When stepping off a train or plane to visit a city for the first time, you wonder: will it live up to expectations, will it look like it does in the movies? Then the towering skyline of New York City, Hong Kong or Tokyo hits you and it takes your breath away. As a tourist it’s exciting; however, viewed through the lens of a policy maker with the task of making those buildings energy efficient, it’s a daunting prospect.

The buildings that make up the impressive skylines of our cities can account for up to 75-80% of a city’s total emissions. Buildings can also last for over 100 years – much longer than other energy-using infrastructure. In fact, C40’s Deadline 2020 research revealed that it is the buildings sector where the highest proportion of actions must be taken in order for cities to follow a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement, and limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. Deadline 2020 also revealed that those actions need to take place on a huge scale and in a very short space of time. The next four years are critical in making a difference.

Through C40’s Private Building Efficiency Network, cities work together to improve the energy efficiency of existing commercial and residential buildings. In 2014 several cities, led by Tokyo, developed the report Urban Efficiency: a global survey of building energy efficiency policies in cities. The report incorporated best practices from around the world, including financial incentives, sectoral benchmarking, and building optimisation programmes into city energy plans and roadmaps. Other cities used it as an evidence base to push for the introduction of new, ambitious building energy policies or expand already successful schemes. We hope the next instalment of this report will prove just as valuable.

Urban Efficiency II: Seven Innovative City Programmes for Existing Building Energy Efficiency, serves as a reference and evidence base for city officials developing or improving building energy policies. For example, cities looking to set up financial incentive schemes can explore how Seoul has not only set up their Building Retrofit Program Loan Support Scheme to reduce the administrative burden to the city and taxpayers, but has also given extra incentives to building owners by negotiating reduced prices on energy efficiency measures such as insulated doors and windows. This has resulted in 4,200 energy efficiency retrofits since 2012 with an estimated saving of 25,841 tCO2.

Those cities looking to bring in reporting programmes can learn from Tokyo’s efforts to engage small and medium entities. Tokyo now has 6 times more organisations reporting through their voluntary Carbon Reduction Reporting Program compared to the mandatory submission programme using a variety of incentives, such as eligibility for retrofitting subsidies, tax credits and loan support schemes; benchmarking performance against peers and staff training. From FY2010 to FY2014, the programme achieved an average electricity consumption reduction of 18.2% across reporting facilities.

These are just some of the best practice examples highlighted in the Urban Efficiency II report. To limit warming to 1.5 degrees, all cities, not just C40 cities, will need to take action. C40 and Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) are pleased to share the valuable lessons and analysis in this report with policy makers around the world.

Read the full report here.

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