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Clean Energy Ministerial 6 (CEM6) 

27–28 May 2015, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico

Sustainable Urban Energy Transition 


The transition to a global clean energy economy is dependent on the world’s cities. Over 50 percent of the world’s population currently lives in cities, accounting for approximately 75 percent of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Over the next 30 years, urban population is expected to grow significantly, placing pressure on city governments not only to deliver basic services—such as energy access, affordable housing, public health, disaster risk management, economic development, and job opportunities—but to do so in way that meets local, national, and international clean energy goals.

In many cities of the developed world, promoting urban sustainability means proposing solutions that integrate with long-established energy systems, taking into account barriers created by entrenched practices, institutional arrangements and legislation, and legacy infrastructure. In developing and emerging economies, development of urban infrastructure struggles to keep up with the rapid rate of urbanization, creating trade-offs between pressing needs for basic services and well-planned investments that will meet short-term and long-term goals, including sustainability. In particular, the majority of new urban growth is expected to be concentrated in small- to medium-size cities that may be less well-equipped for rapid growth than their larger, better-resourced and more experienced counterparts.

Considering the lead role of urban areas in clean energy transition, local and national governments and the private sector are on the front lines for identifying and implementing holistic strategies that deliver cleaner, smarter energy use in the built environment. Municipalities often have jurisdiction over the core determinants of energy use, through governance of zoning and building codes, business licensing, and transportation planning; in many cases, municipalities also serve as owner-operators of local power distribution networks. However, national governments need to provide greater support by (1) ensuring better coordination and integration among existing urban development policies to direct current investments towards the most sustainable solutions, and (2) scaling up efforts to engage cities in urban energy opportunities. Through multiple individual business decisions and investments, the private sector has a strong impact on the development of our cities. Private sector engagement is critical for the clean energy transition. 

Roundtable participants will share their perspectives on key urban energy challenges and opportunities and discuss innovative ways to better integrate the clean energy agenda into urban development policies and priorities at the national and local levels. The goal of this roundtable is to define needed analysis, national action, and international collaboration that can enable sustainable urban policy design and implementation.

View the pre-read presentation

Discussion Topics

  • What are the key urban challenges facing both developing and mature cities, and how can clean energy contribute to addressing these challenges?
  • What are the key urban policy levers at the national and sub-national levels that can facilitate adoption of more sustainable urban energy systems?
  • How are countries and cities approaching the sustainable urban energy challenge?
  • What policy and planning frameworks have been implemented that explicitly account for urban development and sustainable energy interdependencies? Have they been successful?
  • How can deeper analysis, national action, and international collaboration enable better urban policy design and implementation?  
  • What capacity building efforts are needed to fully empower cities to make the clean energy transition? 
  • What efforts have been implemented that create skills and experience in integrating sustainable energy into all aspect of city planning and management?
  • Is there a role for greater international collaboration to boost capacity building efforts?
  • Within the urban sustainability context, what are the priority areas for public–private coordination?   
  • How can identified synergies and opportunities for best practices lead to a supportive policy structure and improved planning and investment decisions?
  • What are the innovative ways that sustainability is being integrated into urban development finance and investment?
  • How can deeper analysis, national action, and international collaboration enable greater investment and innovative approaches to finance the clean urban energy transition?