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SEI brief

Advancing climate ambition: Cities as partners in global climate action

This briefing paper examines how cities can contribute to bridging the global emissions gap. It finds significant emission reduction potential – up to two-thirds the impact of recent national policies and actions.

Peter Erickson, Kevin Tempest / Published on 25 September 2014

Erickson, P., and K. Tempest (2014). Advancing climate ambition: Cities as partners in global climate action. Produced by SEI in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and C40.

Specifically, the paper shows that urban actions could decrease global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 3.7 Gt CO2e below what national actions are currently on track to achieve in 2030, and by 8.0 Gt CO2e in 2050.

Therefore, cities are positioned to make meaningful contributions towards more aggressive national targets to reduce emissions. This can be accomplished because mayors have strong influence over key policies that influence emissions, such as building energy standards, urban planning, and public transportation.

Because city actions are rarely captured in national goals and targets, cities can be great partners to nation states in meeting ambitious goals: realizing the full potential of urban GHG emissions abatement opportunities requires bold and swift action by the world’s cities, in partnership with nation states to identify and deploy new sources of finance and supportive national policy.

The analysis identifies significant opportunities in four specific areas:

  •  Deep building energy efficiency standards for new urban buildings;
  • Building energy retrofits for existing urban buildings;
  •  Aggressive energy performance standards for urban building lighting and appliances; and
  •  Mode shift and transit efficiency for urban residents.

Download the briefing paper (PDF, 1.7MB)

Note: For a more detailed analysis and methodology, see SEI Working Paper No. 2014-06.

SEI authors

Peter Erickson

Affiliated Researcher


Topics and subtopics
Climate : Climate policy, Mitigation
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