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New Protocol to Measure Urban GHGs Means Faster, Better Climate Action

Smokestack in China. Credit: Curt Carnemark

May 16, 2012

The new Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions establishes for the first time a single minimum standard for measuring community-scale GHG emissions.

A new protocol unveiled this week on how to measure and report greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in world cities promises to be an important tool in climate change mitigation that will help countries in their efforts to embrace and implement green growth policies.

The system was developed in concert with cities around the world, was undertaken by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, along with the World Resources Institute. The protocol built on outputs of the Joint Work Programme on Cities and Climate Change of the World Bank, the UN Environment Programme, and UN Habitat, supported by Cities Alliance.

“By ensuring a city’s GHG inventory methodology and results are transparent, accessible, and available to the public, the protocol will mean greater transparency, ‘replicability’, and cost effectiveness.”
Dan Hoornweg, Lead Urban Specialist, Finance, Economics, and Urban Development Department, The World Bank

The Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions is a landmark effort to harmonize emissions measurement and reporting processes for cities of all sizes and geographies. It establishes – for the first time – a single minimum standard for community-scale GHG emissions measurement. The result will be a transparent, consistent, and common approach to give cities a critical tool they need to plan and finance climate action.

Dan Hoornweg, lead urban specialist with the World Bank’s Finance, Economics, and Urban Development Department, described the protocol as a breakthrough. "It allows cities to compare emissions over time and encourages more comprehensive policy development by giving cities an opportunity to better learn from each other," he said. "By ensuring a city’s GHG inventory methodology and results are transparent, accessible, and available to the public, the protocol will mean greater transparency, ‘replicability’, and cost effectiveness.”

Why This Is Important

Greenhouse gas accounting is seen as an important step to drive emissions reductions in cities. It will help city governments understand the full scope of their emissions impacts, set climate and GHG performance goals, and identify emissions reduction opportunities across the entire value chain.

The protocol unveiled at Resilience Cities 2012, 3rd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change, held this week in Bonn, is the result of work done by C40, ICLEI, and WRI, with the assistance of than 30 other expert organizations and city officials.

"Measurement and reporting underpins the local action driving C40 Cities leadership in addressing global climate change,” said Jay Carson, C40 Executive Director. “As such, the community protocol represents the interests, needs and challenges of C40 Cities.”

Purpose of the Protocol

• Help cities prepare a comprehensive and credible GHG inventory.
• Help cities develop effective strategies for managing and reducing their GHG emissions.
• Support consistent and transparent public reporting.
• Harmonize existing international protocols and standards for city level GHG inventories.
• Support cities’ ability to demonstrate the global impact of collective local actions.
• Support GHG accounting, reporting, and trading schemes at the local, subnational, and national levels.
• Facilitate access of local governments to climate finance opportunities.

“The implementation of the protocol will strengthen efforts for measurable, reportable, verifiable local climate action” said Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Secretary-General of ICLEI. “It will enhance access of local governments to global climate funds and help cities to raise the level of ambition of national governments to mitigate climate change. The protocol complements and advances more than two decades of global efforts on local climate action, in which ICLEI has been pioneering.”

Planning for climate action at the city level starts with developing a GHG inventory. This allows local policy makers and residents to understand which sectors drive GHG emissions in their city or community, and then respond by developing appropriate action plans. Research by C40 shows that more than 75% of C40 cities say they have established climate action plans.

Cities around the world differ greatly in their ability to gather the required information. They have also used a variety of different protocols to account for and report emissions data, making it very difficult to have credible benchmarking and data aggregation at the city-scale level.

The new protocol offers a solution to these challenges, thus supporting planning by local governments for climate action and financing for key infrastructure projects. Also, by integrating seamlessly with national and corporate GHG accounting methodologies, the new protocol improves coordination across governments and economic sectors. It avoids “double-counting” and ensures that, eventually, all levels of emissions attributed to governments are reconciled globally.

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Last updated: 2012-05-16

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