Eighteen per cent of India’s urban population is living in cities with renewable energy targets, said the 2021 edition of REN21’s Renewables in Cities Global Status Report on Thursday.
For India, the report has particular significance as several “smart cities” have embraced renewables, seeing a significant growth in on-site generation of solar PV.
Thirteen cities have renewable energy targets or policies in 2020. This covered 67.6 million people. The report also includes a specific case study on Rajkot in Gujarat.
It highlights the tangible steps and investments into renewable energy that cities have taken around the world in order to battle emissions to prevent climate change and air pollution.
The report is also the only stock-taking of cities’ energy transition efforts worldwide, and reveals that the number of cities that have enforced partial or complete bans on fossil fuels jumped fivefold in 2020.
Over one billion people around the world live in cities with a renewable energy target or policy.
For the second year, REN21 takes the temperature of how cities worldwide use renewable energy to battle emissions to prevent air pollution and climate change.
More than half of the global population lives in cities, which account for three-quarters of global final energy consumption.
“With their impact at scale, cities are our best bet to plan, develop and build a renewable future. But all too often their potential for transformation remains massively underused,” said REN21’s Executive Director Rana Adib.
“It’s a tough job to turn low-carbon ambitions into reality in built and densely packed environments. National governments must put money, capacity and above all legislative powers into the hands of local authorities.”
Cities must transition to renewables and set end dates for fossil fuels in all sectors, said the report.
A critical factor for the success of cities’ climate strategies is to rapidly replace fossil fuels with renewable energy in heating and cooling as well as in transport.
These sectors are responsible for the biggest share of global emissions, and they are best addressed at the local level.
The report showed that often, purchasing renewable electricity for the city’s own operations is one of the first steps local leaders take.
But according to Adib, this is not enough. “Cities like Hamburg, San Francisco and Shanghai show, the more ambitious they are, the more they think of renewable energy everywhere. They impose strict building codes and renewable energy obligations. But most importantly, they set an end date to the use of gas, oil and coal.”
By 2020, 43 cities had done so and enforced fossil fuel bans in heating and/or transport, five times as many as in 2019.
In total, one billion people — about one quarter of the global urban population — live in cities with a renewable energy target or policy.
“But as inspiring as these examples are,” said Adib, “we are still a far cry from what is needed to curb climate change in time.”
Last year’s lockdowns with the sudden disappearance of traffic, the complete alteration of lifestyles resulting in cleaner air and less noisy environments, have given citizens a flavour of how alternatives to packed roads and polluted skies could look.
City leaders are now building on this momentum, moving away from polluting fossil fuels and building clean and resilient energy systems in their place.
“Growing citizen support gives Santiago a real mandate to take action against climate change. Our residents demand that the government take bold measures,” explained Isabel Aguilera, Environmental Director for the city of Santiago (Chile).