Sustainable finance has grown significantly in the wake of mounting political and public pressure, particularly after the Paris Climate Accords.

City-level initiatives including low carbon transport and building energy efficiency can achieve 51 per cent of the emissions cuts needed to meet the Paris Agreement, a report by Arup in collaboration with C40 Cities says.

Deadline 2020: How cities will get the job done states that C40 cities will need to reduce emissions from an annual average above five tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a person today to around 2.9 tCO2e a person by 2030 in order to meet the targets.

The researchers estimated that around $375 billion in investment will be required from national governments and the private sector over the next four years to put cities on track.

“Depending on the power structure in cities, this commitment must come from city administrations themselves, or other stakeholders, such as utilities, the private sector or indeed taxpayers,” the report said.

Being unable to attract the finance to deliver low carbon infrastructure is one of the barriers C40 cities have encountered to taking effective action.

A new C40 Cities Finance Facility will provide $20 million of support by 2020 to help unlock and access to up to $1 billion of additional capital funding, by providing the connections, advice, and legal and financial support that will enable cities to develop more financeable projects.

The report analyses the possible actions that city governments can have some influence over, prioritising ones whose effectiveness has already been demonstrated. Five priority pathways were identified – transport, buildings, land use planning, energy and waste.

Within the buildings pathway, energy efficiency retrofits for both commercial and residential properties were said to deliver the greatest emissions reductions – around 70 per cent of emissions savings in the sector.

The report said there should be incentives and funding to assist these initiatives.

“These programs are about enabling the major energy consumers in a city to drastically reduce energy consumption through building fabric improvements, better HVAC systems and operation of these, as well as installing energy efficient lighting and appliances,” the report said.

“The resilience of the buildings sector can greatly impact the ability of people to cope with changes in the climate. Effective heating and cooling systems can allow residents to live comfortably even where there is extreme heat or cold.

“Building retrofits that address energy efficiency can be designed to be highly complementary as adaptive measures. For example, green, brown or white roofs can reduce energy consumption, but also provide improved ability to deal with higher temperatures.”

Key actions recommended for the land use planning pathway include linking land use planning decisions to climate change action plans.

“When cities link their land use planning decisions to their climate action plans, they are better able to deliver both in a strategic, integrated manner, often much more cost effectively. When done separately, the economies of scale and opportunities presented at the early stages of planning are missed and only achieved through more expensive efforts.”

The report said planning efforts should also focus on the development of “compact, connected and coordinated cities”.

“This enables significant indirect emissions savings and compounds the effects of the direct operational emissions savings achieved in the main emissions sectors.”

Other actions that C40 cities are to prioritise include urban agriculture, eco-districts, citizen engagement and behaviour change programs.

In terms of transit, greater use of rapid bus transit and a shift to low-emissions fleets were identified as priority actions. From early 2020 there will also be a need to “scale up travel demand management solutions”, the report said.

To ensure transit systems are resilient to climate change impacts, the report said city governments needed to consider construction materials that are more resilient to higher temperatures and CO2 concentrations, locations that are safe from flooding and landslip, including blue and green infrastructure for cooling and air quality improvements, and systems that can respond to extreme events.

The energy pathway focuses primarily on supply, as that is where the city governments have a degree of control. The most impactful programs cities can undertake include building-scale and district-scale clean energy deployment, fuel switching programs and industrial efficiency.

“Apart from industrial efficiency, all are programs focused on increasing uptake of low carbon generation in buildings,” the report said.

The highest impact program is building-scale clean energy deployment, which could deliver 40 per cent of emissions savings.

“This finding highlights the significant opportunity for buildings to be equipped with renewable and low carbon generation such as photovoltaic panels, solar thermal and heat pumps.

“Cities can support this through planning regulations and financial incentives that target commercial and residential buildings.”

The researchers said all cities should be implementing this action by 2017, with citywide scale achieved by 2028.

The report notes that building and district scale clean energy solutions can also contribute significantly to urban energy resilience.

“By distributing energy production, a city can become more resilient to extreme events that occur at a neighbourhood level. Local energy production can be less exposed to supply chain risks as fuel is located on-site. However, the design, construction and operation of clean energy solutions must consider the realities of the future operating climate. They should be designed to cope with higher average and extreme temperatures, higher winds, flooding and changes in availability of water.”

Power systems also need to have sufficient cooling capacity to deal with future higher temperatures.

  • Read the full report here