23 Sep, 2020

Renew Europe CoR discusses digital education & green recovery with Margrethe Vestager and Kadri Simson

Last week, Cllr Gillian Coughlan of Cork County Council, and representative of the European Committee of the Regions on the European Broadband Platform, spoke at a high-level online event ending the public consultation on the New Digital Education Action Plan for Europe.

Speaking shortly after the introductory remarks of the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, who is responsible for the EU’s digital policies, Cllr Coughlan urged Executive Vice-President Vestager to create a level playing field for every European student and teacher, and highlighted a message that she has emphasized repeatedly at EU level:

"Access to broadband is a huge problem all across the Union. Teachers had to drastically change their methods when the COVID19 pandemic hit us, but many schools and teachers were not prepared to switch to digital. Thousands of students have lost out and that is why it is so essential to put in place the digital infrastructure that will give all students and teachers equal chances to prosper and develop their skills."

Executive Vice-President Vestager agreed that there was an urgent need to boost connectivity, and she shared an anecdote of a Danish student who explained to her recently that online schooling had in fact made her more visible, because beforehand she would always sit at the back of the class, but with the digital tools she found a way to engage bilaterally with the teacher more easily and welcomed how the teacher was able to relate to her in a new and meaningful way.

When it comes to the use of Artificial Intelligence in green recovery and energy transition, Renew Europe CoR member Mart Vorklaev discussed with European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson last week during a debate on the role of cities and regions in the green recovery and energy transition towards climate neutrality.

“Today it is possible to use smart solutions and artificial intelligence, which regularly monitor the various technical systems of the building and optimise them as needed. It also provides realistic data on the energy consumption of a building. The development of one such start-up is taking place in Estonia and has been successfully implemented on multi-story office buildings today, and the savings in money and energy are significant, including the improved indoor climate of the building,” Vorklaev said.

Vorklaev addressed the need to focus not only on rebuilding and insulating buildings in order to achieve energy efficiency and climate goals but to keep in mind and set our goals for smart solutions that can be used in the management of buildings later on.

"I suggest that when constructing new buildings or renovating existing ones, we not only monitor the energy class of the building during its design, but also later during use. The actual energy consumption during the operation of large office, commercial and industrial buildings depends to a large extent on the knowledge, skills and habits of both their managers and users. The buildings are full of a variety of complex system-heating, vent, etc. that all consume energy."

Commissioner Kadri Simson also warned that the green recovery plans will only succeed with cities and regions fully on board at the European Committee of the Regions’ Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy (ENVE). During the debate, Mart Vorklaev supported Commissioner Simson’s offer for a permanent dialogue to members of the European Committee of the Regions to ensure the active participation of regions and cities in this necessary initiative.

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