- Almost half (48%) of CDP’s A List cities are new additions in 2021
- Only 2.6% of world’s urban population lives in an A List city leading on environmental action
- UK sees largest year-on-year growth in a country’s A List cities, with almost treble the number from 2020
- North America’s representation on A List grows by 1/3 (32%) from 2020
- A List cities report twice as many climate mitigation and adaptation measures as non-A Listers
- 4/5 (81%) of A List cities collaborating with business
London, 18th November 2021: 95 cities across the globe have been named as leaders in environmental action and transparency in 2021 by CDP. Their combined population of 108 million is a tiny fraction (2.6%) of the estimated 4.2 billion people who live in the world’s cities1 though, highlighting the urgent need for more cities to raise their climate ambition for those who live and work within them post-COP26.
The cities were scored by CDP - the non-profit which runs the world’s environmental disclosure system for companies, cities, states and regions - in its fourth annual cities A List. Spanning every continent, they include London (UK), Los Angeles (U.S.), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Cape Town (South Africa), Tokyo (Japan) and Sydney (Australia). However, there is a marked absence of cities from mainland China, India and Russia - the world’s top three emitters, besides the USA, and countries with some of the world’s least ambitious climate targets - on the A List.
The 95 cities on the 2021 CDP Cities A List - almost half of them new to this year’s List (48% or 46 cities) - have received the highest score for their transparency and bold action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. To score an A, among other actions, a city must disclose publicly and have a city-wide emissions inventory, have set an ambitious emissions reduction target and a renewable energy target for the future, and have published a climate action plan. It must also complete a climate risk and vulnerability assessment and have a climate adaptation plan to demonstrate how it will tackle climate hazards.
North America accounts for the largest share of cities (41) on the 2021 A List, an increase of 10 cities from 2020. The USA has the most A List cities in the world (34), from Seattle and Santa Monica to Boston and Philadelphia, demonstrating how American cities stepped up to lead, and reaffirm their commitment to a net-zero future, alongside renewed leadership from the federal government. Europe is the continent with the next highest number of cities (37) on the A List, followed by Asia (8), Latin America (4), Oceania (4) and Africa (1).
The UK, the host of COP26, was the country with the single largest growth in A List cities from 2020. The number of British cities has nearly trebled (from four cities in 2020 to eleven cities this year, an increase of 175%), with seven new cities added to the A List - Edinburgh, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Reading, Southend-on-Sea and Sunderland.
Kyra Appleby, CDP Global Director of Cities, States and Regions, said:
“We are thrilled to champion the 95 cities from around the globe on CDP’s 2021 Cities A List. A new generation of climate conscious cities is showing what is possible when action replaces words – implementing innovative solutions to cut emissions and adapt to climate change, and demonstrating determined leadership on the defining issue of our time.
“The A List also shows the value of reporting environmental data - what gets measured gets managed - and there is clear momentum building here with over 1,000 cities reporting in 2021. As COP26 has made crystal clear though, there needs to be a paradigm shift in action to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
“We hope the example of A List cities’ efforts and actions will encourage far greater numbers of cities to ramp up their climate ambition, and work together with government and business, to safeguard our planet for generations to come.”
Antha Williams, Climate and Environment Program Lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies, said:
“As cities continue to ramp up their climate ambitions, it’s more important than ever to utilize data to track their progress.
“CDP’s 2021 Cities A List demonstrates the measurable impact of cities’ climate leadership and confirms how vital transparency is. By investing in city climate action, we can empower even more cities to make the A List, elevating their local impact to a global scale.”
City climate leadership in action
Clear and swift momentum in disclosure and action is building - for the first time, over 1,000 cities are reporting their environmental impact through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System in 2021. Meanwhile, 965 cities received a score from CDP in 2021, a substantial rise on the 591 cities scored in 2020. This increase is due to a range of factors, from more cities reporting after the coronavirus pandemic to nearly 200 new Japanese cities reporting, thanks to a strategic collaboration between CDP and the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, coordinating efforts between the government and cities.
A List cities are demonstrating their climate leadership through concerted and effective action2, just as national governments were asked to do at COP26. They report taking roughly twice as many mitigation and adaptation measures as non-A List cities, and also identify more than twice as many opportunities - such as the development of sustainable transport and clean technology sectors - arising from the shift to a net-zero world. For example:
- Investment in public, bike and pedestrian infrastructure in Seattle has seen single occupant vehicle use in the city fall to 25% of commuter trips
- Cape Town’s Small-Scale Energy Generation programme has led to the uptake of solar panels and small wind turbines, connected to the city’s electricity grid, on over 1,200 residential and more than 320 commercial buildings
- The RE:NEW programme in London has helped boroughs and social housing providers make over 135,000 homes more energy efficient
- Melbourne is constructing an 80MW wind farm to supply 14 organisations in the city
- Florence has analysed the entire basin of the River Arno and designed €200 million worth of infrastructure projects to protect against future flooding
- Reclaimed water from two sewage treatment plants in Taipei is used to cool the city in heat waves and provide to citizens free of charge for planting and watering
- Rosario is planting 6,000 native trees to conserve the Argentine city’s natural resources and vegetation
- Auckland is strengthening its seawall to protect against storm surges and one metre of sea rise over the next century
- Expansion of zero-emission buildings is a key part of Tokyo’s comprehensive Zero-Emission strategy to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.
Setting science-based climate targets - representing a city’s fair and proportionate share of global emissions reductions - is one of the most effective actions cities can take to rapidly cut emissions in line with limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. CDP encourages all cities to join the UN-backed Race to Zero, committing to interim and net-zero targets by 2050, as well as the UN-backed Race to Resilience, to build resilience and adapt to the effects of climate change. Collaborating with the private sector is also a vital action for cities to take, with the greater access to funding, resources and innovation created driving climate action. 81% of A List cities (77) are collaborating with business.
Designed to encourage and support cities to ramp up their climate action and ambition, CDP’s Cities A List is based on environmental data disclosed through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System. CDP has four scoring bands for cities’ climate action: Disclosure (D/D-), Awareness (C/C-), Management (B/B-) and Leadership (A/A-), with cities who score an A at Leadership level being on the A list. Cities tend to improve their score over time, but need more resources - especially those in developing countries on the front line of climate change - to be able to report and increase their climate mitigation and adaptation ambition.
To reflect the level of ambition needed to achieve 1.5°C targets, the bar for entry to the A List has been raised. In 2020, 14.9% of cities scored received an A (88 out of 591), while in 2021, 9.8% of cities scored received an A (95 out of 965).
- The latest figures from the United Nations (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Urbanization Prospects 2018) estimate the global urban population to be 4.2 billion people. 108 million people live in A List cities, which calculated as a percentage of the global urban population, is 2.6%.
- View data on climate action reported by 2021 A List cities here. Visit CDP's Open Data Portal for more data on climate action in cities, states and regions.