Want to step up climate action in your city? Invest in your staff

Although they pave the way for national and international financial support, sophisticated emissions inventories are often the domain of the richest and most powerful cities. In other words, strong inventories often come from those with the resources to hire staff or pay third-party consultants to prepare those inventories. This perpetuates a difficult cycle: national and international partners often require an emissions inventory as a condition of their support, but that often means prioritizing cities that already have resources to invest in climate action.

This cycle means that under resourced cities are often lacking critical technical capacity. “Local authorities often lack knowledge about the importance of carrying out a GHG inventory, in part because they can’t visualize the benefits that the measurement will bring,” said Cesar Jose Galarza, a climate consultant who helps create inventories for cities in Argentina “Secondly, these cities lack technical personnel.” Even if these cities paid an outside consultant to create an inventory for them, they lack the means to use that inventory as a meaningful tool.

Cesar Carreño-Chasin, a Senior Officer at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, says that’s exactly where development organizations should turn their attention.“Most cities are not big cities, which means that much of the world’s emissions are not from big cities either. If nations and international organizations want to cut emissions quickly, they need to figure out how to open the doors to cities of every size. For ICLEI, that means helping them through the City Climate Planner.”

The City Climate Planner Program (CCPP) is an initiative designed to lower the barrier of entry for cities looking to participate in climate action by providing an affordable way to train city staff in how to prepare inventories and make use of them. “The goal for initiative is maximum participation by focusing on affordable accreditation,” says Carreño-Chasin. “That allows accredited city staff to train others without straining the municipal budget.”

How the City Climate Planner Program works

The CCPP trains participants in the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC), a set of guidelines that is designed to help cities create their own emissions inventory. The GPC is an internationally recognized standard that allows cities to communicate their climate progress to international organizations, which is a precursor to securing financial or technical assistance. It is also compatible with the new Common Reporting Framework (CRF) established by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM). GPC 3.0 which will launch in 2020 is 100 percent aligned with the CRF meaning that city inventories around the world will be more standardized and understandable to international partners. While being intelligible to an international audience, the GPC is designed for cities, allowing them to identify precisely where their emissions come from, with categorization that makes sense at the local level.

Galarza, who completed the CCPP training program to advance his own consultancy, says, “The advantage of the GPC is that it places greater emphasis on the most significant sectors for cities and local governments, grouping them by source. Emissions are broken down by stationary energy, transport, waste, industrial processes, product use, and so on.”

This information is key for cities looking to identify their greatest emissions reductions opportunities, which vary greatly from city to city. While a high proportion of emissions from stationary energy – like power plants – might imply the need to renovate existing buildings or industrial processes to reduce load, some cities find that most of their emissions come from transportation or waste management. In other words, an inventory takes the guesswork out of what needs to be done to cut emissions and improve the environment, enabling more efficient and effective climate action.

Removing barriers to effective climate action

Despite the clear advantages of having an emissions inventory, many cities still struggle with the obstacles of time and money. Many training and accreditation programs run from 500 Euros for a web-based course to upwards of 2,000 Euros per training per person, with several classes required for accreditation. Additionally, the accreditation process is expensive and data collected in line with that standard must be validated by those same providers.

While these trainings can provide an exceptionally deep study of what a city can do to manage and measure greenhouse gases, the price tag alone often puts it beyond the reach of small- and mid-sized cities.

“We want to encourage people to learn as much as they can, but it’s also important that city staff have the tools to participate in the international climate system as quickly and affordably as possible,” says Carreño-ChasinCesar Carreño. To achieve that goal, the CCPP runs close to its operating costs. The training, which is a three-day, in-person event, costs between 600 and 1,000 Euro per participant depending on the region of the world where the training is provided. At the training, participants receive all the skills they need to complete an inventory fit for international collaboration. The CCPP accreditation exam runs costs 400 Euro and must be renewed every 5 years.

The program has been built so that after their accreditation, participants are then qualified to give the training on the CCPP – which is an internationally-recognized standard – themselves. “All together, if a city is able to invest between 1,000 and 1,400 Euro in a single employee, they gain someone who can validate data and train others to create inventories,” says Cesar Carreño. “Even for cities with tighter budgets, this investment will help them to build their capacity much more easily. Capacity building for cities of all sizes and development trajectories is critical to ensure a global transition towards a sustainable, low or no emission future.”