Cities to accelerate carbon reductions


Stockholm (NordSIP) – McKinsey & Company has published a new report analysing the opportunities to accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions in cities. Focused acceleration: A strategic approach to climate action in cities to 2030, finds that prioritising efforts in four key areas could help cities achieve 90-100 percent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030, as stipulated by the UN SDGs and the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.

The McKinsey Center for Business and Environment partnered with C40 Cities, a network of mayors of the world’s largest cities committed to addressing climate change, to quantitatively assess the biggest opportunities for emission reduction for different types of cities around the world. The McKinsey report supplements Deadline 2020, an analysis published by C40 of the emissions-reduction pathway (particularly U.S.) cities would need to achieve to play their part in keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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One underlying challenge is that cities are stretched to meet multiple competing priorities. City leaders and planners must, therefore, prioritise actions around initiatives that can bring about systemic change. This includes working proactively with stakeholders to build and invest in the infrastructure and incentives to make significant progress towards changing current emission trajectories.

450 emissions-reduction actions identified in the C40 report were reviewed by McKinsey to prioritise 12 opportunities across four action areas with the greatest potential in most global cities to curb emissions. McKinsey’s analysis recommends a strategy of “focused acceleration” within these 12 carbon-reduction opportunities, based on a ‘proven management approach that more progress can be made by concentrating on a small number of high-value opportunities than by spreading efforts over hundreds of potential actions.’

Cities will be required to find creative ways to tackle operational challenges, including aligning stakeholders, supply chains, procurement practices and financing. The incremental investment necessary to achieve 2030 emissions targets is roughly $50 to $200 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent, a significant sum.

McKinsey’s suggestions, however, provide positive returns on investment in the mid- to long term, whether through direct cash flow for investors (e.g. renewables and efficiency improvements) or broader boosts to economic activity in the city (e.g. transit-oriented development). Up-front investments are paid back within five to ten years in many of the opportunities.

Download the report here.


Image: PHOTOCREO: Michal Bednarek-Shutterstock



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