Should municipalities disclose their carbon footprints? According to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), such reporting is a no-brainer. CDP has already become the global carbon disclosure platform for multinationals and large corporations: 3000 of them reported their climate change related information in 2010, including 80% of the largest 500 companies in the world. That information in turn is sliced and diced by investors, stakeholders, and governments. Now CDP is focused on cities.
Two years ago CDP ran a pilot climate disclosure program with 18 cities. Some cities have assessed their climate impact for a while, but there had been no accepted format. Last year CDP is ready to deploy this pilot globally, and partnered with Accenture, has stated the case of why cities should disclose climate change related data.
The world’s population is becoming even more and more urban. Cities only occupy about 2% of the world’s land, but house half of its population. Despite the contributions of agriculture to pollution and climate change, the CDP-Accenture report maintains that cities could contribute up to 80% of the globe’s total emissions. The effects are numerous: many of these cities are in coastal areas, making them vulnerable to rising oceans. Health issues are numerous, especially on children and the elderly. Tourism and the local business climate could be affected as well. Not all is lost, however.
The report insists that cities are well positioned to halt or even reverse the effects of climate change. Naturally they have high concentrations of brain power and talent. Cities can create a business climate focused on innovation; improve climate change risk management; and serve as laboratories that demonstrate the value of their sustainability strategies to society. In order for this to be effective, however, cities need to adopt a common platform, and that where some trouble could arise.
CDP’s pilot program focused on four key elements: the collection of information on city greenhouse gas emissions; identification of risks and opportunities; an overview of city governance; and description of the cities sustainability strategies. Centered in the US, the report involved cities as diverse as Las Vegas, Chicago, and Park City, Utah. CDP claims that its framework makes that pesky task of demonstrating quantitative and qualitative data seamless for cities. At a fundamental, such an approach makes sense. Governments (and academic institutions) cannot make a strong case for businesses to disclose their carbon footprint or any other impact on the planet unless they do the same–they should put their money where their mouths are.
While the case is strong, the CDP report is also self-serving. Much of the report outlines why CDP is the one-stop depot for a reporting framework–and naturally that is going to irk other organizations who believe that their standard should be the . . . standard. Nevertheless, CDP has done the heavy lifting, and has made a clear case for why cities need to think about their impact on climate: addressing future risks, creating economic opportunity, and providing stakeholders–their residents–transparency.