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Net Zero Carbon Cities: An Integrated Approach

Net Zero Carbon Cities: An Integrated Approach

Across the globe, cities account for nearly two-thirds of the CO2 emissions that are causing our planet’s looming climate crisis. Skyscrapers, shopping malls, SUVs, air conditioners – throughout the globe, homes, buildings, and transportation in cities consume a vast amount of high CO2 content energy. Right now, just over half the population lives in cities, but that is projected to rise to 68% by 2050 – resulting in even higher energy consumption (currently 78% of the world’s primary energy) and carbon emissions.

In order to keep global temperature increases to 1.5-degrees or below, cities have to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. To meet our climate goals, policy makers, businesses, infrastructure and real estate developers, city administrators, civil society and the financial sector all have a role to play.

While more cities are ramping up their commitments and progress to becoming net carbon zero, they still have a long way to go. With climate change accelerating, we need more action on three fronts. First, we need to have more energy produced from renewable sources. Second, we need more cars, public transportation and heating to be powered by electricity. Third, we need everything from factories and homes to transport systems and consumer devices to become more energy efficient. A smart energy infrastructure through digitalization is key to integrating these actions to make the transition successful.

Systemic Efficiency

By taking a holistic approach, cities have an opportunity to boost their resilience to a range of future climate and health-related crises, and to create jobs and other economic and health benefits. This approach, defined as “systemic efficiency,” encompasses efficiency, clean electrification, smart digital technology, and efficient buildings and infrastructure, along with a circular economy approach to water, waste and materials. Central to this approach is innovation, which lies at the interfaces of buildings, energy, transportation and water systems.

Urbanization, growing populations and climate change are key challenges cities must address. Together, the city leaders and business have an opportunity to rethink urban planning, energy policy and the built living environment to ensure sustainable ecosystems and human wellness.

Systemic Efficiency aims to enable a decarbonized, highly electrified and resilient city ecosystem though ultra-efficient buildings and smart energy infrastructure.

Program Impact Story


For more information or to participate in upcoming workshops and activities, contact Philip Lake at, and Kalin Bracken at

Livestreamed session from Annual Meeting at Davos

Davos Agenda 2021: Building “Net-Zero” Cities (Option 1)

Davos Agenda 2021: Building “Net-Zero” Cities (Option 2)

Davos 2020: Creating a Carbon-Neutral Future

Davos 2019: Net-zero energy buildings for sustainability and well-being - Khee Poh Lam

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