Kyra Appleby, CDP: Tackling climate change is “a big economic opportunity” for cities

Ilario D'Amato
17 September 2015

Kyra Appleby, Head of CDP’s cities program

LONDON: Cities are on the frontline of climate change because they are the first layer of government able to protect their citizens and businesses, but they’re also seeing that “acting on climate change can have a big economic opportunity for them,” says Kyra Appleby, Head of CDP’s cities program, commenting on the organization’s latest research.

Today CDP released a paper analyzing the energy mix of over 300 cities around the world, finding that “if you look at cities in Latin America, up to 75% of the energy mix comes from clean sources,” says Kyra Appleby in an exclusive interview for The Climate Group’s digital channel Climate TV. And although there is a big difference in how they are achieving their clean targets, “the good news is that cities are taking action around the world.

“There are cities – like Cape Town in South Africa – that are focused on installing solar hot water heaters, which is very different from Taipei, where they are looking at the installation of photovoltaics. What they are doing is different, but what they have in common is that they are taking action to move towards clean electricity.”


The report from CDP highlights how a city’s investment in reducing emissions is not just good for the local environment but its citizens and businesses. “Over three quarters of the cities that we surveyed – and that’s over 300 cities around the world – said that acting on climate change presents an economic opportunity,” remarks Kyra Appleby. “And one of those economic opportunities they are focusing on was a chance to improve their energy security.”

However, such opportunities are not grasped by every city surveyed. The report states that Asia-Pacific cities are still very dependent on fossil fuels, with a mere 15% of their electricity mix coming from non-fossil fuels.

European cities average 59% for clean power in their energy mix; a good signal of the shift toward a cleaner economy but still not enough, given the financial and technical potential of the region.

The US and North Africa have a much more varied scene, with cities like San Francisco committed to sourcing 100% renewable energy. Kyra Appleby explains: “We have a world leader like the State of California, who is really pushing the clean electricity boundary, as well as cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. There’s a lot of synergy there that we have yet to explore.

“In Brazil, for instance, we have the states of Sao Paulo and Rio [de Janeiro] as well as both those cities reporting. So we really see a big opportunity to look at these data sets, as well as data that are coming from corporations located in the same locations.”


Both California and the two Brazilian states are part of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance, an initiative that brings together sub-national government leaders from around the world in a powerful, high-profile network that shares expertise, demonstrates impact and influences the international climate dialogue – members collectively account for 331 million people, 11% of global GDP and 2.6 Gigatons CO2 emissions.

This year is a very important year with the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris, the Conference of the Parties,” remarks Kyra Appleby in her Climate TV interview. “What we’ve seen emerging from that are two really interesting, important initiatives: the Compact of Mayors and the Compact of States and Regions. And through both those initiatives, city governments – and states and regions governments – are coming forward and making commitments to set targets to reduce their emissions and to act on climate change.”


The CDP report also underlines an encouraging trend for cities: more than a third of the ones reporting their energy mix get three quarters of their electricity from non-fossil fuel sources. Furthermore, over a third of the cities disclosing to CDP this year report having some kind of renewable energy target in place.

“Transparency is hugely important,” says Kyra Appleby. “It really allows you to keep score and to make comparisons around the world. So, our message to who’s not joined us is ‘start now’. Whatever you have is better than nothing.

“We’ve been working with a large city government in Latin America, and they said that going through the CDP process actually helped them changed the way they were thinking about risks and adaptation in their cities.”

CDP and The Climate Group are members of the We Mean Business coalition, along with The B TeamCeresPrince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and WBCSD. The coalition works with thousands of the world’s most influential businesses and investors, who understand the transition to a low carbon economy is the only way to secure sustainable economic growth and prosperity for all. 


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