Cities account for around


of global CO2 emissions.

By 2018, more than 55% of the world’s population – 4.2 billion people – lived in citiesi, up from 46.7% (2.9 billion people) in 2000.1 Rapid urbanisation, coupled with population growth, has led to rising energy demand at the municipal level: in 2013, cities accounted for two-thirds of global energy demand, compared with less than half (45%) in 1990.2 Cities also are important drivers of the global economy, with a growing number of them – including London, Tokyo and New York – boasting economies larger than some G20 countries.3 Meanwhile, cities account for around 75% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and play a key role in addressing climate change, including limiting the rise in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris Agreement.4

In part because of these concerns, cities have become leaders in renewable energy deployment. ( See Box 1.) Increasingly, cities are adopting some of the world’s most ambitious targets for renewables, putting them at the forefront of the rapidly expanding renewable energy movement. Renewable energy initiatives often are linked to wider city goals and urban planning efforts, driven by environmental, socio-economic, energy security and governance objectives. Cities’ renewable energy deployment can be part of initiatives to transition to liveable, sustainable and low-carbon cities.5

City actions and policies driving renewables both supplement and complement frameworks that exist at the national and state/provincial levels. Many cities have used their direct regulatory and purchasing authority to shape renewable energy pathways within their jurisdictions. Some cities are able to accomplish more ambitious renewable energy goals than national and state/provincial bodies, as cities can tap into strengths such as their direct responsibility for providing services to residents and ensuring day-to-day quality of life, their contractual relationships with energy providers and large-scale users, and their authority to create incentives that drive lifestyle and development choices at the local level.

Municipal policies and mandates supporting the use of renewables in power, heating and cooling, and transport, as well as those linking renewables and energy efficiency, have gained momentum in recent years. As at the national level, most of the support for renewables at the city level has been directed towards the power sector. However, cities also have accelerated renewable energy solutions in the heating, cooling and transport sectors where overall renewable energy deployment has advanced at a far slower pace. ( See Global Overview chapter.)

iIn this chapter, the terms “city”, “urban” and “municipal government” indicate different concepts. “City” generally refers to the larger metropolitan area and does not always specifically reference the municipal government actors. “Urban areas” generally refers to districts within metropolitan areas that are more densely populated than suburban or peri-urban communities within the same metropolitan area. “Municipal government” refers specifically to the public administration or governing body of a city.i