The number of cities that have enforced partial or complete bans on fossil fuels jumped five-fold to 43 in 2020, while 1,300 cities with populations of one billion have renewable energy targets towards a shift away from fossil fuels, a new report from REN21 revealed on Thursday.
According to the Renewables in Cities Global Status Report 2021, cities in which 55% of the global population lives are responsible for 75% of global emissions.
The report found that the rapid replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy in heating, cooling and transport is a critical factor for the success of the cities' climate strategies.
"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," REN21’s Executive Director, Rana Adib, was quoted as saying.
She said that as "it’s a tough job to turn low-carbon ambitions into reality in built-up and densely packed environments, national governments must put money, capacity and above all legislative powers into the hands of local authorities."
By 2020, 43 cities enforced fossil fuel bans in heating and transport, five times as many as in 2019. Now 20 more cities are planning to soon ban fossil fuels, the report revealed.
Globally, around 1,300 cities where one billion people live, representing about a quarter of the urban population, have renewable energy targets or policies.
Although Adib said that such data is inspiring, she warned that the world is still a far cry from what is needed to curb climate change in time.
- Building momentum against challenges
According to the report, 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 flavor of how alternatives to packed roads and polluted skies" could look.
City leaders are building on this momentum and moving away from polluting fossil fuels and building clean and resilient energy systems, the report read.
The report also showed that, in addition to emission cuts in the cities, the transition to clean energy sources offers local benefits, such as an increase in local employment, welfare and a higher quality of life.
"It’s a sad fact that wherever in the world cities seek to phase-out fossil fuels, the industry puts a lot of resources into fighting back. They take local authorities to court or, as seen recently in the US, convince state policymakers to make it legally impossible for cities to take such decisions at all," Adib said.
According to the report, globally 830 cities in 72 countries have binding renewable energy targets, and around 800 cities have implemented policies to help advance renewables in their cities.
More than 10,500 cities in the world adopted CO2 emission reduction targets, the report said.
Around 800 cities have committed to net-zero emissions in 2020 which is up from the 100 cities with such commitments in 2019, the report showed.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya