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An interview about AYR, one of the 2021 New European Bauhaus Prize winners
This week, in our ongoing series on New European Bauhaus Prize winners from 2021, we spoke to Catarina Selada, Director of the City Lab of CEiiA – Center for Engineering and Development in Matosinhos (Portugal) about the AYR blockchain platform which visualizes the individual positive impact of the city’s residents on saving carbon emissions every time they opt for soft mobility transportation.
Ms Selada, you won in the category “Products and lifestyle". Can you describe the essence of AYR sustainability platform in a few sentences?
The AYR platform is a sustainability platform designed to achieve carbon-neutral cities. It incentivizes behavioural change towards sustainable lifestyles.
The platform quantifies, in real-time, the carbon emissions saved by people using sustainable mobility modes. AYR empowers citizens to fight climate change by making tangible their contribution to the decarbonization process.
It is the first worldwide platform that assigns a value to avoided carbon emissions, converting them into crypto tokens (digital credits), using blockchain technology. These credits can be exchanged for green goods and services in a local ecosystem, for example, other mobility services or municipal services, rewarding citizens’ sustainable behaviour. These tokens circulate in the city ecosystem as a ‘local sustainability coin’.
These digital credits can also be used to offset CO2 emissions in a local voluntary carbon market. Local companies can purchase these tokens in the territory where they are located, with a positive impact on local communities (proximity offsets). The resulting financial benefits can be used for funding other green projects at the local level, accelerating the transition towards carbon neutrality.
The AYR platform uses data collected in real-time to produce information and knowledge, supporting decision- and policy-making processes, and making citizens and companies aware of their carbon footprint.
AYR platform measures CO2 savings and grants green credits. Source: CEiiA
What are the project’s benefits for the community? Are there specific target audiences?
Our main target audiences are cities, communities, and citizens. The implementation of the AYR platform is centred on a bottom-up approach, starting from the involvement of citizens and communities in the fight against climate change. AYR recognizes the importance of daily individual choices by empowering people to adopt sustainable lifestyles.
How does it meet the 3 NEB principles of sustainability, inclusion and aesthetics?
The AYR platform is aligned with the three NEB principles as follows:
Sustainability: The AYR platform is an enabler to accelerate the transition of cities to carbon-neutral ecosystems, which is aligned with Horizon Europe’s mission of creating a network of 100 carbon-neutral cities by 2030.
Inclusion: The AYR platform is based on a human-centred approach. It has been designed to empower people to make sustainable choices, making their contribution to the decarbonization process visible. Behavioural change is accelerated by the creation of communities that share the same values and practices and a sense of belonging and trust (from a “me economy” to a “we economy”) and by promoting inclusivity. Any citizen can access the AYR ecosystem using our app, which includes real-time information about avoided carbon emissions and the tokens stored in the user's digital wallet.
The AYR sustainability platform can be easily accessed by everyone. Source: CEiiA
Aesthetics: Promoting sustainable behaviours and lifestyles, the AYR platform inspires new ways of designing cities based on sustainability values. For example, by incentivizing citizens to use sustainable mobility modes, such as biking or walking, AYR contributes to getting the cars out of the streets, taking back public spaces to communities, and enhancing the transformation of neighbourhoods into beautiful and livable places.
What was the subsequent effect of winning the NEB Prize for your project?
The prize gave us the confidence to present a proposal to the NEB Lighthouse Demonstrators call from the Horizon Europe Programme. In fact, based on the NEB principles and enabled by the AYR platform, the City of Matosinhos and CEiiA, in collaboration with local and European partners (Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, France and the Netherlands) have started an inspirational and transformative movement towards sustainable behaviours, contributing to new ways of designing cities based on sustainability values by combining arts, culture, creativity and technology. It is called NEBbyAYR - Designing Smart and Sustainable Living in European Cities for all.
Moreover, winning the NEB prize has opened several opportunities to present our project at European conferences and seminars, with international visibility.
What specific and local circumstances inspired the creation of your idea?
We have been developing this idea since our participation in COP21, in Paris (2015). At the time, in collaboration with Uber, we launched a worldwide pioneering project – UberGREEN - with the introduction of electric vehicles in the company's fleet, enabling the quantification of carbon emissions avoided through the adoption of these modes of transportation.
This idea of quantifying and valorizing saved carbon emissions in mobility led us to the development of the AYR platform, as an enabler to accelerate the transition to carbon-neutral cities.
How applicable is it to other European localities? Or alternatively, can it be scaled up?
The AYR project is applicable to cities all over the world. Some adjustments are needed to fit the AYR platform to local realities by leveraging what already exists on the ground.
The digital platform can be easily implemented in any city. Source: CEiiA
These days, we are testing the AYR platform in the Municipality of Matosinhos, in the Metropolitan Area of Porto, in Portugal. This is where CEiiA is based, and we count on a strong involvement of the City Council, mobility operators, local associations, companies and communities. The Municipality has the ambition to be part of the network of 100 carbon-neutral cities by 2030 under the Horizon Europe Program and it is using AYR to achieve this goal.
CEiiA is also testing the AYR platform in the city of Itajaí in Brazil, in collaboration with the local City Council and stakeholders.
Our next step is to scale up the AYR platform to other cities around the world. In the short term, we plan to replicate the solution in another seven cities in the North of Portugal. Our deployment roadmap for the next 2 years also includes some capital cities in Europe and other cities in Brazil and Latin America.
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