Why certification standards matter for city-level climate interventions

The importance of local government actions for tackling climate change

The importance of sub-national or local government actions for tackling global climate change and for building sustainable societies is well recognized. It is now overwhelmingly clear that local and sub-national governments have a critical role in building low-carbon climate-resilient societies, and that many of these local government efforts to reduce GHGs and promote green societies are more ambitious than national government efforts. However, it is only recently that we start to see solid data that quantitatively demonstrates sub-national efforts’ towards national government and global climate change mitigation.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that cities are responsible for 75 percent of global CO2 emissions, thus it is essential to make urban areas an indispensable part of the solution to fighting climate change. A 2015 Yale report (Scaling Up: Local to Global Climate Action)[1] assesses sub-national climate mitigation programs from eight countries, and concludes that these eight sub-national programs could reduce 2020 emissions by 1 gigaton. The report further states that if adopted by their respective countries, these eight sub-national climate actions could narrow the emissions gap by 10 percent.

With solid statistics backing up the important climate change contributions that cities and sub-national governments make, it is clear that one of the most efficient avenues for tackling climate change and for building low-carbon societies is to invest in low-carbon urban development. This is especially important when we take into account that 66 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050.[2]

However, many cities and local governments do not have sufficient budgets to incorporate all the renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean public transport or waste management programs that experts suggest to them. They therefore turn to the private sector. With so many cities competing for private sector financial resources, they have to make themselves stand out from the crowd. By showcasing their commitments and targets, publicly reporting their low-carbon actions, and utilizing certification standards to quantify development outcomes, cities and local governments can demonstrate to investors that they are serious about unlocking finance for even more low-carbon urban development.   

Measuring and Reporting at jurisdictional level in order to attract finance and recognition for low-carbon urban development

Many sub-national governments (cities, states, provinces, etc.) are now actively sharing their climate change actions, commitments and GHG inventories on public, online databases. The goal is to increase visibility, gain recognition and allow for comparability between cities, as well as to attract finance. By opting to publicly disclose information on climate actions, local authorities are showing that they have the political ambition and are serious about lowering GHGs and building sustainable societies. They can also highlight which specific projects or programs need finance.

A 2016 report from Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) showed that 533 cities disclosed their climate-related data, and that of those cities, 277 are seeking private sector involvement on 720 climate-related projects worth US $26 billion.[3] According to the Carbonn Climate Registry, as of 2015, over 92% of the reported implemented actions of local governments are financed through local, subnational and national sources, but additional financing is needed.[4]

Many local governments are using tools or protocols for quantifying and preparing GHG inventories. When reported, these inventories are very helpful for measuring the contribution of city’s mitigation actions to regional or national GHG emission reduction targets, or to attract private sector attention. However, many cities do not have this data verified, or if it is, the verification is not done by an independent third party, which lessens credibility and confidence in the outcomes. In addition, GHG inventories do not tell the full story of a city’s ambitions towards tackling climate change. This is where certification standards for urban interventions can be extremely helpful: in addition to verifying GHG emission reductions, independent third-party auditors can simultaneously verify the sustainable development outcomes of multiple urban interventions (projects, programs, actions), thereby allowing for certified claims and products, but with reduced monitoring costs for local authorities.

The importance of certification standards for multiple urban interventions: creating value and lowering risk through MRV

Many cities are aggressively pursuing climate change actions with the primary objective of better and cleaner environments for their citizens and to build sustainable societies. Consider the demands for better air quality in many Chinese cities, or the better living conditions created by efficient transport. MRV can play an important role in helping to attract additional finance for climate change mitigation and adaptation by adding another level of confidence, namely the verification component. In addition, some investors request certified outcome statements (eg. contribution to specific Sustainable Development Goals). Knowing that urban climate change projects or programs have been scrutinized by third-party auditors and that GHG emissions and sustainable development outcomes have been quantified reduces the risk of false claims about positive project benefits and makes a particular jurisdiction less risky to investors.

Indeed, the investment community is increasingly concerned about “green washing” or “SDG washing” through false or exaggerated claims made about the positive impacts their projects are making towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, an August 2016 article in Responsible Investor quotes a senior advisor in a Dutch pension fund as saying, “Unless it is measured, supporting impacts is a little too easy”.

Thus, certification against a high quality standard for urban climate interventions can verify GHG reduction claims as well as the interventions’ contribution towards the SDGs. By so doing, these interventions become more attractive to investors – ultimately helping cities transform from ‘business as usual’ to sustainable and more prosperous urban environments.

Denise Welch is Director of Research and Technical Initiatives at The R20 Regions of Climate Action and is a contributor to the development of Gold Standard’s Sustainable Urban Development standard, developed with support by Climate KIC, to be launched in early 2017.

[1] https://campuspress.yale.edu/datadriven/files/2015/12/ScalingUp-29yp2hh.pdf
[2] http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html
[3] https://b8f65cb373b1b7b15feb-c70d8ead6ced550b4d987d7c03fcdd1d.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/cms/reports/
documents/000/001/172/original/CDP_Thematic-Report_2016.pdf?1475744852
[4] http://e-lib.iclei.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/cCR2015_5Year_Report.pdf
 
Location
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC responds to consultation on Long-Term Strategy for EU GHG emis...

As an active member of the community working to...

