Transitioning to a Low-Carbon City

Context: As cities dumped 29 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2020, transitioning to low ­carbon or even net­ zero cities requires integration of mitigation and adaptation options in multiple sectors. Energy System Transition:
  • Potential: An energy ­system transition could reduce urban carbon dioxide emissions by around 74%.
  • Energy Transition
    1. Supply Side: Mitigation options on the supply side include phasing out fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix, and using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
    2. Demand Side: Using the ‘avoid, shift, improve’ framework would entail reducing the demand for materials and energy, and substituting the demand for fossil fuels with renewables.
Different Strategies to Mitigate and Adapt:
  • Framing Energy Transition Policies: To frame policies that are socially and environmentally fair, considerations like the city’s spatial form, land use pattern, level of development, and the state of urbanisation should be thought of.
  • Retrofitting of Infrastructure:
    • An established city can retrofit and repurpose its infrastructure to increase energy efficiency, and promote public as well as active transport like bicycling and walking.
    • Reducing energy demand through:
      • Walkable cities designed around people
      • Electrifying public transport
      • Setting up renewable based district cooling and heating networks
  • Planning New and Emerging Cities by:
    • Using energy ­efficient services and infrastructure
    • A people centric urban design
    • Implementing building codes that mandate net-­zero energy use and retrofit existing buildings.
How can an energy transition be just? 
  • Rejecting one size fits all approach: 
    • Energy systems are directly and indirectly linked to livelihoods, local economic development, and the socio economic well being of people engaged in diverse sectors.
    • Transitioning can disproportionately affect groups of people or communities in developing economies and sectors that depend on fossil fuels.
  • Demand- supply balance: Energy supply needs to be balanced against fast growing energy demand (due to urbanisation), the needs of energy security, and exports.
  • Addressing justice concerns like land dispossession related to large scale renewable energy projects, spatial concentration of poverty, the marginalisation of certain communities, gendered impacts, and the reliance on coal for livelihoods.
  • Targeting energy poverty: In developed countries, many communities suffer energy poverty and inequality due to high energy costs, low incomes, and inadequate infrastructure.
    • Huge energy bills can crowd out expenses for other amenities like healthcare and nutrition.
Way Forward: 
  • Ensuring a transition to low carbon energy systems in cities at different stages of urbanisation, national contexts, and institutional capacities requires strategic and bespoke efforts. 
  • They must be directed at governance and planning, achieving behavioural shifts, promoting technology and innovation, and building institutional capacity.
  • comprehensive approach must be adopted to address the root causes of energy and environmental injustices.
  • This includes mitigation and adaptation responses that engage multiple stakeholders in energy governance and decision making, promoting energy efficiency, scaling up climate investments, and capturing alternate knowledge streams (including indigenous and local lived experiences).
Source: The Hindu

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