The latest global status report on renewable power in cities shows that 2020 was a good year for the development of targets and policies at the municipal level, with more than 610 municipalities in 72 countries setting 100% renewable energy targets by year’s end.
Such progress is very good news, writes REN21, the Paris-based organization that produces the annual report. Cities are critical to solving the climate crisis, as home to more than 55% of the planet’s human population and the source of roughly 75% of global final energy consumption.
Municipal governments have been particularly good at both shifting their own operations to renewables and at implementing policies that encourage uptake of renewables in the private and public sectors. Cities are also “essential for accelerating the development of renewables in sectors that lag, namely buildings and transport.”
And such work is necessary, REN21 notes. “Rapidly replacing fossil fuels with renewables across high-polluting sectors, namely the heating and cooling of buildings and transport, is critical for the success of urban climate strategies and helps to create sustainable, equitable, and thriving cities—more resilient, with more local jobs and cleaner air.”
Citing the 2021 status report, REN21 writes that “more than 10,500 cities around the world had adopted CO2 emission reduction targets by the end of 2020, with around 800 of these going so far as to commit to net-zero.” That’s a sharp increase from the 100 cities recorded in the previous year.
And more than 830 cities had, by the end of 2020, “set renewable energy targets in at least one sector (power, heating and cooling, and/or transport).”
The policy front is also seeing movement beyond aspiration and into action, with “around 800” municipalities implementing regulations and financial incentives, as well as measures that indirectly support the uptake of renewables.
Some of the progress on renewable energy in cities likely owes to citizens demanding it from their leaders. “1,852 cities in 29 countries had declared climate emergencies by 2020 (up from around 1,400 by the end of 2019),” the report states.
And some of these municipalities were moved to act in accordance with such a declaration, with “at least 231 municipal governments” simultaneously submitting some kind of climate action plan.