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How Can Cities Save the Planet? Looking Back at our Discussions from the Bonn Climate Conference

In the session “How Can Cities Save the Planet? Energy Efficiency in the city as an accelerator towards net-zero” from Bonn in Germany, Alfa Laval gathered some top-of-the-line experts in energy efficiency and global policy to explore opportunities and barriers to accelerate sustainable cities to reach net zero. By scaling, sharing, and enabling energy-saving technologies, the carbon footprint of cities can be significantly reduced, but policy support is needed.
The 60th session of the Bonn Climate Change Conference recently took place in Bonn, Germany on the 3-13 of June. This annual event, organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), sets the stage for the forthcoming UN Climate Conference, COP29, in November by inviting negotiators from all nations to discuss the prerequisites for a successful negotiation at the COP29 in Baku this year. During the conference, Alfa Laval took to We Don’t Have Time’s stage on-site in the conference center to host the session “How Can Cities Save the Planet? Energy Efficiency in the city as an accelerator towards net-zero”.
According to the COP28 agreement, energy efficiency efforts must double by 2030 to give us a fighting chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C. With cities accounting for 80% of the global energy consumption and more than 70% of global carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency in heating and cooling systems, implementing sector coupling, and forming groundbreaking partnerships can make a huge difference.
Opening the event, Mark Watts, Executive Director of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, emphasized that COP28 demonstrated a clear need for leadership and that city governments must step up to show the benefits of developing sustainable and energy-efficient cities.
“We’ve already got the technologies, we’ve got public leadership, we’ve got private sector leadership, we’ve got to bring it all together. We’ve got to collaborate,” said Mark Watts, highlighting the good examples of Hong Kong using seawater in their district cooling system and London reusing waste heat from their subway through district heating. These practices must be shared and applied worldwide.
What followed was a panel discussion with Vida Rozite, Programme Manager, International Energy Agency (IEA), and Rosalinde van der Vlies, Clean Planet Director, European Commission, showcasing how the ambition to scale up energy efficiency is there, and the question now is how. Cities play a crucial role through legislation and innovation. “That’s the theme that we have been focusing on at the IEA in our recent report for the G7 presidents, where we look at how national governments can enable cities to take a leading role in climate action,” said Vida Rozite, focusing on the importance of collaboration.
Rosalinde van der Vlies highlighted the demand perspective, presenting the European Cities Mission that works with 100 European cities with the ambition to be climate-neutral by 2030, empowering them to be role models for other cities. By connecting these cities and encouraging them to use the power of procurement to drive demand for climate-friendly solutions, the mission enables innovation and scaling of energy efficiency. “It’s a massive undertaking. Success is not guaranteed, but we are advancing to achieve our goals and want to make sure that other cities feel inspired and start working as experimentation and innovation hubs for climate neutrality,” said Rosalinde.
From left to right: Catarina Rolfsdotter, We Don’t Have Time; Vida Rozite, International Energy Agency; Rosalinde van der Vlies, European Commission; Cassie Sutherland, C40 Cities; Anna Hall, Alfa Laval; Mattias Frumerie, Swedish COP Delegation
From left to right: Catarina Rolfsdotter, We Don’t Have Time; Vida Rozite, International Energy Agency; Rosalinde van der Vlies, European Commission; Cassie Sutherland, C40 Cities; Anna Hall, Alfa Laval; Mattias Frumerie, Swedish COP Delegation


Sharing examples can accelerate action

Continuing the discussion, Vida and Rosalinde were joined in the next panel by Mattias Frumerie, Climate Ambassador, Swedish Ministry of Climate and Enterprise, Anna Hall, Head of Public Affairs, Energy Division, Alfa Laval, and Cassie Sutherland, Managing Director, Climate Solutions and Networks, C40 Cities. When asked how to act based on recent IEA findings that annual progress on energy efficiency needs to double from 2% to 4% globally, Anna Hall focused on accelerating implementation. The IEA has provided the Energy Efficiency Policy Toolkit 2024 for governments to act, but each city and system needs customized solutions to improve energy efficiency. “The business round table echoed the toolkit for energy efficiency and brought forward that we need to put energy efficiency in the energy transformation plans. It’s time to implement at scale, and this is the decade of action.” said Anna, highlighting that private and public money must be unlocked for this purpose and energy efficiency needs to be considered in industry, buildings, and electrification.
Mattias Frumerie noted that it’s important to make national governments aware that we have the technologies needed to make cities significantly more efficient and sustainable and that cities are implementing them today. “There are solutions out there, and hopefully on the basis of those solutions we can engage with partners globally to create certainty among policymakers that it’s okay to go that extra mile in terms of aiming for even tougher emission reductions in your next round of Nationally Determined Contributions,” said Mattias.
Cassie Sutherland reiterated the potential of replicating solutions between cities: “This is where we can look at cities, look at the impacts, methods, and deployments, and we can ‘not reinvent the wheel’, but rather in this decade of action get to the point of scaling, implementing, and delivering at scale.” Taking examples from electric buses in Bogotá, power purchase agreements for 100% renewable energy in Rio de Janeiro, and Oslo using city procurement to influence the market for large electric construction equipment in the whole country, she showed that actions in cities can make a direct impact.

