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Which cities make the climate change A-list?

The international non-profit, CDP, has awarded 43 global cities the top grade for climate leadership and action in its first ranking on climate change.

Barcelona is one of the 7 per cent to be awarded the A grade
Barcelona is one of the 7 per cent to be awarded the A grade

Environmental impact non-profit CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) has allocated 43 global cities top ranking in their action to cut emissions and set climate strategies.


Over 625 cities reported through CDP’s environmental disclosure platform in 2018 (of which 596 were scored). They have been awarded an ‘A’ to ‘D-’ score based on how effectively they are managing, measuring and tackling greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate-related risks including water security.


Who are the climate change leaders?


Barcelona, London, Paris, Cape Town, Hong Kong and San Francisco are among the 7 per cent that have received the top score for climate leadership and action.


Five cities have city-wide 100 per cent renewable energy targets – including Paris, San Francisco and Canberra – and one city (Reykjavík) has reached 100 per cent already.

“The need for action on climate change has never been more urgent, as the latest report from the IPCC has warned. Cities house more than half of the world’s population and are responsible for over 70 per cent of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions, so they could make or break efforts to tackle climate change,” said Kyra Appleby, global director for cities, states and regions at CDP.


“Just 7 per cent of cities [which] reported to CDP in 2018 received an A. We urge cities worldwide to step up their action, set targets in line with what the latest science says is needed to prevent dangerous climate change, and transparently share their progress.”


An ‘A’ score through CDP, which runs the global environmental reporting system for companies and subnational governments, means a city demonstrates strong climate adaptation and mitigation strategies, and consistently tracks its emissions.

"Cities house more than half of the world’s population and are responsible for over 70 per cent of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions"

Leading action looks different around the world, depending on the size of the city, the size of its emissions, and its susceptibility to extreme weather events.


Actions being taken by A-list cities include:

  • London: introduced an ultra-low emissions zone on April 8, 2019, this sees drivers with older, more polluting cars paying more to drive in central London in a bid to clean up the city’s air.
  • Calgary: is building a new light rail system named the Green Line. The first stage will be completed in 2026 and is expected cut 30,000 tonnes of CO2e from the city’s traffic emissions every year, the equivalent of taking more than 23,000 cars off the road each year.
  • The Hague: in its seaside resort of Scheveningen, the city has built a new waterfront boulevard. Invisible to the average citizen, a kilometre-long dike can be found beneath the boulevard, offering another layer of protection from coastal flooding.  
  • Taipei: tackling drought is a top priority for the city which has fixed 2,200 water leaks saving 613,300 tonnes of water per year since 2015.

All 43 cities on the A-list have ambitious targets to cut emissions, with 13 cities aiming to be climate neutral or carbon neutral by 2050. Among these are Melbourne, Reykjavík and The Hague. Melbourne aims to be carbon neutral by 2020, Reykjavík by 2040 and The Hague by 2030.


Four cities on CDP’s cities A-list (Canberra, Paris, Minneapolis and San Francisco) have a target to have all energy used in the city coming from renewable sources.


Reykjavík has already achieved this target. By and large cities are at different stages when it comes to decarbonising their energy grids. Paris, Minneapolis, and San Francisco source 35 per cent, 24 per cent and 59 per cent of their energy respectively from renewable sources.


Facing up to the climate challenge


CDP said this is the first time it has released a list of cities awarded an A in a bid to drive up ambition in the face of the growing urgency of the climate challenge.


The latest climate science from the IPCC shows the global economy needs to halve global emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050 to have a good chance of keeping global temperatures within 1.5°C of warming.


Every year, hundreds of cities report their climate data through CDP’s environmental disclosure platform and gain data-driven insights into gaps and opportunities for climate policy-development, resource and risk management and signal projects in need of investment.


In doing so they demonstrate ambition, transparency and good governance. All publicly disclosed data is made available for free public use on CDP’s open data portal.


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