The Business Case for Carbon Neutral Cities

RX, World Efficiency Solutions - La Galerie des Solutions, 9 December 2015

This session was hosted by UNEP and Sustainable Energy for All in collaboration with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish Trade and Invest Council and Empower, the largest district cooling operator in the world.

Speakers participated in three panels moderated by Thibaud Voita (Energy Efficiency Programme Head, SE4All), Lily Riahi (Advisor on Sustainable Energy in Cities, UNEP) and Bruno Gardner (Managing Director, Carbon Trust) which explored the technological, political and financial building blocks of low-carbon and carbon neutral cities.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, in his opening address highlighted the opportunities presented by the transition to a green economy with “cities being the points of concentration around which many of the financially most significant changes will be likely to occur”.

Participants shared their expertise from a range of perspectives. National representatives such as Francois Moisan (Executive Director, ADEME), Tiina Kähö (Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund), Hans Jørgen Koch (CEO, Nordic Energy Research) and Stana Božoviæ (State Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, Serbia) spoke of the importance of accelerating city action through national policies such as the carbon taxes in the Nordics, renewable energy strategies in Serbia and mandatory city-level climate and energy in France.
Cities and regions such as Paris, Gothenburg, London, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (South Africa) and Iskandar region (Malaysia) described city efforts to lower emissions and attract investment for low-carbon projects. Matthew Pencharz (Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, London) spoke of London’s efforts to attract investment in district energy by supporting project development and ensuring a fair electricity price for combined heat and power plants. Celia Blauel (Deputy Mayor, Paris) spoke on the importance of her city’s Climate Action Plan which “inspires all of public policy: housing, transportation, energy and public procurements” and will lead to the city’s district heating system, serving 500,000 people, to achieve 50% renewable heat by next year.

Private sector participants such as ENGIE, Veolia and Danfoss spoke of their commitment to support cities develop integrated approaches, combining multiple sectors and often incorporating district energy. Niels Christiansen (CEO, Danfoss) described how Danfoss are switching 2 million people in Anshan’s district heating network to be heated by industrial waste heat instead of coal and Olivier Biancarelli (Vice President Decentralized Solutions for Cities and Regions, ENGIE) presented how ENGIE have reorganized their organization to have a more strategic focus on cities with focuses on the building blocks of smart cities, including district energy.

The city networks of C40 and ICLEI spoke of their efforts to replicate what has worked well in one city and apply it to other cities in their networks, with Mark Watts (CEO, C40) praising the work of the District Energy in Cities Initiative for helping expand district energy and building on individual city experience, further noting that “the most successful cities will be the ones that are most coordinated, most connected into the rest of the world, most able to learn from, for example, Johannesburg’s green bonds, Tokyo’s emissions trading or Copenhagen’s district heating”.

In particular, the session provided a focus on district energy and its ability to connect large scale renewables and decarbonise multiple sectors, leading it to be described as the “backbone” for cities looking to connect renewables by city and private sector representatives present.

The event was concluded by H.E. Kristian Jensen (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denmark) highlighting the opportunity of decarbonizing cities and sharing the Danish experience of cutting national greenhouse gas emissions by 20% through district heating through the UNEP-led “District Energy in Cities Initiative (which) enables us to extend our support to cities worldwide and to help them learn from what we are achieving in Denmark - we can enable visionary community leaders to take action on their cities’ climate ambitions. That’s why we have supported this Initiative’s foundation, providing funds and support.”