Home   »   Transitioning to Low-Carbon Cities

Transitioning to Low-Carbon Cities

Context: Due to the impact on environment, low-carbon cities are crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change.

More on the News

  • In 2020 alone, cities emitted 29 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This makes their critical in climate change.
  • Transitioning to low-carbon or even net-zero cities requires integration of mitigation and adaptation options in multiple sectors through a measure known as ‘sector-coupling approach’.

What is Energy-System Transition?

  • Energy-system transition or energy transition is a broad shift in technologies and behaviors that are required to replace one source of energy with another. The current energy transition is mostly aimed at moving away from fossil fuel-based production and consumption model.
  • Drivers of current energy-system transition:
    • Climate change: The rise in global temperatures and the subsequent changes in climate have forced the global community to actively pursue energy transition goals.
    • Energy security: Many countries are trying to reduce dependence on energy imports in form of fossil fuels. This has forced them to adopt other sources of energy.
    • Long term economic benefits: The cost of energy generated through renewable energy sources such as solar and wind has drastically reduced. On a long term, these investments will save significant import cost of fossil fuels.
    • Development: New energy sources have the capability to generate employment, industrial growth and brings development.
    • Health benefits: Transition to clean energy will lower the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution and reduce health costs.
  • Implementation of energy-system transition: Transition must occur both on the demand and the supply side.
    • Supply side mitigation measures include phasing out fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix and using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
    • Demand side mitigation would include ‘avoid, shift, improve’ framework to reduce the demand for materials and energy, and substituting the demand for fossil fuels with renewables.
    • Carbon-dioxide removal (CDR) technologies must be implemented to address residual emissions in the energy sector.

Strategies for Low-Carbon Transition

  • Policy overhaul: Policies that help in reducing carbon footprint must be at the centre of strategy. Policies must be framed by considering city’s spatial form, land-use pattern, level of development, and the state of urbanization.
  • Recycling and repurposing: Cities can retrofit and repurpose its infrastructure to increase energy efficiency and reduce unnecessary carbon emission.
  • Promote public transport:  City authorities must promote public as well as active transport like bicycling and walking. Usage of individual vehicles must be discouraged.
  • Renewable energy usage: Cities can electrify public transport and set up renewable-based district cooling and heating networks. This will reduce usage of excess fossil-fuel based electric energy.
  • Collocating housing and jobs: Cities must be designed in such a way that places of work must be closer to residential complexes, thus reducing transport energy demand.
  • Green building codes: New emerging cities can mandate building codes that mandate net-zero energy use and retrofit existing buildings that use low-emission construction material.

Issues concerning energy transition

  • Economic burden on developing countries: Hurried transitioning to renewable-energy sources may disproportionately affect groups of people or communities in developing economies, who are excessively dependent on fossil fuel-based energy.
  • Dispossession of land for renewable energy projects: Large-scale renewable energy projects, such as solar energy parks, could dispossess communities of their lands, thereby affecting their livelihoods.
  • Revenue of developing countries: Many under-developed and developing countries in Africa are heavily dependent on fossil-fuel exports for generating revenue.
    • Transitioning away from fossil fuels could devastate their economies, with severe consequences on the workers employed in the fossil-fuel sector.
  • Energy poverty: Many communities in developed countries suffer from energy poverty and inequity due to high energy costs, low incomes, and inadequate infrastructure.
  • This can crowd out expenses for other facilities like healthcare and nutrition.

Way Forward

  • Ensuring a smooth transition to low-carbon energy systems in cities requires strategic and bespoke efforts. The transition must be socially inclusive, aimed at eradicating poverty.
  • Efforts in this regard must be directed at governance and planning, achieving behavioral shifts, promoting technology and innovation, and building institutional capacity.
  • There is a need for efforts to address the root causes of energy and environmental injustices. This includes mitigation and adaptation responses that engage multiple stakeholders in energy governance and decision-making, promoting energy-efficiency, enhancing climate investments, and adopting indigenous knowledge system.

Global Energy Transition Index

  • World Economic Forum’s Global Energy Transition Index measures 115 countries’ readiness to shift to stable, efficient, accessible, and inclusive energy systems.
  • Dimensions:
    • Economic development and growth
    • Sustainability
    • Energy protection and access
    • In the 2021 index, India is ranked at the 87th position among 115 countries.

Sharing is caring!

Download your free content now!


We have received your details!

We'll share General Studies Study Material on your E-mail Id.

Download your free content now!

We have already received your details!

We'll share General Studies Study Material on your E-mail Id.

Incorrect details? Fill the form again here

General Studies PDF

Thank You, Your details have been submitted we will get back to you.