Cities are home to more than 55 percent of the global population and also energy use in cities contributes to around three-quarters of the world’s CO2 emissions. Thus, city-level action can significantly contribute to decarbonize the energy system, enhancing resilience of energy systems, and accelerating the development of projects and investments. These collective actions also support international goals of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C), as stipulated in the Paris Agreement.
Cities are in a key position when achieving net zero targets for climate protection including important sectors in the renewable energy transition. Actions at the city level can address energy for heating, cooling and transport which combined represent over 80 percent of final energy demand. City governments have built on renewables to advance local economic growth, job creation, reduce operational costs, expand energy access and reduce energy poverty for the 1 billion people living in slums. Renewables also support reducing air pollution and improving overall health and well-being of citizens.
The Renewables in Cities Global Status Report (REC) presents the urban renewable energy story. Data and information contained in its pages document the growing potential of cities in helping countries achieve ambitious action.
The Report series provides insights about trends and developments of renewable energy in cities. It spotlights the key role that city governments, inhabitants, and commercial and industrial entities have, to actively drive the shift to renewables in public buildings and municipal fleets, as well as in residential and commercial buildings, industrial activity and private transport.
Some of the key findings are:
- More than 1 billion people – about 25 percent of the urban population – live in a city with either a renewable energy target or policy in 2020 (in a total of 1,300 cities); an over 15 percent increase from the year before.
- City governments in around 830 cities in 72 countries had set renewable energy targets in at least one sector (power, heating and cooling, and/or transport).
- Around 800 municipal governments had implemented regulatory policies, financial and fiscal incentives and indirect support policies to enable the uptake of renewables in buildings and transport city-wide.
- More than 10,500 cities globally had adopted CO2 emission reduction targets, and around 800 cities have committed to net-zero emissions in 2020 – up sharply from the 100 cities with such commitments in 2019.
- Citizen pressure has grown on city governments to act on climate change. 1,852 cities in 29 countries had declared climate emergencies by 2020 (up from around 1,400 by the end of 2019). At least 231 municipal governments had submitted a climate action plan.
- Images of blue skies and clearer air has increased societal pressure to stop burning of fossil fuels; outdoor air pollution was responsible for an estimated 8.7 million premature deaths (2018).
The German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this report in its 2021 and 2019 edition.
REN21 is a global renewable energy community of actors from science, governments, NGOs and industry. It provides up-to-date and peer-reviewed facts, figures and analysis of global developments in technology, policies and markets with the goal to enable decision-makers to make the shift to renewable energy happen.