From innovation to implementation: Cities driving the Race to Zero 

By Climate Champions | June 1, 2023

As key drivers of change, cities are at the forefront of the race to a net zero and resilient world, embodying the solution to the challenges posed by climate change. From bustling urban landscapes of the U.S., to vibrant communities in Mexico, Brazil, Germany, and beyond, cities are spearheading the transition towards a greener tomorrow. Here, we explore the ambitious initiatives undertaken by cities in the Race to Zero campaign under Cities Race to Zero – led by C40, ICLEI, the Global Covenant of Mayors, CDP, UCLG, WRI and WWF – and their efforts to reach net zero by 2050 while inspiring others in the process.

San Pedro Garza Garcia: A sustainable municipality leading the way

San Pedro Garza Garcia in Mexico is committed to reducing 15,000 tons of CO2 by 2024 through various initiatives. The municipality is implementing arborization, energy efficiency measures in municipal buildings, and sustainable fuels in municipal vehicles. They are embracing solar energy in residential, industrial, and service sectors, promoting recycling and sustainable mobility projects. Additionally, the municipality’s rainwater collection system and treatment plant contribute to water conservation. San Pedro Garza Garcia also focuses on improving public transportation to reduce car dependency.

Peñalolén: Building alliances for climate action

Peñalolén, a city in Chile, recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis and actively seeks to strengthen its environmental policy. Through alliances with other municipalities, social organizations, companies, universities, and public institutions, Peñalolén coordinates efforts and shares experiences to inspire climate action. The city promotes local trade with sustainability criteria, trains technical school students in renewable energy, and raises awareness through initiatives and social mobilization. By fostering collaboration and networking, Peñalolén amplifies its impact and contributes to the global race to net zero emissions.

New York City: Leading the way in green construction

New York City is committed to carbon neutrality by 2050 and the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. To tackle the significant emissions from construction activities, the city has introduced the Clean Construction Act. This policy requires capital project agencies to lower embodied carbon emissions from municipal construction projects by utilizing sustainable materials, equipment, and practices. New York City’s leadership in green construction sets an example for other cities to adopt similar measures and reduce emissions across the construction sector.

Melbourne: Urban Forest Fund and nature-based solutions

Melbourne, Australia, has implemented an Urban Forest Fund to support nature-based solutions and greening projects. Homeowners can receive grants from the fund to implement projects such as green spaces, tree planting, biodiversity initiatives, vertical greening, and green roofs. The fund has successfully completed three rounds of funding and is currently in its fourth round. The projects funded include transformative initiatives like converting a 2,000 square meter carpark rooftop into an urban farm. These projects contribute to water evaporation, biodiversity, and the reduction of landfill waste through the use of recycled materials.

Quelimane: Urban agriculture and food resilience

Quelimane, Mozambique, is investing in urban agriculture to improve local nutrition and integrate food and nature into the city. The “Quelimane Agricola” project provides training to farmers in agricultural practices to enhance yields, restore the soil, and manage waste effectively. Additionally, Quelimane is prioritizing food safety in markets to comply with COVID-19 social distancing regulations.

Yucatán: State-level climate action and reforestation

The state of Yucatán in Mexico, vulnerable to the effects of climate change, has committed to the international “Race to Zero” campaign. The state has set goals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and is working on eight strategic themes, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable mobility, sustainable production, deforestation reduction, and circular economy practices. The Secretariat of Sustainable Development is promoting reforestation through the “Arborizing Yucatan” strategy, contributing to the planting of trees that can absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide.

Ahmedabad: Municipal bonds for green projects

Ahmedabad, India, has issued municipal bonds to finance green projects. The success of Ahmedabad in raising funds through municipal bonds demonstrates the potential for such financial instruments to support climate-resilient development in urban areas.

Nagpur: Net zero buildings by 2050

Nagpur, India, has developed a roadmap that includes strategies and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, specifically focusing on building materials, design, construction, management, and deconstruction. The roadmap aligns policy actions with the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Chengdu: Beautiful and liveable park city

Chengdu, China, has released policy documents and strategies to accelerate the development of a beautiful and livable park city. The city aims to establish effective governance systems, enhance resilience, and launch smart systems and applications across different sectors such as transportation, urban management, and environmental protection. Chengdu envisions becoming a park city with an extensive network of paths for pedestrians and cyclists by 2050.

Helsinki: Net zero commitment and comprehensive measures

Helsinki, Finland, has made a comprehensive commitment to achieve net zero emissions. The city is retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, promoting sustainable transportation options, investing in renewable energy sources, adopting a circular economy approach, and implementing climate-positive actions such as urban agriculture, green roofs, and tree planting. Helsinki’s net zero commitment encompasses not only its own operations but also the entire city’s emissions footprint, including transportation, waste, and buildings.

Pará: Ambitious bioeconomy plan

Pará, Brazil, is implementing an ambitious bioeconomy plan called “PlanBio.” The plan aims to generate jobs, preserve the environment, and transition the state, which is currently Brazil’s main emitter of CO2, into a carbon-neutral region. The $232 million investment in PlanBio focuses on supporting local sustainable businesses that utilize traditional and indigenous knowledge, with collaboration from companies like Natura &Co

Other projects

ICLEI USA: Driving science-based targets and high impact action

In 2021, ICLEI USA collaborated with its members to develop science-based targets (SBTs) and high impact action (HIA) scenarios. These targets serve as a roadmap for cities to achieve their 2030 emissions reduction goals. ICLEI USA hosted regional cohorts, bringing together experts and stakeholders to share best practices in renewable energy, building efficiency, transportation, and equity integration. By fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange, ICLEI USA empowers cities to make significant strides in their climate action plans.

INCLU:DE Project: Integrating social equity and climate action

The INCLU:DE project focuses on ensuring that climate interventions prioritize social equity considerations. By aligning climate action with social justice, this initiative aims to develop a methodology for scaling up inclusive climate action. Through partnerships with other cities, the project shares best practices and localizes climate measures to address the unique needs of communities. INCLU:DE advocates at various levels, including the German, EU, and global platforms, to disseminate key outcomes and promote just and inclusive climate action.




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