The case for cities action

Housing an estimated 68% of the world population by 2050, cities are key to implementing cooling initiatives to improve the quality of life of citizens. Cities currently represent more than 70% of global energy demand and are on average 5 to 9°C warmer than rural area. This is due to a phenomenon known as the urban heat island (UHI) effect, caused by anthropogenic activities and heat absorption particularly in roofs, pavements and streets. As a result, cities will need to adapt to a changing climate at the same time as taking action to reduce the demand for cooling, for example through increased nature-based solutions and passive cooling actions, and while making active cooling cleaner and more efficient.

Municipal authorities understand the local context including the opportunities and barriers as well as having an ability to exert influence in their role as a planning authority and facilitator. Cities are already implementing ambitious actions to reduce emissions and increase climate resiliency. These range from large-scale district cooling initiatives to simple surface cooling solutions such as cool roofs and green landscaping. Cities can use building codes to limit future cooling demand and control what clean solutions are used to meet that demand in the built environment.

By implementing clean cooling strategies, cities can not only reduce the demand for cooling but align their policies with other areas of significant importance to cities such as air quality, public health and well-being and energy resilience. Traditional techniques such as narrow roads and inner patios in ancient medinas in Marrakech and wind catchers in the Middle East and Egypt have served cities well alongside newer solutions such as implementing cool solar reflective roofs and surfaces or green vegetative solutions, such as trees for shade.

Renewables and electrification could play significant roles in the transition for a clean cooling. As room air conditioner powered by electricity dominate current and future’ cooling solution, renewable-sourced electricity, geothermal for district cooling, and other hybrid renewable cooling solutions should be considered in the long-term transition. Further benefits of clean cooling can be seen in the reduction of carbon intensity through the incorporation of both on-site and district-based renewable energy and low carbon solutions for cooling.

Framework for cities action.

The Cool Coalition’s framework for cities action on cooling highlights how cities can act within the diverse cooling sector. It ensures city actors can use their levers to act on cooling by categorizing city action and roles into four categories of intervention:

  • Regulators & planners – targets setting, integrated urban planning, regulation/building codes/policy enforcement.
  • Financier – leverage public sector investment, subsidies and municipal green bonds.
  • Producers & consumers – generating or procuring energy services and aggregating urban demand.
  • Advocates and facilitators – Influence behavioral choices and promote knowledge sharing.