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Why cities are critical to energy transition

Why cities make or break energy transition
So why do cities matter? Why do cities make or break the energy transition. Probably don’t have to convince you that cities are really important, but let’s quickly look at the key facts to make sure we’re all on the same page. First of all, cities are just a big share of the population. Today, 70% of the urban population live in urban areas, and this figure will increase by mid century to 85% of all Europeans. And we also see similar trends around the rest of the world. So it really means this is a trend that we need to take into account to understand why we start with cities. Secondly, a lot of people produce a lot of emissions.
So we definitely know that 72% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, so beyond Europe, come from cities, and we have to curb these emissions to tackle the climate crisis. Urban Mobility is a key part of this. In the EU, for example, 23% of the total energy use comes from urban mobility. So we definitely need to work on urban mobility to reduce overall energy use. But there’s more than just the fact of our population and emissions. There’s also the fact that there’s a big cultural impact that cities have. The Environment Agency, for example, said that cities are hubs of Creativity, Innovation and Learning and have the capacity to effect systematic changes across a range of critical environmental issues.
So put in simpler terms, ideas, movements, new ways of thinking, and new mindsets often come from cities. And we know this back from medieval times when many ideas first started in cities. So definitely, if we change how cities move how citizens living in cities move, then we can also affect the transport system more widely. So that’s really important. On top of this, in cities, we have a concentration of both the challenges and the opportunities, which has to do with density, we have a lot of people living in a relatively small area in cities. On the one hand, that’s a problem, because obviously, it creates a lot of congestion, noise, emissions, and also accidents.
On the other hand, it’s also an opportunity because people being close to each other also means that the distances are smaller, and you can more easily switch to walking and cycling, for example, electric or not when it comes to cycling. But also you can switch more easily to public and shared transport, use car sharing and when we need it obviously, you would also use cars, vans and trucks. So that really means that in cities we have both the solutions and the challenges, and even if we look at just energy, we can see that you can more easily generate energy locally, you consume it locally in cities.
And we’ll look at the example of Amsterdam later, that shows that really it’s possible to link the energy and the mobility transition in a very clever way. So all of this means that cities really matter. It’s really important that we look at urban mobility. Everyday today we have 185 million passengers on urban and suburban public transport systems. And that could be much more it could be much more in other forms of electrified transport. So obviously nothing fundamentally new to you, but we have to get urban mobility right if we want to overall switch mobility to a climate friendly, human friendly system.

Why do cities matter when they only represent ~3% of land on Earth?

Cities may only be a small part of the Earth’s surface, but they play a major role and can make or break energy transition. Given how many people live in cities, both challenges and opportunities are concentrated there.

In this video, Jens outlines why cities are so important, their capacity to effect change, and the volume of mobility across cities every day.

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Electrification of Urban Mobility: How to Get it Right

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