate awareness. The project has been performed in 28 cities, including New York, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Manila, and Copenhagen and now the turn has come to St. Petersburg.
On the 1st of October, more than a hundred cyclists had gathered on the Palace Square in front of the Hermitage to bike to the Polytechnic University (SPbPU) where the Green Day & CO2 Green Drive Festival would take place.
Along with the bicycles, a parade of electric vehicles followed the same route to the Polytechnic University where Fuglsang were to give a lecture on the concept of the festival and its future in St. Petersburg.
As the sun shined down on the many cyclists on their way to the festival, it was difficult not to get optimistic about the possibilities for climate friendly modes of transportation in the cultural capital of Russia.
But the initiatives for sustainability didn’t stop there. As part of the festival, director of the Danish Cultural Institute in St. Petersburg, Finn Andersen, opened the city’s first charging station for electric vehicles that generates electricity from solar panels. The charging station is based on the campus of the Polytechnic University and will hopefully be followed by many others.
FOR GENERATIONS TO COME
The efforts from the Green Day Festival were continued a couple of weeks later at the Green Day of the Strategic Forum; a large-scale forum held in Petersburg from the 24th – 26th of October.
Leading experts from Russia and the Nordic countries had gathered to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the forum and to discuss and inspire each other to make solid resolutions on green technology and eco-friendly ways of life.
The talks, discussions, and questions raised were both many and varied. From Denmark Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen was once again present to open up for an artistic approach to climate issues, while Traffic Engineer Simon Sølvason from the Danish municipality gave insights on Danish bicycle culture. Sølvason told how the public space in Denmark is designed to meet the needs of cyclists which, according to Sølvason, makes it both easier and safer to bike in the cities of Denmark. Along with initiatives such as tilted trash cans, resting places, and fast-tracks for cyclists, Sølvason told his audience about a new Smartphone app, designed to let a driver reach all the green traffic lights while driving and in that way cause less emission of noxious gasses in the city.
The series of events ended back at the Polytechnic University where Strategic Forum branched out to become a forum dedicated to the young generation of St. Petersburg on 26 October 2016.
The so-called Youth Day aimed at engaging youngsters in the climate discussion and it was evident that the students of the Polytechnic had taken on the concept.
As music started playing from two large speakers, a couple of young students welcomed the participants to the final day of Strategic Forum, after which the audience flocked to selected lecture halls of the university.
A month of events about ecology and green innovations has come to an end and hopefully some of the ideas, plans, and projects articulated during the last weeks have planted a seed in both Russian and Nordic minds that in time will grow in to national strategies, regional practices or even just individual actions. Because when it comes to environmental issues every step that is taken towards greener initiatives is a step in a much needed direction.
All events were organised as the part of the “GREEN MOBILITY: towards clean, healthy and accessible environment” project in cooperation with Leontief Centre and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Written by Astrid Rifbjerg
Photocredit: Forumstrategov.ru, Nordic Weeks & DCI