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3 Cities Prove Climate Action Works

The climate crisis is a problem caused by humans that can be solved by humans. These three cities are proving it.

While a lot of media coverage around the crisis is doom and gloom, cities around the world are coming up with powerful solutions on the local level. Here's how a Canadian city, an American city and a Chinese city are taking on climate action.


1. North America's First Renewably Powered City

City: Vancouver, Canada

Van­couver's am­bi­tious vis­ion to power the city en­tirely on re­new­able en­ergy will help curb emis­sions from its two biggest emit­ters: trans­port and build­ings.

Van­couver is the first city in North Amer­ica to de­velop a re­new­able city strategy to de­rive 100 percent of the city's en­tire en­ergy needs from re­new­able sources by 2050. To achieve this goal, the city is pri­or­it­iz­ing ef­forts around re­du­cing emis­sions from its most pol­lut­ing sec­tors, build­ings and trans­port­a­tion and in­creas­ing the use and sup­ply of re­new­ables. In the trans­port sec­tor, this in­cludes meas­ures such as the pro­mo­tion of re­new­ably powered car-shar­ing fleets and the de­vel­op­ment of stand­ards to sup­port re­new­ably powered private vehicles. Sim­ul­tan­eously, ret­ro­fits of ex­ist­ing build­ings and en­sur­ing the grid en­ergy sup­ply is 100-percent re­new­able will spur the clean en­ergy shift for the city's build­ing stock.

Un­der­pin­ning the strategy is an in­nov­at­ive en­ergy sys­tem model that maps en­ergy de­mand across the year and by time of day, match­ing it with an en­ergy sup­ply model to identify the most eco­nom­ical ways en­ergy de­mand can be met by re­new­able sources. In this way, Van­couver is us­ing cut­ting-edge tech­no­logy—em­ployed for the first time by a mu­ni­cip­al­ity—to solve press­ing en­ergy con­cerns and guide plans for a 100 percent re­new­able fu­ture.

The Result: 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, from 2007 levels, by 2050 due to the re­new­able city strategy.

2. Legal Ordinance for Solar-Powered Buildings

City: New York, New York

New York City's gov­ern­ment agen­cies are now leg­ally re­quired to as­sess po­ten­tial solar PV ret­ro­fits at all mu­ni­cipal build­ings.

In 2016, New York City passed a law re­quir­ing local gov­ern­ment agen­cies to as­sess all city-owned rooftops for solar photo­vol­taic (PV) po­ten­tial, in or­der to sup­port the city's goal to in­stall 100 MW of solar PV on mu­ni­cipal prop­erty by 2025. Agen­cies must re­port on factors in­clud­ing the po­ten­tial re­duc­tion in en­ergy use and green­house gas emis­sions, the fin­an­cing of the pro­ject and whether build­ings' rooftops are suit­able for a solar in­stall­a­tion. In keep­ing track of the pro­jects, the city will also take into con­sid­er­a­tion the fin­an­cial sav­ings ac­cru­ing from CO2 emis­sions re­duc­tions in or­der to bet­ter re­flect the value of the ret­ro­fits.

To date, the city has in­stalled 8.8 MW of solar PV across 52 mu­ni­cipal build­ings. In­formed by the gov­ern­ment agen­cies' eval­u­ations, New York City plans to de­velop a strategy to ex­pand the ini­ti­at­ive to 4,000 city-owned build­ings, which in­clude schools, hos­pit­als, lib­rar­ies, court­houses, fire­houses, of­fices, po­lice pre­cincts, wastewa­ter treat­ment plants and re­cre­ation cen­ters and which will help the city reach its goal to re­duce citywide green­house gas emis­sions 80 percent by 2050.

The Result: 35,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions will be reduced by solar projects by 2025.

3. Low-Carbon Megacity Encourages Green Growth

City: Guangzhou, China

Guang­zhou is plan­ning for an in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion and rising de­mand for en­ergy with a multi-sec­tor, low-car­bon plan for green growth, tar­get­ing in­dustry, in­fra­struc­ture and build­ings.

Guang­zhou, a mega­city with a pop­u­la­tion ex­ceed­ing 13 mil­lion, is still in a stage of rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and urban con­struc­tion. In 2012, Guang­zhou launched the Pi­lot Low Car­bon City Im­ple­ment­a­tion Plan in an ef­fort to re­duce green­house emis­sions through sys­tem­atic meas­ures in the grow­ing city. The plan in­cludes the elim­in­a­tion of out­dated in­dus­trial ca­pa­city and equip­ment and the pro­mo­tion of en­ergy-ef­fi­cient tech­no­lo­gies and green, low-car­bon build­ings. Trans­port in­fra­struc­ture is also be­ing tar­geted, with a new pub­lic trans­port sys­tem mainly based on rail transit.

Both mar­ket mech­an­isms, such as lim­it­ing entry per­mits for high-car­bon pro­jects to con­trol green­house gas emis­sions, and in­sti­tu­tional mech­an­isms, such as stricter emis­sions stand­ards, have been used to pro­mote low-car­bon de­vel­op­ment un­der the plan. Green in­dus­tries have de­veloped quickly in the city, with an ad­ded value of $4.2 bil­lion in 2014, an 11.1 percent in­crease com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. As a com­mit­ment to the plan, Guang­zhou an­nounced in 2015 it will reach its car­bon emis­sions peak by 2020.

The Result: 35.9M tons of CO2 emissions reduced between 2010 and 2014.

Republished from the Cities100 guide (the work of Sustainia, C40 Cities and Realdania) with permission.

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