District heating and cooling as a solution to decarbonization

To wrap up the session, Anna and Mattias were joined by Aurélie Beauvais, Managing Director, Euroheat & Power, Katrine Bjerre Eriksen, Managing Director, SYNERGI, and David Radermacher, Vice President Sustainability & Climate, E.ON SE. Aurélie opened the session by speaking about how district energy is a resilient system that allows for efficient heating and cooling in the long term. However, a lot needs to happen before district heating and cooling systems can be implemented. “We supply 13% of the European heat demand today, we should be at 20% in 2030, which means around 3500 new networks and the modernization of thousands of kilometers of pipes. Of course, the challenge globally is even bigger, since in Europe we are doing quite well compared to the rest of the world when it comes to renewable integration,” said Aurélie.
Speaking on the role of private companies, David Radermacher pointed out that we are in the midst of a climate crisis, which means that energy infrastructure needs to be designed to keep cities livable: “90% of the heat in cities is wasted and we have to understand that reducing energy consumption and recovering wasted energy in cities is essential to achieving [our climate] targets.”
From left to right: Catarina Rolfsdotter, We Don’t Have Time; David Radermacher, E.ON SE; Aurélie Beauvais, Euroheat & Power; Katrine Bjerre Eriksen, SYNERGI; Anna Hall, Alfa Laval; Mattias Frumerie, Swedish Ministry of Climate and Enterprise
From left to right: Catarina Rolfsdotter, We Don’t Have Time; David Radermacher, E.ON SE; Aurélie Beauvais, Euroheat & Power; Katrine Bjerre Eriksen, SYNERGI; Anna Hall, Alfa Laval; Mattias Frumerie, Swedish Ministry of Climate and Enterprise

Katrine Bjerre Eriksen presented Denmark as a frontrunner in district heating. 65% of the households in Denmark are connected to district heating, showing by example “How we can expand district heating systems and also how we can use waste heat, which is a huge potential of energy which we are looking into in the coming years.”
When asked about policy needs, the panel agreed on the necessity of setting bold targets in the next round of setting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC’s) for energy efficiency. Anna Hall emphasized the importance of collaboration between public and private sectors and across the value chain to ensure that energy efficiency is integrated into the planning process at all stages. Aurélie Beauvais called for a European energy planning strategy to streamline energy efficiency management, unlock financing, and level the playing field for various technologies.
Katrine Bjerre Eriksen stressed that energy efficiency should be viewed as an investment to reduce energy bills rather than as a cost. Clear signals from policymakers are needed to boost the financial sector's confidence in investing in energy efficiency. David Radermacher highlighted the equity aspect, noting that investments in Africa are eight times more expensive than in Europe due to the higher risks factored into financing costs.
In the end, the discussions held during this conference were very important for the future of climate action. The outcomes of the Bonn Climate Change Conference will be instrumental in determining the success of COP29, as the discussions influence the updates of the countries’ NDCs.
These updates are vital for continuous work to reach our common climate targets. The new NDCs, set to be unveiled in February next year, will play a significant role in deciding whether the world can achieve the emissions reductions necessary to limit global warming and build resilience to climate impacts.
Watch the full Bonn climate conference broadcast on We Don’t Have Time Play.
https://youtu.be/69WA4XDE9HQ?t=8916


  • Wikas Raza

    1 w

    Great job weldone

    2
    • Princess

      1 w

      That was a valuable session.

      1
      • Patrick Kiash

        2 w

        A very important discussion for the future of climate action and even for now.

        1
        • Rukia Ahmed Abdi

          2 w

          This was an educative session.A big clap for your fantastic efforts

          2
          • dickson mutai

            2 w

            The commitment from both public and private sectors that was showcased here is inspiring...let's harness this momentum to drive meaningful change worldwide

            7
            • Jane Kamau

              2 w

              Good one

              3
              • Adam Wallin

                2 w

                Insightful examples from frontrunner cities, and I agree with the sentiment that these successes need to be shared so that more city governments across the world can implement them!

                6
                • Sarah Chabane

                  2 w

                  This was a great session! Thank you for your work 👏

                  9
                Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
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