The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) connects 90 of the world’s greatest cities in the battle against climate change. C40 focuses on enabling sustainable, economically sound solutions in urban environments, which help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote healthy living environments for citizens.
The C40 vision echoes the objectives of the SEA20 initiative, an international forum for the world’s foremost Smart and Ecologically-Ambitious marine cities. SEA20 is committed to enabling the conversation, engaging in dialogue with partners and stakeholders that share a common vision; to create a supremely efficient, ecologically sound, digitally connected and collaborative marine ecosystem.
In this article, Brendan Shane, Programme Director for C40’s Deadline 2020 campaign, talks about the opportunities and challenges cities encounter when reducing their carbon footprint and how they can lead nations towards a more sustainable future, as well as providing his perspective on marine development.
Once a city is committed to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, what steps should be taken to cut back on emissions?
"After Deadline 2020 was released in 2016, we worked with McKinsey & Co. on Focused Acceleration: A Strategic Approach to Climate Action in Cities to 2030.
The idea is to look at some four hundred emission-reduction actions from Deadline 2020, which helps cities identify what will have the biggest impact. The aim is to offer guidelines on how most global cities should curb their emissions and put them on a 1.5°C temperature-rise pathway through 2030.
The work resulted in twelve actions in four separate areas: energy supply, buildings, transportation and waste,. Some of these actions are larger endeavors such as “green your energy supply” and “green your electricity”. In order to get also a city’s political powers onboard, there is a real need to be relatively straightforward. We need clean energy, cleaner cars, and better facilities with better waste management. The Focused Acceleration study was quite an effective attempt to create a shortlist. Naturally, not all of the twelve actions will apply equally to each city. but a major city should, however, plan to address all twelve to make sure they don’t miss the boat on any significant factors."
What are the three most important items?
"It varies significantly where you go, but in much of the world the number one factor is buildings. Somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of a city’s energy consumption is going to buildings, either for heating or cooling. The way in which the buildings are constructed and the power they use is an important factor – whether they are still connected to natural gas or oil, or if they are fully electrified. The goal of “greening your energy supply” requires the full electrification of buildings.
The next level involves adding more renewable energy sources, and after that, using biofuel to power ships or airplanes. These are a major source of global emissions, so solving the transportation fuel question is crucial.
Waste management is another factor to be mentioned. While it is certainly truer in some developing countries than in the developed world, if you look at the waste spin-off, for example, in Southeast Asia, there is direct pollution flowing into the ocean. There are several places where we are engaged on this topic, including Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The amount of waste we are talking about is staggering."
What are some of the success stories or active projects that you could highlight?
"We are doing a great deal of work on land transportation and electrification. Several of our active initiatives in different regions involve buying and fully electrifying, for example, all city buses, police cars and waste management trucks. The idea is that cities are big enough operators to be market drivers, and will be able to aggregate demand over time. Cities must come together and negotiate with large transportation manufacturers, such as Scania and Volvo, to secure a sufficient amount of vehicles to be delivered in a specific time frame.
Turning to air quality, there is a link to transportation here as well. Correct, what usually gets people’s attention is not so much the changing climate but air pollution and related health effects. There is a major focus – including the mayors of Paris and London – on bad air quality. Although not on the level of Beijing, also Paris suffers from smog. A lot of that pollution is generated by diesel. Electrifying on a local levelhelps to leapfrog right over that issue."
Can you provide examples of cities that are pushing these changes successfully?
"The fleet of city buses in Shenzen, China, was already completely electrified about two years ago. There is a very symbiotic relationship between the private companies and the city. In a way, Shenzen is proof of concept that this can really be done when all stakeholders work together. Looking at some of the analytics, it was about being able to handle front cost financing, as the lifetime cost of the electric bus is already significantly cheaper in comparison to a diesel bus. Including maintenance, fuel and downtime.
In Europe, London has moved very quickly, and in the US, the City of Los Angeles is making a big push. In fact, the Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD has opened its first US plant in Lancaster, California."
On the marine side, the port and its surrounding area are often considered to be a ‘black box’ or heavy emitters of CO2.
"Ports have to find a clean source for power. I believe the primary issues in ports are cleaning the air quality and reducing direct emissions.
For ports, cleaner air should be a priority. Market demand moves people to electrify just with the basic understanding that there must be a clean energy supply, so that you are not burning mountains of coal to run your electric port.
In the United States there was a push to electrify ports, but some ports have unfortunately moved to compressed natural gas. This is of course a significant improvement with regards to air quality, but we believe the focus should be on electrifying port operations or transitioning to hydrogen. As a functioning business, most ports are able to move faster than, for example, cities. Ports can be seen as leaders in this sense, since they have clear income, their own source of revenue or the ability to charge fees. Effectively, if ports need to implement a new measure to lower emissions, they also have the ability to charge for it."
What do you think business and industry can do to instigate change?
"We are engaged with industry and businesses, as well as other organisations, such as the World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund, who have been leading renewable energy alliances of businesses. The cities are engaged with them as well, but companies need to get onboard to mitigate their power investments and drive down prices. Currently, markets like North and South America can already build these renewable alternatives much cheaper per kilowatt hour.
Arguably, the financial case is there. It is possible to save money by using renewable electricity. For ports, the trick is to switch all tractors, cranes, forklifts and ships from heavy transportation fuels to electricity."
Are there similar questions of scale on the marine city side as well? Is their focus different in comparison to other cities?
"Arguably, the focus for marine cities can be a little different, but they should be able to work together. A single industry such as a port may have more power than the rest of the city. So, they need to have the power to make a commitment and take the lead, ideally, on clean air and climate issues.
The new approach is to see how a big entity can transition to renewable power and basically ‘cut the pipe to favour the cord’. Then the question is what is it going to take to get them to embark on a 5-to-10-year plan of transitioning to newer, cleaner operations? Even though this new way of doing business may save money and earn media and press coverage, you are still going to need to find someone to get the decision-makers in these entities to take action."
Are there any other technological megatrends that you believe could really help megacities get where they need to be?
"All the renewable energy sources – solar, wind and water turbines – keep getting cheaper and increasingly better. The pace of development is impressive, and it is everywhere. For example, even in northern climates, such as in Canada, you can now run on solar all year around. Imagine when you combine that with dropping prices and a capacity to store electricity. "
To really take the steps needed to mitigate climate change, humankind must be brave enough to step away from our ‘business as usual’ comfort zones. To deliver change, there needs to be dialogue and communication between all stakeholders. However, bold thinking is not enough. Today, we need action to create a cleaner tomorrow powered by greener and cleaner solutions. The technology is already here – next, we need bold decision-making and partnerships to deliver a sustainable future.