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Global Standard to Measure Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Cities Launched

Air Pollution in Hong Kong
Air Pollution in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. © Yym1997 / Wikimedia Commons-GNU Free Documentation License

Lima, Peru On December 8, the World Resources Institute (WRI)C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) launched the first widely endorsed standard for cities to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions at a COP20 event featuring mayors and officials from cities around the world.

The Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) uses a robust and clear framework to establish credible emissions accounting and reporting practices, thereby helping cities develop an emissions baseline, set mitigation goals, create more targeted climate action plans and track progress over time. By using the GPC, cities will also strengthen vertical integration of data reporting to other levels of government, and should gain improved access to local and international climate financing.

Cities are an integral part of the global effort to tackle climate change, but they have been lacking a consistent and transparent way to measure and report emissions – until now. Over 100 cities worldwide are now using beta versions of the GPC to measure their emissions, including 35 cities that piloted the standard over the last year. The 100 cities using GPC represent over 1.1 Gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions and are home to more than 170 million people, comparable to Brazil’s entire emissions and population.

“If we want to turn the tide against climate change, cities will need to lead the way. Compact and efficient cities can dramatically reduce emissions and will drive innovation and sustained economic growth,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, President & CEO, World Resources Institute. “Until recently, there has been no consistent way to measure city-level emissions. Now, that has changed. We now have a common international standard to inform strategies to cut emissions and create better, more livable cities.”

Inventory methods that cities have used to date vary significantly, raising questions around data quality, and limiting the ability to aggregate local and sub-national greenhouse gas emissions data. With the GPC, however, cities are required to measure and report a comprehensive inventory of greenhouse gas emissions following the same accounting principles established by the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.

The GPC also underpins the global Compact of Mayors, the world’s largest cooperative effort among cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, track progress and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The Compact – endorsed by pre-eminent global city networks – has adopted the GPC as part of its core activities to raise the level of ambition and quality of city greenhouse gas inventory reporting. Using GPC, cities can report emissions through the carbonn Climate Registry, the Compact’s designated central repository, as well as through existing city reporting platforms such as CDP.

“The Compact of Mayors that we launched at the UN Climate Summit is drawing attention to the powerful work cities are doing to confront climate change and helping them build on their progress,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and C40 Board Chair. “The GPC’s standardized system for measuring and reporting emissions is a critical component of the Compact. It will help cities see what climate strategies are working, better target their resources, and hold themselves accountable for results. The more cities take part in the Compact and adopt the GPC, the greater impact it will have.”

“Building a greenhouse gas emissions inventory enables city leaders to manage their emissions reduction efforts, allocate resources and develop comprehensive climate action plans,” said C40 Chair, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. “With the launch of the GPC, cities now have a consistent, transparent and internationally recognized approach to measuring and reporting citywide emissions, allowing for credible comparison and aggregation across timescales and geographies. I strongly encourage other cities around the world to join the Compact of Mayors and take up this new standard as a key step in the global fight against climate change.”

Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI, said, “As a global city network, we support local governments with practical technical guidance and conduct climate advocacy on their behalf in various international forums. We do this to guide their local climate action and achieve ambitious goals. This new Protocol is one of the most strategic documents released this year to support cities and towns across the globe. We hope all local governments will use the GPC and report according to this new standard.”

WRI, C40 and ICLEI – with the support of the World Bank, UN-HABITAT, and UNEP – jointly developed the GPC over the last three years following the GHG Protocol standard development process. The process included engagement with 29 advisory committee members, more than 200 stakeholders, pilots in 35 cities, and workshops in Beijing, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, London, New Delhi and Dar es Salaam.