C40 Building Energy 2020 Programme – helping cities to transform their building stock for a low carbon future

Around three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions come from cities, and the C40/ Arup Deadline2020 report shows that building energy use accounts for over half of total city emissions on average. This means that decarbonising buildings in cities – by making them more efficient so they use less energy, and by cleaning up the energy that they do use – is one of the most fundamental things that we can do to avoid dangerous climate change. The recent report “Focused Acceleration” launched by McKinsey and C40 at COP23 backs this up – of the twelve priority actions that cities can take in order to tackle climate change to 2030, over half – seven - relate to energy and buildings. The pathway needs to be towards almost all buildings, both new and existing, being net zero carbon by 2050. 

The challenges in making this happen quickly enough are colossal, requiring rapid mobilisation of supply chains, finance, citizen engagement, gathering and reporting of building energy use data, and enforcement of appropriate planning and building standards. Cities can’t do this alone, but they can access many powers and levers to accelerate action. The BE2020 programme is working alongside the existing C40 city networks between 2017 and 2020 to help cities overcome barriers to the implementation of policies and programmes to deliver low and zero carbon buildings at scale.

The BE2020 programme is made possible by funding from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the ClimateWorks Foundation. As the programme develops, guides, manuals, case studies and other outcomes will be uploaded to this web page, and shared extensively across the C40 network of over 90 leading global cities. We estimate that BE2020 will directly save at least 76 MtCO2 per year by 2030 –equivalent to nearly twice the annual emissions of Greater London – and much more indirectly through inspiring action by cities within and beyond the C40 network. It is complemented by similarly ambitious efforts of partner organisations, like the City Energy Project in the U.S. and the World Green Building Council’s net zero carbon buildings project.

BE2020 will also link to and form a vital part of the 1.5 degree city Climate Action Plans being developed by every C40 city between now and 2020. And it also has the potential to make a real difference to the air quality problems of cities like Beijing by displacing and reducing the need for dirty fossil fuel energy systems.

The Programme

The programme will support more than 50 of the world’s largest cities to take action and develop policies that urgently reduce emissions from existing buildings, and avoid carbon lock-in by ensuring that all new buildings are low or zero emissions. It will also help cities to use buildings as sources of low carbon energy, by installing solar panels or capturing waste heat. Through the Cities Finance Facility, C40 will support cities to make those plans investment-ready.

The Building Energy 2020 Programme will deliver support to cities through a variety of methods: embedding technical advisors in selected cities and providing short periods of consultancy guidance to overcome specific barriers, developing city-led research projects, and hosting action-oriented workshops, all while leveraging the experience of and sharing lessons with city peers through C40’s four building and energy networks.

The main components of the programme are:

  • China country programme – embedding advisors into four major cities in China to help transformationally decarbonise their buildings by piloting and developing low carbon building codes, developing energy benchmarking and quota systems, retrofitting municipal and residential buildings, and replacing dirty fossil fuel heating systems with cleaner renewable alternatives.
  • South Africa programme – working with Johannesburg, Tshwane, Durban and Cape Town via embedded expert advisors to develop low and zero carbon building codes, going beyond national requirements, and write them into legislation by 2020.
  • Clean Energy programme – working with cities to help accelerate the deployment of decentralised renewable generation, clean CHP schemes, and power purchase agreements for clean energy.
  • Private building retrofit and data policy programme – helping cities to collect, analyse and report building energy data to accelerate the retrofit of private buildings. Moreover, C40 are developing an in depth data manual on private and municipal building energy data collection methodologies and analysis.
  • Residential retrofit programme – working with cities on programmes to retrofit residential building fabric, heating and lighting systems, and engage building occupants
  • Municipal retrofit programme – enabling cities to lead by example through deep retrofit programmes for municipal buildings such as city halls
  • New buildings programme – using building code and planning requirements to ensure that new buildings are ultra high efficiency and suitable for a net zero carbon economy.