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World's cities assert leadership in battle against climate change

By Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 12/12/2014 1:44:00 PM

The world’s cities now have access to a single standard for greenhouse gas emissions. The Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) was unveiled during the UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru on December 8, 2014.

The GPC is the culmination of a three-year development effort by the Washington, D.C.-based think-tank World Resources Institute (WRI), the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. It is the first widely endorsed standard for cities to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions. It is intended to help cities develop an emissions baseline, set mitigation goals, create more targeted climate action plans and track progress over time.

The GPC has been adopted by the Compact of Mayors, an agreement among more than 2,000 cities worldwide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 454 megatons by 2020. The Compact of Mayors was launched at the UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014.

The United Nations reports that 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050, it will rise to 66%.

Cities are ideally placed to take action on climate change, says Chang Deng-Beck, junior project officer with ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability and one of the lead authors of the GPC. National governments have to balance regional interests, she says.

Using her home country of China as an example, Deng-Beck told EcoLog News that a national climate change commitment that raised electricity prices might be manageable in the relatively prosperous eastern half of the country, but very burdensome to the less prosperous west. For cities like Beijing or Shanghai, with a wealthier and well-educated population, there is likely to be less resistance to effective climate change policies that drive up the cost of living.

According to the 2013 Annual Report of ICLEI’s carbonn Cities Climate Registry (a report on 51 cities that have been reporting climate data since 2011), 54% of their reduction commitments exceed 1% per year, well above the commitments of national governments under the Kyoto Protocol.

The GPC will support this effort and encourage others to join in, Deng-Beck hopes.

“Without measurement, action cannot be taken,” she says. The GPC inventories emissions within the geographical footprint of a city and those activities outside city boundaries that are city-controlled (e.g., the transportation and processing of municipal waste beyond city limits). It tells cities not only how much carbon they are emitting, but what are the principal sources. The GPC report also benchmarks cities by such factors as size, GDP and climate, allowing similar cities to compare their performance against each other, and laggards to learn from top performers.

“Transparency and comparability is the key element,” she says.

There’s more to come. The tripartite drafting group will develop training materials and support documents, such as Excel-based calculation tools. ICLEI is also at the early stages of development of a verification standard for municipal greenhouse gas emissions, says Deng-Beck.

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