The growing role of cities in fighting climate change

Date: 7 January 2016

The COP21 session “District Energy and Buildings Efficiency: Cities Enabling Countries to Meet Their Climate Objectives” was hosted by UNEP, the World Resources Institute, and Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL). Speakers discussed the importance of city-level action on reducing CO2 emissions from the heating and cooling of buildings, in particular by simultaneously reducing demand through building efficiency measures and shifting supply to renewable and energy efficient sources through district energy systems. The perspectives of different actors were presented including international organizations, national and local governments and the private sector.

A keynote by Naoko Ishii (CEO, the Global Environment Facility) spoke on the growing recognition of the role of cities and the part they can play in the fight against climate change, echoing the importance of the Global Environment Facility’s recently announced $23 million of funding to the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Building Efficiency Accelerator and UNEP-led District Energy in Cities Initiative.

Saeed Al Abbar (CEO, UAE Green Building Council), Pekka Sauri (Deputy Mayor, Helsinki), Sangeeta Prasad (CEO – Integrated Cities and Industrial Clusters, Mahindra Lifespaces) and Kristoffer Böttzauw (Deputy Director General, Danish Energy Agency) spoke on what is achievable with sufficient political momentum and stakeholder coordination at the city-level. Particularly inspiring was Pekka Sauri’s description of Helsinki’s transition from polluted city in the mid-20th century to a carbon neutral city by 2050 and the role that district energy systems and building efficiency have to play.

Stana Božoviæ (State Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, Serbia) and Jose Manuel Sandoval (Ministry of Environment, Colombia) provided a national government perspective, discussing their countries’ prospects for district energy and the city action that will help deliver it – connecting large scale renewable heat in Serbia as part of a national renewable strategy and dramatically cutting electricity demand and refrigerant use in Colombia. (Both countries welcomed UNEP’s Global District Energy in Cities Initiative in providing policy and capacity building support to further such city action)

Private sector actors of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Building Efficiency Accelerator and District Energy in Cities Initiative including Danfoss, Johnson Controls and Sustainability Solutions Group discussed the importance of these partnerships in supporting cities to develop the policies, strategies and urban plans that will deliver more efficient cities. Lars Tveen (President, Danfoss Heating) highlighted the importance of a systems approach, considering buildings and district energy together, and how Danfoss has been working on this in China and will support the District Energy in Cities Initiative pilot cities to achieve similar results.

Stressing that one third of greenhouse gases come from buildings, Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute (WRI), expressed satisfaction that buildings and cities were finally being taken seriously by major institutions, and said COP21 was historic in this sense. He said the involvement of the private sector was a good sign for future success, to ensure a reduction in the current dependency on subsidies.

Closing the session, Ligia Noronha, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), reiterated, inter alia, the importance of: platforms that create a marketplace to bring together public-private partnerships at the global and local level such as the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative; and considering the city as a system to connect the links between consumption and production. She thanked key partners of the event including Empower, the largest operator of district cooling in the world, as well as Euroheat and Power, the International District Energy Association and Danfoss. She also announced the launch of the Chinese and French version of the UNEP District Energy in Cities (2015) flagship publication.

Source: IDEA