No Match Found
Cities, like the entire global economy, now run largely on fossil fuels. Consuming about 78% of the world’s energy, they account for more than 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations. Urban transport alone accounts for the equivalent of 4 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, more than 40% of the transport sector’s total emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.
To a large degree, cities are our future. The way existing and entirely new cities shape their energy infrastructure—the degree to which they can use alternative fuels to power their operations—will have a defining impact on our ability to move beyond fossil fuels over the coming decades. Cities will be the stage on which the transition to net zero is played out.
As cities look to their future, however, they have to consider their capacity, their capability, their resources and the structural elements that may either enable or restrict their ability to act. Not all cities are similarly situated. Geography, wealth and national contexts play important roles. Compare the needs of the ancient coastal city Venice, Italy, with those of the landlocked and planned metropolis of Brasilia, Brazil. Likewise, a city such as Houston, Texas, which is heavily dependent on cars, will have different energy needs than a public transport–centric city such as Copenhagen, Denmark.
That said, it’s possible to broadly cluster cities based on four typologies. These clusters can then provide a framework for how cities might engage the ecosystem to accelerate the low-carbon energy transition (see figure below).
Each of the four city types will need to plot its own political and financial paths to make the low-carbon energy transition. All will need to engage and involve the key players in their energy ecosystem if the transition is going to be a success. The graphic below shows the six main groups of stakeholders in the energy ecosystem. Each group has a role to play, and no city can succeed unless it engages all of them (see figure below).