Planet’s largest cities commit to measuring and reporting emissions

By Ed King
RTCC in Bonn

Forty of the world’s most populous cities have launched a programme to measure, report and verify their carbon emissions.

Smog is by no means the sole preserve of developing cities. (Source: Flickr/AustinEvan)

The deal – the first of its kind involving so many cities – includes the likes of Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Paris, Portland – USA and Taipei.

Brokered by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership group, the new protocol could play a key role in harmonizing emission measurement and reporting processes across the world.

The protocol will initially be piloted in selected cities to establish a single standard to measure greenhouse gas emissions.

It should provide policymakers with more understanding of what the key drivers of emissions within cities are, and what mitigation programmes have had the most success.

Speaking to RTCC just after the launch, ICLEI President and former Vancouver deputy Mayor David Cadman said the announcement heralded a new age in climate change policymaking.

ICLEI President David Cadman from Responding to Climate Change on Vimeo.

“Nations of the world get together and say – we’d like to have a greenhouse gas protocol but its got to be measurable, reportable and verifiable – and that’s very complicated. We go away – put it together and say: ‘here’s MRV, we’re doing it’.

“We take the straw men that are put up by national governments for not doing things, and knock them down and show how we can do things.”

Cadman expects the numbers of cities involved to swell rapidly over the next year – predicting that over 40 Indian cities could be reporting in the next two years.

Dry run

ICLEI’s climate team stress this is a pilot – with an initial aim to clarify the MRV process for cities – after which the scheme can be rolled out across the world.

They expect to resolve complex issues such as where emissions from vehicles in transit between cities belong, and how to allocate power station emissions when some plants feed three or four conurbations.

Data harmonisation sounds boring – but it would lend clarity to an area that for long has been clouded by a bewildering variety of measurements and claims from cities across the world.

Perhaps because of this low starting point – Cadman says that despite his delight at yesterday’s agreement – he doesn’t expect all signatories to deliver.

“It will vary. There are a group of them who have been deeply involved in this process that I think will implement it very quickly. They want to be shown as leaders,” he said.

“There will be others who are less keen, and there will be others who are keen but who don’t have the resources – there will be a mix.

“I think we’ll be able to show in 2, 3, 4, 5 years a very substantive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a number of cities around the world that will show that if nations acted in the same way we could be much much farther ahead.”

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