Episode: #44 Bristol & UK Urban Futures Commission: Building Efficient Cities For A Just Transition

Guests: @Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, UK and co-chair of the UK Urban Futures Commission

Date of recording: ​​​​​​​15 September 2023

Lesson #1: Building affordable housing is crucial for urban development​​​​​​​

"Our number one policy is house building and tackling the housing crisis more broadly. [...] Building homes is the foundation for education, better mental health. I visited a family not too long after I was elected in a house that we had built, one of 13 houses on a brownfield site. And there was a family in there that had moved from one of our tower blocks in the city. And now they had a home. It had solar panels, it was efficient, it had a back garden. I went around and they had two children under the age of three. And as I stood on the doorstep for all the noise I get from trolls and all that sort of stuff, all that evaporates, because everything in that family's life had just gone in the right direction. [...] So house building is definitely born out of those experiences. And I would add, too, by the way, I think stable housing creates the conditions in which populations are better able to cope with change." - Marvin Rees

Lesson #2: Cities play a pivotal role in climate action, but must ensure  a  just transition for all

"I think one of the big ironies of climate change is the poorest and most marginalized you get if it hit first and hardest by the consequences. But the perversity within that is that they are also most vulnerable to falling on the wrong side of the economic restructuring we're going to have to go through being structured out of economic hope and opportunity. And if they are disadvantaged, financially disadvantaged, by the structures, the change we have to go through, they're going to abandon the project and you'll end up with a backlash. [...] You add that to the prospect of 150 climate driven migrants who will look like me, black and brown people coming from the global south. You will have an environment that is ripe for toxic politics. [...] And that kind of dangerous politics also comes with climate denial, so we'll end up going down a plug hole. So a just transition, I think, is absolutely essential." - Marvin Rees

Lesson #3: Harnessing the interdependence of the city ecosystem is essential for effective urban governance​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

"[A tip for cities is to] wrestle with the word interdependence. One of the points we made from the beginning is that life in Bristol is not for anybody, is not determined by the decisions or non decisions of any single organisation. People sit at the intersection of decisions from local government to private sector, voluntary sector unions, health, higher education. And if you're serious about shaping city outcomes, you will rally all of those sources of sovereignty and bring them into alignment. [...] And so making the space for the health service to come, alongside housing providers, alongside criminal justice, alongside trade unions, that's what we've done in Bristol through something called the city office, where we try to bring all our partners together.” - Marvin Rees

Lesson #4: When working with city leaders, come with concrete solutions and offers that can benefit the city​​​​​​​

“[To city practitioners working with mayors], I’d say turn up as a solution. Around the city office, we develop something very subtle, but we call it the culture of make a big offer and then make a big ask. And the point is, I can have a queue of 1022 people around City Hall all asking me for stuff. The queue of people who are coming to make an offer is a lot shorter. You're going to end child hunger, make the offer, right? You're going to tackle rough sleeping, make the offer. You're going to help us decarbonize the city, make the offer. [...] And then when you've been clear on your offer, make a big ask of Bristol, not just me, of the whole city. What do you need from the city to release that offer into the city?” - Marvin Rees