New report reveals that city governments are leading on climate change initiatives

14th December 2018

By Kyra Appleby, Global Director, Cities, States & Regions, CDP

The global climate talks. which took place in Poland in December, underlined that sub-national levels of government, including cities, are emerging as one of the fastest responders to the threat of climate change.

A new report from CDP, the Climate Group, and PwC, which was launched at the COP 24 meeting in Katowice, shows that 120 states and regions in 32 countries reported a commitment to cut emissions by 6.2 percent a year to 2050. That is more than twice the commitments of national governments.

What is more, looking at global cities that report through CDP, since the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015, the number of cities that are creating climate action plans has doubled to more than 300. And more than 270 of those have set climate emissions reduction targets.

Data from CDP has shown that more than 100 cities obtain the majority of their electricity from renewable sources, and 40 of them are already at 100 percent renewable energy including Burlington, Basel and Reykjavík. A further 19 cities, including London, Stockholm and Vancouver have committed to net-zero emissions targets.

Finnish city goes carbon-neutral

In Europe, the Finnish coastal city of Turku has made significant strides on renewables and cutting out fossil fuels. Between 2014 and 2018, the city’s energy company and its partners invested €300 million in low-carbon energy. Its share of renewable energy now exceeds the share of non-renewable for the first time.

By 2025, it plans to have ended its use of coal for energy production. And by 2029, its entire energy system will be carbon-neutral.

The city also aims to halve travel-related emissions by 2029 through the promotion of cycling, walking and creating a carbon-neutral public transport system. All of this will help the city with its long-term ambition to become zero carbon by 2040.

The US city aiming for 100 percent renewable

The city of Cleveland, in the midwestern state of Ohio, has long been a manufacturing hub. But in September this year, it announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below the 2010 level by 2030 and 80 percent below the level by 2050. It also has an ambition to reach a target for 100 percent renewable power by 2050.

The city has been disclosing its greenhouse gas emissions to CDP since 2013 and says it reduced emissions by 2 percent between 2010 and 2016. Cleveland Public Power increased the proportion of energy it generates from renewables from 7 percent to 18 percent between 2010-16.

The emissions reduction plan includes improving energy efficiency in homes, promoting green buildings standards for new buildings, developing cycling and public transport, generating more local solar and offshore wind projects. The city has already seen three major solar farms built on vacant land and plans to install enough offshore wind in Lake Erie to power 20,000 homes by 2021.

Living up to its nickname as ‘the Forest City’, the city has also initiated the Cleveland Tree Plan, which lays out how the city will restore its canopy cover from 19 percent to 30 percent by 2040. The ambition, it says, is to reduce the urban heat island effect, slow stormwater runoff and improve quality of life for the local community in the process.

Climate ambitions in Australia

In Australia, Sydney has a target to reduce its carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030 through major investments in renewables, a new water recycling project and retrofitting the city’s energy intensive buildings with solar panels and smart metres. That is now part of a newly announced ambition to ensure all new buildings are net zero carbon by 2030 and all buildings are net zero carbon by 2050.

As part of this, Green Square, a new residential precinct, will give developers an increase in floor space for accepting higher sustainability standards. It also has a citywide ambition for planting trees and installing green roofs to reduce local temperatures, negate the surges in electricity demand for air conditioning and improve the quality of the local environment for residents.

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