Global standard launched to measure, report city greenhouse gas emissions

by Brianna Crandall — January 7, 2015—In recent weeks, 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 (GHG) emissions, at a COP20 event featuring mayors and officials from cities around the world. The effects of the standard and compliance with it are sure to be felt by facilities managers in cities worldwide in years to come.

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, say the organizations. 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 GHG emissions and are home to more than 170 million people, comparable to Brazil’s entire emissions and population.

Inventory methods that cities have used to date vary significantly, raising questions around data quality, and limiting the ability to aggregate local and subnational GHG emissions data, explain the partners. With the GPC, however, cities are required to measure and report a comprehensive inventory of GHG 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 GHG emissions, track progress, and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The Compact—endorsed by preeminent global city networks—has adopted the GPC as part of its core activities to raise the level of ambition and quality of city GHG inventory reporting. Using GPC, cities can report emissions through the carbonn Climate Registry (cCR), the Compact’s designated central repository, as well as through existing city reporting platforms such as the CDP.

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, including 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.

Going forward, WRI, C40, and ICLEI will organize workshops in cities around the world to train city staff on how to most effectively utilize the GPC to achieve their climate goals. This program will be supported by the World Bank. Additionally, the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities will use the GPC to help implement low-carbon solutions on the ground in cities. The Urban-LEDS project will support the first cities in emerging economy countries to submit GPC compliant reporting.