Over the past decade the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has built the largest database in the world of primary corporate greenhouse gas emissions information reported by 3000 organizations from 60 countries. The information is gathered on behalf of 534 institutional investors managing a total of more than $64 trillion in assets.
Through this program of voluntary information gathering and disclosure, reliable reduction targets are set and strategies to achieve those targets developed through a free exchange of ideas.
Carbon Disclosure Project is expanding the concept by providing a similar emissions reporting platform for cities called CDP Cities.
Taking the fight to the streets
In terms of energy consumption, the world’s largest cities are more like city-states, emitting as much carbon as a medium sized country. Up to 80 percent of all the energy produced is consumed in cities. Cities also bear a significant risk from climate change, including rising sea levels, the urban heat island effect, and greater incidence of disease.
Managing these risks requires comprehensive and actionable information on carbon emissions and other climate change information. With the seemingly endless rankle and lack of progress in international climate negotiations, combined with an utter dearth of leadership in the US Congress (even before Republicans take power), it is in the world’s cities where the battle to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be won or lost.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it
CDP is launching the program with support from the Clinton Global Initiative and initial participation from C40 Cities, a group of 40 of the worlds largest cities (and 19 affiliate cities) committed to working together on climate change and sustainability issues.
“Cities play an essential and leading role in accelerating solutions to climate change and C40 cities are already making a massive impact,” said David Miller, Mayor of Toronto and chair of C40. “CDP will provide a reporting platform that allows C40 cities to track their progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and share that critical data with each other and around the globe.”
Conor Riffle, head of the program for CDP said in a recent interview with GlobalWarmingisReal that the Cities program offers an established platform for local municipalities to report both quantitative and qualitative emissions and climate change data. By putting the raw data into context, the information can be used in a manner that uniquely addresses each city’s circumstance. This well-rounded information helps all stakeholders better understand both the risks and opportunities associated with climate change, leading to further innovation, increased efficiency, lower operational costs, and enhanced sustainability.
“CDP Cities is not a [measurement] standard,” Riffle said, “but a reporting platform.” How cities measure their emissions is up to them, as the program is “protocol neutral.” But a common reporting platform helps bring “cohesion with standards,” and acts as a “driver of standards,” added Riffle.
Through the reporting process, cities can compare the effectiveness of measurement standards used, and adopt methods and processes used by others to improve their own strategies and risk assessments.
The data reporting platform is based on a system developed by Accenture, Microsoft, and SAP for the CDP corporate emissions reporting program, already considered as best practice for emissions reporting by thousands of companies all over the world.
Autodesk, maker of 3D modeling tools used by architects and designers to improve sustainable design, is a lead sponsor and enthusiastic supporter of the CDP Cities program:
“The cities of tomorrow are being shaped today by governments, businesses and citizens. To create cities that support a better quality of life while minimizing environmental impact, today’s designers need a clear picture of the impact of climate change,” said Jay Bhatt, senior vice president of AEC solutions at Autodesk. “We are delighted to work with the Carbon Disclosure Project to assist in developing a standardized reporting platform for climate change-related information. Autodesk’s design software will help city managers better understand their existing assets, allowing planners to develop strategy for improving the urban environment.”
The case for cities
CDP has released a report called The Case for City Disclosure (pdf) that details how standard disclosure practices from local government, in the model already so successful with corporations, will help cities share best practices, manage risk, reduce costs, and seize opportunity in the face of a changing world.