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Symposium 2014

Proposal - Sustainable and low carbon development plans for cities

The Challenge

Projections say that by 2050, the world will have undergone the largest and fastest period of urban expansion in human history. The urban population is estimated to double, while at the same time, the ...

Projections say that by 2050, the world will have undergone the largest and fastest period of urban expansion in human history. The urban population is estimated to double, while at the same time, the total urban area is projected to triple. City dwellers in emerging and developing countries, and their resource-intensive lifestyles, are increasingly going to create challenges in supporting many aspects of daily life. More urban dwellers require more resources such as water, land, food, and energy. These increases in demand put pressure on natural ecosystems in supporting cities. In addition, climate change, rising sea levels, or extreme weather events pose additional threats to cities. Infrastructure failure, such as electricity grid disruptions, flooding, diseases, and large-scale pollution, are some of the potential consequences.

Clean, efficient, affordable and reliable energy services are indispensable for growth, development and prosperity. Cities require an uninterrupted supply of energy to run their activities. They consume about 75 per cent of global primary energy and emit between 50 and 60 per cent of the world’s total greenhouse gases. When indirect emissions generated by urban inhabitants are included, this figure rises to approximately 80 per cent. Buildings also consume vast amounts of energy at all stages of their existence. Unfortunately, more than 80% of the global energy supply comes from fossil fuels. Emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are major contributors to the unpredictable effects of climate change, and to urban air pollution and acidification of land and water. A step change is needed in how we generate and supply electricity, making a transition to decentralised energy and power based on low and zero carbon technologies.

UNDP is supporting countries moving toward competitive, low-carbon economies to mitigate the negative environmental impact from the electricity supply industry by providing technical assistance in the development of their national renewable energy agendas and increasing energy efficiency efforts in a number of countries as part of low carbon development strategies. One of the key RE sources promoted is the use of solar photovoltaic systems to be connected to the national grid and installed at the buildings mainly in the urban areas. For example, UNDP partnered with the Government of Malaysia to pilot the Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) technology in more than 50 sites which consist of residential houses, commercial buildings and including schools in Klang Valley and various cities in Malaysia. Buildings which use BIPV technology, score high on energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, sustainable site planning and management, use of material and resources, water efficiency and innovativeness. Malaysia’s Renewable Energy Act facilitates the feed in tariff mechanism to encourage private developers and residential owners to install such systems.

Moving forward, scaling up of deployment of grid-connected PVs should be considered for major cities nationwide and notably in public sector buildings. The use of grid-connected BIPV technology can be replicated in other cities and globally in promoting the use of clean, renewable energy, provided the necessary supporting policies and sustainable financing are in place. In addition, efforts should be intensified to encourage further research and development to improve the standards, reliability and quality of domestically produced technologies and to reduce the costs of PV systems. South-south collaboration to improve the overall technical and non-technical capacities of governments and the private sector in developing countries to design, develop, and fully utilize the BIPV technology, as well as to develop local BIPV services and related industries should also be prioritized.

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