By: Kyra Appleby, Global Director, Cities, States and Regions, CDP
Cities are hubs of innovation and economic growth and at the same time key drivers of consumption and global production. They are where we feel both the devastating impact of climate change and where there is enormous potential to accelerate climate action and ambition.
CDP’s recently announced 2020 Cities A list celebrates 88 cities around the world that have continued to demonstrate commitment to climate action and ambition in 2020, despite tackling the huge challenge of Covid-19 at the same time. The CDP Cities A List highlights cities that have received the highest score for their efforts to both reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. These 88 cities are setting an example of environmental action that we urgently need other cities and national governments to follow if emissions are to rapidly decline, and if we are to safeguard the planet, economy and citizens.
It is encouraging that, despite the coronavirus pandemic, 34 percent of cities on the A List are new this year. We’ve seen new climate leaders across the globe, from Newcastle and Bristol in the United Kingdom, to Quezon City and Pingtung in Asia Pacific. In Latin America, San Jose, Costa Rica and Municipalidad de Peñalolén, Chile are the first cities to represent their countries on the list. In the United States too, despite the federal government pulling out of the Paris Agreement on 4 November, we have seen new cities from Louisville, KY to San Luis Obispo scoring an A for the first time.
CDP’s vision is that by 2024, cities are increasingly becoming resilient, healthy and prosperous places to live and work and are on a pathway towards 1.5°, meeting the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. In this way they will protect their citizens from the worst impacts of climate change. Disclosure of climate and environmental data is a key first step, and CDP’s disclosure questionnaire guides cities through an awareness-raising exercise, enabling them to think critically (sometimes for the first time) about how their government can act to protect their citizens now and in the future from the effects of climate change.
To score an A, a city must publicly disclose and have a city-wide emissions inventory; an emissions reduction target; and a published climate action plan. Other requirements include completing a climate risk and vulnerability assessment and putting in place a climate adaptation plan to demonstrate how the city will tackle climate hazards now and in the future. The common themes and actions throughout the plans of these 88 cities provide a blueprint for successful climate action that other city policy and decision-makers globally can follow and build upon.
This year’s A List, representing a combined population of over 125 million people, shows major progress has been made since the Paris Agreement in 2015 and signposts the way to even greater progress that can – and must – be made.
There are many actions A List cities are taking to tackle the climate crisis. Here are a few ways in which they are working to remain resilient, healthy and prosperous places for their citizens to live and work.
Cutting emissions, fast
Five years since the Paris Agreement was signed, the latest climate science tells us that global emissions must be halved by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change. To do this, cities must rapidly cut emissions by transitioning to renewable energy, investing in low carbon resilient infrastructure, and working in partnership with the private sector. It also requires setting emissions reduction targets that are aligned with a 1.5°C degree pathway and increasing the proportion of renewable energy consumed by the city.
The timeframe to reach net zero emissions by 2050 is short, so many A List cities have ramped up their action by setting ambitious goals to reduce GHG emissions. Twenty-six cities are working to be powered by 100 percent renewables by 2050 or earlier, while eight cities, including Copenhagen, Stockholm and San Francisco have achieved 50 percent or more of these targets already.
Wanting to make their target work for San Franciscans, the Golden Gate City launched GoSolarSF – a programme offering one-time incentive payments for local solar projects, making the shift to renewable and clean energy cost-effective for citizens and businesses. On top of this, the programme creates jobs for unemployed citizens, and further financial support for low-income households.
Building resilience to climate impacts
Eighty-five percent of cities that disclose to CDP are reporting climate hazards, with 75 percent of the long-term hazards assessed as ‘serious’ or ‘extremely serious’. Warming greater than 1.5°C amplifies these threats to lives and infrastructure, from increased risk of flooding and associated disease, to stronger heat waves and droughts.
In response, A List cities have made progress on building resilience to climate change, reporting plans to adapt to climate impacts and conducting vulnerability assessments. In 2015, only 30 percent (26/88) of the cities on this year’s A List were reporting such plans. These plans are critical, enabling cities to better protect their infrastructure and citizens from climate change – those with vulnerability assessments are 2.5 times more likely to have identified actions to mitigate the most severe of these risks and secure abundant clean water for citizens and businesses.
One city that is doing exactly this is Cape Town. The South African capital is a third-time CDP A List city, working to protect its citizens from the mounting threat of water scarcity.
In 2018, Cape Town was close to running out of water almost entirely, following a three-year drought in 2015-17. As ‘Day Zero’ approached, the city developed its first water management strategy in 2019 to ensure secure and steady access to water for all its citizens, but particularly the 146,000 people who live in informal settlements and are most vulnerable to extreme weather events. The city introduced a basic water allocation for around a third of the city’s population, some 1.5 million people. In doing so, Cape Town took active responsibility for the welfare of its citizens by providing access to water, whilst working with them to improve water management. There are now around 220,000 water management devices installed by the city in vulnerable areas and it has diversified water supplies by relying on groundwater, grey water, and rainwater for non-drinking use. Together, the city and its citizens avoided ‘Day Zero’ and reduced water use by 40 percent.
A List cities have stepped up action and ambition. Now, more need to follow
The examples set by these 88 cities demonstrate what can be achieved with focus and commitment to tackling the climate crisis, even in the face of Covid-19.
Now we need more cities globally to accelerate their efforts to build up resilience and drive down emissions, monitoring and tracking progress along the way. Despite the existential challenges 2020 has posed to cities across the globe, we’ve still seen hundreds disclose their climate and environmental data through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System, with cities like Cape Town and San Francisco being recognised for their climate leadership.
The current global health crisis has diverted international attention away from the ever-present climate crisis. With COP26 a little over a year away, more cities need to join those on this year’s A List to demonstrate the kind of action and ambition we need to meet the policy requirements based on the latest climate science.About this Content