New report on the key to reducing cities’ emissions

A report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) finds that transitioning to modern district energy systems could reduce primary energy consumption by up to 50%. The resulting emission reductions could amount to 60% of those required of the energy sector by 2050 to keep average temperature rise below 2°C, according to the report, titled ‘District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.’

The report stresses that energy-efficient district energy systems can be made both affordable and climate-resilient, allowing cities to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a cost-effective way. Cities can also capitalize on other benefits, as outlined by report authors, including job creation, tax revenue, cost savings from avoided or deferred investment in electricity generation capacity, decreased air pollution and reduced fossil fuel expenditures.

According to the findings, given that heating and cooling of space and water account for half of energy consumption in some cities and cooling demand continues to grow worldwide, cities can use renewable energy-powered and efficient district heating and cooling to help mitigate climate change, alleviate poverty, invest in the local economy and, in some instances, reduce consumers’ utility bills.

The publication provides guidelines for local governments to explore their policy options for making the transition to modern district energy systems under a variety of national frameworks. The report complements UNEP’s District Energy in Cities initiative, the implementing mechanism for the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) District Energy accelerator, and informs a decision tree that can guide cities through the stages of the transition, highlighting tools and best practices along the way.

The report was produced in collaboration with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, UN-Habitat and the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency. It is available on the UNEP website.

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