You can’t manage what you don’t measure. How climate reporting tracks progress and secures investment.

This blog was written by Braoin MacLauchlan and Matteo Bizzotto, with contributions by Einav Grinberg, Laura Noriega, Carla Marino, Maryke van Staden (ICEI World Secretariat) and George Bush (CDP). 

A growing sense of urgency, propelled by the IPCC reports, COP26 discussions, and the need for real impact by 2030 mean climate policies have never been higher on the agenda. Climate reporting gives local and regional governments control to track, manage, and attain their climate goals. The good news is, it also attracts investment.

Bonn, in the heart of Germany, has pledged to completely switch to electric buses by 2030. The City of Des Moines, USA, commits to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Tshwane, South Africa, has signed on to the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration as part of a bid to be climate neutral by 2050. These are examples of single action in individual cities, but the reality is that hundreds of actions across thousands of cities are underway. Across the globe, local leaders are committing to reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate.

Many more commitments are desperately needed. But moving from commitments to an actual plan, transforming goals into actions, is critical to meet the actual global climate targets. Many local and regional governments are determined to act, but they struggle to implement a coherent and systematic framework to track the effectiveness of their climate measures. Fewer still have the ability to access the necessary data to assess their baseline and progress from there – especially for their territory’s Climate Risk & Vulnerability Assessments, and Greenhouse Gas Inventories.

From another angle, there is huge demand to compare their measures and progress with fellow subnational territories and to gauge how they are contributing to national and international efforts.

A lack of climate ambition at the subnational level is not the problem. Translating that ambition into science-based action is. That’s where climate reporting can help.

Most subnational governments already gather their environmental data, often a mandatory effort defined by national government. Many are also voluntarily reporting their climate data, making that data publicly accessible to others, allowing for transparency, effective goal tracking, and coordinated climate action.


Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash


Reporting entities, or local and regional governments, can submit data on their governmental operations and territory-wide targets, climate action plans, and actions, as well as investments and finance needs to the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System, which is managed by ICLEI and CDP – two non-profit organizations committed to transparency and robustness of data. This data – from emissions reduction and renewable energy, to climate resilience and governance – is reviewed to inform city-level policies and research, but also helps to build a clearer picture of how subnational climate measures feed into national action plans, through global or country aggregated data. ICLEI actively supports its global network in this effort.

The joint platform provides a centralized system to which local and regional governments can report, while receiving support from both organizations to use that data and inform benchmarking (through CDP) and upscaling climate action (through ICLEI). By streamlining the reporting process, subnational data becomes more robust and empowers action.

What benefits does the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System offer to subnational governments?

The reporting process encourages local and regional governments not just to report on what they did and are doing, but also to think about the climate risks that they’ll face in the future in their respective jurisdictions. In other words, it helps increase their climate-readiness and stimulates them to create comprehensive vulnerability assessments and action plans.

For example, the city of Boulder, in the USA, tracks its greenhouse gas emissions to identify emissions reduction opportunities, inform their climate action and ultimately, to set science-based targets. In 2005 (its initial baseline inventory year), electricity made up 55 percent of Boulder’s community emissions, which led to prioritizing energy supply and consumption in the city’s climate action framework. This included promoting renewable energy, stimulating energy efficiency among homes and businesses, and ultimately leading to a community-based decision to municipalize Boulder’s electricity supply. After accomplishing a 36 percent reduction in electricity emissions in 2019, the city recognized that emissions associated with heating and transportation had become the largest share. Boulder, therefore, decided to expand its focus and act on converting heating and vehicle systems to electricity, thus shrinking fossil fuels from their energy and transportation systems.

For cities like Boulder, data sharing between CDP and ICLEI means they can report their data only once, yet still contribute to concrete benchmarking opportunities to assess how they are doing in relation to past performance and their peers worldwide.

In particular, the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System goes one step further, enabling the reporting of indicators that evaluate progress in the realms of equity, resilience, and economic vitality, hence becoming a valuable tool to plan for a sustainable, equitable, and resilient urban transformation. This variety of data can also be used to generate buy-in from relevant stakeholders and communities, as well as identify economic opportunities.

For years, an increasing number of local and regional governments have been reporting to the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System, including during the covid-19 pandemic. 2021 saw 1128 reporting entities representing 1.2 billion people. Below is a snapshot of the reported data:


Reporting entities 2021 1128
Represented population 904,329,226
Submitted adaptation plans 517
Renewable energy targets 420
Energy efficiency targets 304
Adaptation actions in operation 1242
Adaptation actions in implementation 1480
City-wide GHG emissions reduction targets 795
Climate change risk and vulnerability assessments 626


Ultimately, climate reporting gives the climate action taken by cities and regions credibility, accountability, and transparency. Through their expertise and use of the Unified Reporting System, CDP and ICLEI can help subnational governments in any stage of their journey towards measuring, tracking, and managing their climate data, as well as set science-based climate targets to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate, ensuring buy-in from their communities and stakeholders.

Start your climate reporting journey today! Contact ICLEI`s carbonn Climate Center at