Why in News:

The significance of cities in shaping the environment necessitates the development of low-carbon cities to combat the effects of climate change.

Important Points:

  • By 2050, the global urban population is projected to reach seven billion, and in 2020 alone, cities emitted a staggering 29 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Decarbonise Urban Systems:

  • The emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases poses severe health hazards and contributes to extreme weather events, resulting in the loss of lives, livelihoods, assets, and overall social well-being.
  • The transition towards low-carbon or net-zero cities requires integrating mitigation and adaptation measures across various sectors, such as energy, buildings, transportation, industry, and urban land-use.
  • Referred to as the ‘sector-coupling approach,’ this integration is crucial for effectively decarbonising urban systems.

Energy-System Transitions:

  • Implementing an energy-system transition has the potential to reduce urban carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 74%.
  • The advancements in clean energy technologies and their decreasing costs have overcome economic and technological barriers, making low-carbon solutions viable.
  • The transition should encompass both demand-side and supply-side strategies.
  • Supply-side mitigation options involve phasing out fossil fuels, increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix, and utilizing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
  • On the demand side, the ‘avoid, shift, improve’ framework entails reducing material and energy demands while substituting fossil fuels with renewables.
  • Additionally, carbon-dioxide removal (CDR) technologies are needed to address residual emissions in the energy sector, enabling the construction of net-zero urban systems.

No One-Size-Fits-All Approach:

  • Selecting appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies depends on the unique characteristics of each city.
  • Merely replacing fossil fuels with clean energy does not fully address complex issues of energy justice and social equity.
  • Energy-transition policies must consider the city’s spatial form, land-use pattern, level of development, and urbanization status.
  • Established cities can improve energy efficiency through infrastructure retrofitting and promoting public and active transport, such as bicycling and walking.
  • Walkable cities designed around people can significantly reduce energy demands, as can electrifying public transport and establishing renewables-based district cooling and heating networks.

Just Energy Transition:

  • Energy systems have direct and indirect links to livelihoods, local economic development, and the socio-economic well-being of various sectors.
  • Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach may not ensure a socially and environmentally just transition.
  • The transition to renewable-energy sources might disproportionately affect certain groups or communities in developing economies and sectors reliant on fossil fuels.
  • Energy supply must be balanced against rapidly growing energy demand due to urbanization, energy security needs, and export requirements.
  • Additional justice concerns include land dispossession related to large-scale renewable energy projects, spatial concentration of poverty, marginalization of communities, gendered impacts, and the dependence on coal for livelihoods.

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