United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Ahead of Paris Climate Talks, European Cities Embrace UNEP`s District Energy Initiative


Another Important Step towards the Modernization of District Energy Systems in Europe and Central Asia

Tallinn -- Eight months after governments and civil society united to catalyse global climate action at the Climate Summit 2014 in New York, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announces the regional launch of the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative to a positive reception by local and national governments, and the private sector.

The capital cities of Serbia and Poland: Belgrade and Warsaw, as well as the city of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, signed up to the Initiative. These cities were joined by countries including Croatia.

The launch of the Initiative saw the kick-off of collaboration between the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, and UNEP in the area of district energy.

After years at the bottom of the agenda, district energy systems are now emerging as a key element of climate change response. A transition to modern district energy could enable cities and countries to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy or carbon neutral targets, according to the 'District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy' report recently launched by UNEP in collaboration with the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency (C2E2), Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), and UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

The report highlights how local governments are uniquely positioned to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy as managers of energy infrastructure, providers of services, and as important actors in catalyzing local investment for district energy systems, playing a central role in addressing the associated risks and costs. Several cities such as Dubai, Munich, Tokyo, Paris and Warsaw have attracted more than US$150 million of investment in their respective district energy systems between 2009 and 2014.

Champion cities of the Initiative, such as London, showed leadership by committing themselves to work with other cities to support the uptake of modern district energy.

On the sidelines of the regional launch, IFC presented the findings of the regional study 'Private Sector Participation in District Heating', covering several countries including Mongolia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, focusing on improving the enabling framework for private sector investment in these countries. Also during the launch, Helsinki, one of UNEP's champion cities, received the 4th Global District Energy Climate Award.


Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP: 'Our ambition to keep the emissions below a 2°C scenario has led us to focus on district energy in cities, which could contribute up to 58 per cent of the required energy sector emissions' reduction by 2050 and reduce primary energy consumption by up to 50 per cent.' - based on Achim Steiner's video message of 2 March 2015.

Sinisa B. Mali, PhD CFA, Mayor of Belgrade: 'The City of Belgrade is pleased to take part in the UNEP's Global District Energy in Cities Initiative that aims to promote knowledge transfer and capacity building in the District Heating (DH) sector. By working with the UNEP team, we will be better placed to achieve our energy and climate policy objectives through the public utility, Belgrade District Heating. This collaboration will enable us to define sound strategies and identify investment objectives that will create long-term infrastructure development opportunities for both our DH company and potential investors.'

Alexander Sharabaroff, Operations Officer (Energy), IFC: 'Overall, the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative offers a great platform for cooperation among cities, the private sector and multilateral development institutions. District energy is an essential part of the agenda for sustainable cities, district heating and cooling offer a tremendous, cost-effective opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving energy security and providing affordable energy solutions. The IFC looks forward to working together with UNEP to accelerate the modernization of district energy.'

Lars Tveen, President of Danfoss Heating Segment: 'As this UNEP report puts forward, local authorities and governments are uniquely positioned to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy systems which are key to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius target. We will not achieve the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative without modern district energy systems. With Belgrade joining today as the first pilot city in Eastern Europe, following on from Rajkot, India joining at the Asian launch of the Initiative earlier this month, it is an encouraging sign that governments are beginning to realize how much district energy has to offer. There is still more to be done but we hope to work with other cities on the scale up of modern district energy to achieve the goals we have set with UNEP in New York.'

Peter North, Senior Manager - Programme Delivery, Sustainable Energy at Greater London Authority: 'We look forward to sharing our experiences with the cities and countries present today as well as those of the District Energy in Cities Initiative globally and we invite cities to join the initiative. This initiative is aligned with London's thinking and approach of removing barriers to mobilize public and private investment and expertise in modern district energy in order to cost-effectively achieve multiple policy objectives including our carbon targets. Plenty of money exists and what is lacking is the capacity to develop well-structured projects and to coordinate the various stakeholders involved to reduce development costs of district energy which can be 15% of capital expenditures (CAPEX). This is exactly what we have done in London and what UNEP aims to do with this initiative. Through project structuring and coordination we transformed ?3 million of funding from the EU into £25 million of investment in district heating in just 3-4 years with £150 million of projects under development,' he added.

About the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative:

The Global District Energy in Cities Initiative is part of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform, launched at last year's Climate Summit, when over 50 countries and cities and over a dozen businesses announced large-scale new commitments on energy efficiency that will significantly reduce emissions and lower energy costs. These commitments focus on five energy efficiency sector initiatives, or 'accelerators.', with the District Energy in Cities Initiative being one of them. While UNEP co-chairs the SE4ALL Initiative Energy Efficiency Committee and leads 4 of the current 5 EE Accelerators (on lighting, vehicle efficiency, appliances and district energy), the World Resources Institute (WRI) is leading the Building Accelerator.

Cities and other local stakeholders are invited to join the Global District Energy in Cities Initiative, and thus further contribute to the global SE4ALL energy efficiency efforts, as a global role model and leader. This will also be an important sign of political will of urban stakeholders on the Road to COP21 in Paris end of this year where cities are high on the agenda for reaching a meaningful outcome.

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