EIT Climate-KIC responds to consultation on Long-Term Strategy for EU GHG emissions reduction
Opinion
Distributed ledger technologies are here to stay
Dr. Harald Rauter Regional Innovation Lead, Climate-KIC
Distributed ledger technologies are here to stay
In The News
Search for 100 1.5C-compatible investments launched

The EU-backed Mission Innovation initiative has launched a framework...

Search for 100 1.5C-compatible investments launched
In The News
Debate: Can self-reporting be effective for investors?

Most climate and ESG data is self-reported – can...

Debate: Can self-reporting be effective for investors?
In The News
Risky business: Why 1.5C-aligned strategies are key to preserving capital

Decision-makers with responsibility for capital need to make bold,...

Risky business: Why 1.5C-aligned strategies are key to preserving capital
In The News
No alternative: Making sustainable infrastructure the only option

Only a fraction of global climate finance is reaching...

No alternative: Making sustainable infrastructure the only option
In The News
We’ve seen it with GDPR and data protection—could ambitious financial ...

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, Climate...

We’ve seen it with GDPR and data protection—could ambitious financial regulation be a key driver of climate action?
In The News
Bridging the climate adaptation investment gap

Financing climate adaptation took centre-stage at Day 2 of...

Bridging the climate adaptation investment gap
In Detail
Techno-economic assessment and life cycle assessment guidelines for CO2 util...

CO2 utilisation technologies, also known as carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) or CO2 re-use, capture CO2 and convert it into new products or services....

Techno-economic assessment and life cycle assessment guidelines for CO2 utilisation
In The News
Re-Industrialise launches at the European Week of Cities and Regions

EIT Climate-KIC and partners recently launched the Re-Industrialise programme,...

Re-Industrialise launches at the European Week of Cities and Regions
In Detail
Reframing our current approach to urban transformations

EIT Climate-KIC gathered the outputs and lessons-learned from an urban transformations community workshop in Malaga, which saw more than 100 city leaders and teams...

Reframing our current approach to urban transformations
Opinion
Reframing perspectives on climate change
Reframing perspectives on climate change
Opinion
Only 20 companies in the world provide 100 per cent greenhouse gas emissions disclosure – Are ...
Only 20 companies in the world provide 100 per cent greenhouse gas emissions disclosure – Are investors in the dark on climate risks?
In The News
Gaining a better understanding of climate risk

The roadblocks that stand in the way of companies...

Gaining a better understanding of climate risk
In The News
The power of persuasion: Great Debate changes audience’s mind on self-re...

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, Climate...

The power of persuasion: Great Debate changes audience’s mind on self-reporting
In The News
Climate Innovation Summit: a masterclass on climate-related financial disclosu...

If we want to keep on track with the...

Climate Innovation Summit: a masterclass on climate-related financial disclosure
In The News
Transforming financial sector’s core value system may be essential to 1.5C

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, Climate...

Transforming financial sector’s core value system may be essential to 1.5C
In The News
Curbing carbon emissions in company value chains

Most of the world’s largest companies account and report...

Curbing carbon emissions in company value chains
In The News
One hundred 1.5C compatible investments by 2030

New investor framework launched today at European Climate Innovation...

One hundred 1.5C compatible investments by 2030
In The News
‘Fearless Girl’ appears at EIT Climate-KIC’s Climate Innovation Summit

Fearless Girl—the famous bronze statue erected in Lower Manhattan...

‘Fearless Girl’ appears at EIT Climate-KIC’s Climate Innovation Summit
In our community
Interview with Leeor Groen, Venture Manager, Blockchain Valley Ventures
Interview with Leeor Groen, Venture Manager, Blockchain Valley Ventures
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC partners with South Pole for Climate Innovation Summit carbon ...

EIT Climate-KIC’s Climate Innovation Summit (CIS) will feature a...

EIT Climate-KIC partners with South Pole for Climate Innovation Summit carbon offsetting programme
In The News
Financing tomorrow’s new normal today

First published in Environmental Finance as part of a joint...

Financing tomorrow’s new normal today
In The News
Climathon 2018 will be the biggest global climate hackathon in history

Over 100 cities from around the world will join...

Climathon 2018 will be the biggest global climate hackathon in history
Opinion
How can we mainstream major climate risks into financial reporting?
Hanna Värttö Senior Consultant, South Pole Group
How can we mainstream major climate risks into financial reporting?
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC emphasises need for climate focus in cohesion policy at Europe...

EIT Climate-KIC was among the urban planners, municipalities, policy...

EIT Climate-KIC emphasises need for climate focus in cohesion policy at European Week of Cities and Regions
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC’s secrets for successfully running accelerators revealed...

EIT Climate-KIC has been featured in “Accelerate This!”, a...

EIT Climate-KIC’s secrets for successfully running accelerators revealed in “Accelerate This!”
Opinion
Harvesting the intelligence of photosynthetic microalgae to de-carbonise future cities
Marco Poletto Co-founder and Director, ecoLogicStudio
Harvesting the intelligence of photosynthetic microalgae to de-carbonise future cities
In our community
Interview with Mariana Mazzucato, Professor, Economics of Innovation and Pub...
Interview with Mariana Mazzucato, Professor, Economics of Innovation and Public Value, UCL
In The News
Why we invest in sustainable start-ups

A growing number of investors recognise the value in...

Why we invest in sustainable start-ups