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How green is your city?

New global analysis compares urban take-up of clean energy
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Latin American and European cities are the least reliant on fossil fuels for electricity, according to new analysis of major cities around the world.

Asia Pacific cities continue to show a high dependency on fossil fuels, while North American and African cities sit somewhere in the middle.

Top 10 sustainable cities – new index ranks cities on social, environmental and economic performance

Disclosing the fuel mix

This year 308 cities are participating in CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) to better manage their climate change strategies. As part of the process, they have been asked to disclose the fuel mix for the electricity that powers their city.

Click here to see energy mix for cities in your region.

‘One of the biggest challenges for cities is often their lack of direct control over their electricity or energy generation. Despite this, cities have been finding ways to shake up their energy mix and inspire a move away from fossil fuels.

‘As greenhouse gas emissions continue to mount, it is more important than ever that we seize the opportunities of a low-carbon future. Cities are well placed to lead this transition.’

Conor Riffle, director of cities and data innovation at CDP

Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific

In 2015, 162 cities responded to share their use of fossil fuel versus clean power sources, reporting coal, gas, oil, nuclear, biomass, geothermal, hydro, solar and wind.

The results show that of participating cities, Latin American cities average 76% of their electricity from clean sources. European cities in the study average 59% from clean power.

Participating cities in the Asia Pacific region collectively receive 15% of their electricity from non-fossil fuel sources.

Shifting to low-carbon energy

Overall, cities are making significant strides in shifting towards the adoption of low-carbon energy: 35% of cities reporting their energy mix get three-quarters of their electricity from non-fossil fuel sources.

Over a third of the cities disclosing to CDP this year report having some kind of renewable energy target in place.

The power generation sector is the largest carbon emitter in the energy market and currently emits 12.6 gigatons CO2e (2015)1 — equivalent to two years of greenhouse gas emissions from all the world’s cars. Moving to cleaner energy sources presents cities with a major opportunity to combat climate change.

100% renewable electricity

Enterprising cities are leading the transition to low-carbon growth by adopting renewable energy, with Santa Monica, San Francisco and Stockholm all setting 100% renewable electricity targets.

‘I have set the ambitious goal for Stockholm to be not just climate neutral, but fossil fuel-free by 2040. I am fully aware that the city must excel in all aspects to reach this goal.

‘Stockholm is already an acknowledged global climate leader, where energy consumption decreases, as do emissions and waste. Measuring and reporting our progress are extremely important tools in helping us succeed and to ensure that the City of Stockholm continues to be a frontrunner when it comes to fighting climate change.’

Karin Wanngård, mayor of Stockholm

Austin, Canberra and Hong Kong

Other major cities are switching to non-fossil fuel electricity. Canberra has committed that by 2020 90% of its electricity supply will be from large-scale renewables, delivering a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The City of Austin has committed to sourcing 55% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, a goal that the city reports it is on track to meet four years ahead of schedule through energy efficiency programmes and renewables purchase power agreements.

Hong Kong reports using financial incentives to encourage power companies to invest in renewable energy.

The business case

The data suggest that city transitions to clean power will continue, with 96 cities taking actions to decarbonise their energy supply.

These cities understand the business case for doing so: 86% of the cities reporting actions say they see economic opportunities from efforts to tackle climate change.

‘Through CDP we can see the bold action that cities are taking to become centres of clean, economical sources of energy and reduce pollution. This type of aggressive, immediate action is essential to fighting climate change.’

Antha N. Williams, environment program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropie

Finding finance

City action on fossil fuel dependency could be accelerated with private-sector support: many cities cite a need for additional financing to help realise their ambitions for low-carbon growth.

‘Transforming the grid is going to be essential to helping cities, and ultimately nations, achieve the carbon reduction goals being called for in Paris in December. City actions such as community choice aggregation, large-scale community solar projects and setting targets are moving utilities forward.’

Claire Bonham-Carter, director of sustainable development at AECOM

Disclosures from all cities participating publicly in CDP’s cities program can be found here.

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