Our future is urban.  Today, over half of all people on earth live in urban areas. By 2030, the global population is projected to increase by one billion people and in that same period urban populations will expand by a similar amount. To accommodate this wave of new urban dwellers, over 860 billion square feet (80 billion square meters) of additional building area is projected to be built or rebuilt between now and then.1  To put this growth in perspective, it is equivalent to constructing the buildings and infrastructure needed for the current population of the western hemisphere.

Urban populations are projected to increase across all continents.

Urban areas are responsible for the majority of global emissions.

As populations shift, so do their impacts.  Globally, urban areas are already responsible for approximately 75% of total primary energy demand and over 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions.2  These concentrations are projected to increase as populations urbanize, further centralizing issues related to providing energy and materials to meet economic demands.

Urban areas are the epicenters of climate solutions.

The global movement towards cities presents a tremendous opportunity. Cities represent over 80% of global GDP, serving as the centers of economic growth and innovation.  Cities have also demonstrated the ability to act more rapidly than national governments, such as showing the power to rapidly rebuild following disasters or craft policies that address evolving social issues.

City mayors and regional leaders have used this capacity for adaptation to call for swift climate action. As of 2016, 533 cities from 89 countries have disclosed GHG emissions, representing a 70% increase since the Paris agreement.3 Of those cities in North America, over half have developed formal action plans with emission reduction goals.  These goals are now being translated to specific targets for buildings, transportation, and industry with new policies emerging in each sector.

Achieving Zero focuses on urban areas due to their direct impact on emissions and position as leaders in climate action. Its provides a framework to coordinate and integrate disparate local initiatives for carbon reduction. Its focus is on long-term impact by 2050, which sets predictable milestones for public and private stakeholders to align their decarbonization efforts.

Cities hold the greatest potential to champion climate action, yet are faced with tackling extremely complex social, political and technical issues. Where must they focus their interventions to make meaningful progress in emissions reductions?

[1] IEA, 2016. Energy Technology Perspectives 2016.
[2] IEA, 2016. Energy Technology Perspectives 2016.
[3] CDP.net, 2017.

Cities took early leadership and built partnerships for climate action.

364 U.S. mayors representing over 66 million Americans, including the 10 largest cities, committed to uphold the Paris Agreement goals by working together on local climate action and binding GHG reduction targets.

An international urban climate leadership group of 90 cities — representing over 650 million people – that formed in 2005 to collectively share technical and financial resources for cities to lead on climate action.

A global alliance of over 7,400 cities and local governments that have pledged to track and reduce GHG emissions.

A collaboration of 20 international cities committed to aggressive long-term goals of at least 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (80×50).