The discussion focused on the role of cities as a key driver towards a climate safe and net-zero emissions future.
During the first meeting of the Energy Transitions Working Group and the Climate Sustainability Working Group under Italian G20 Presidency, which took place on 22-23 March 2021, the membership discussed the need to accelerate the clean energy transition aimed at combating climate change, while committing to advance towards resilient, smart and sustainable cities as a key driver for a climate safe and net-zero emissions future. In this framework, the importance of taking into account the diversity and specificity of national and subnational circumstances and the different pathways towards ambitious goals was also reiterated.
Over half the world’s population lives in cities today, a figure expected to increase to two thirds by 2050. The UN’s New Urban Agenda stresses that the trend towards urbanization poses deep sustainability challenges. From the perspective of climate sustainability and energy transitions, cities represent almost two-thirds of global energy demand and 70% of carbon emissions. They exacerbate the world’s most serious environmental and socio-economic challenges and expose large populations to climate-related risks such as high temperatures, sea level rise, water scarcity, flooding and storms.
At the same time, cities and vast urban conglomerates are the world’s centers of innovation and economic dynamism and are therefore key in defining the path towards a prosperous and climate safe future. The G20 can act as a forum to enhance the role of cities as strategic laboratories for sustainable growth. This will be essential in order to achieve the climate goals of the Paris agreement and reach an inclusive, climate resilient and net-zero emissions future.
In this context, a greater deployment of Nature based Solutions (NbS) can harness the power of nature to turn environmental, social and economic challenges into innovation and adaptation opportunities, driving sustainable urbanization. NbS can foster and simplify implementation of adaptation actions in urban landscapes by leveraging the services provided by nature, especially to increase resilience to climate impacts, such as flooding and heat stress, with the added benefit that nature – in contrast to traditional infrastructure – does not rust. The same NbS are increasingly recognized as influential determinants of human health and well-being, in addition to providing tangible mitigation effects through carbon removal by vegetation, as well as reducing the temperature and related energy savings through reduced cooling loads.
Cities will be crucial to the energy transitions process also through a wide range of innovative options; such as the electrification of consumption, mainly through renewable sources, sustainable public and private mobility solutions, energy efficiency in buildings and industries, digital-energy technologies, smart grids, tools enabling local energy communities to be at the center of their urban energy system and demand-side solutions, ensuring an equitable distribution of the co-benefits.
In addition, citizens, local communities, indigenous people and youth – if appropriately engaged and empowered – will play an active role in driving the transition to a net-zero emissions future through participatory and behavioral change processes, helping to raise awareness and acceptance of transitions policies.
In this first meeting of the CSWG-ETWG, the membership assessed the use of all these key factors in order to reshape our cities to be more resilient, smart, inclusive and sustainable. In this context, participants contributed to identifying recommendations/guidelines in support of a coordinated acceleration of the energy transition.
Going forward the G20 Italian Presidency will continue to engage the membership around these crucial themes through a series of additional events that will bring greater focus on certain specific components of the sustainable transition in cities.
After having considered in depth the need to foster resilient, smart and sustainable cities in the first meeting, the Energy Transitions and Climate Sustainability working groups will reconvene on the 26th and 27th of April to continue their work in preparation of the July Ministerial meeting.