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 Detail
Clean and Healthy Construction

Insights from the C40 Worlds Mayor Summit in Copenhagen: Master Class and Market Dialogue for Clean and Healthy Construction. Why clean construction? Kevin Austin,...

Clean and Healthy Construction
Opinion
If we have figured out transformation, why is the world still in such a mess?
Susannah Fisher Research, EIT-Climate-KIC
If we have figured out transformation, why is the world still in such a mess?
Opinion
The tyranny of categorisation
Dominic Hofstetter Transformation Capital, EIT Climate-KIC
The tyranny of categorisation
Opinion
EIT Climate-KIC strengthens biodiversity through systems change
Felicity Spors Head of International Affairs, EIT Climate-KIC
EIT Climate-KIC strengthens biodiversity through systems change
Opinion
Why our cities must act as beacons for ambitious climate action
Tom Mitchell Chief Strategy Officer, EIT Climate-KIC
Why our cities must act as beacons for ambitious climate action
In The News
Biggest-ever global hackathon to tackle climate breakdown

Over 100 Climathon events around the world turn grassroots...

Biggest-ever global hackathon to tackle climate breakdown
In The News
Global call for transformative solutions to tackle the climate emergency

EIT Climate-KIC launches Climathon Global Awards and Healthy, Clean...

Global call for transformative solutions to tackle the climate emergency
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported crop insurance project acquired by world’s largest...

The insurance sector is well aware of the rising...

EIT Climate-KIC supported crop insurance project acquired by world’s largest re-insurer
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC innovators celebrated at 2019 EIT Awards

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

EIT Climate-KIC innovators celebrated at 2019 EIT Awards
Opinion
Part three: Climate action #NotinNewYork
Andy Kerr Director, UK & Ireland, EIT Climate-KIC
Part three: Climate action #NotinNewYork
In Detail
New EIT Climate-KIC supported report finds digital technologies can vastly a...

As part of the UN Climate Action Summit, the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Deloitte launched a report today, supported by EIT Climate-KIC,...

New EIT Climate-KIC supported report finds digital technologies can vastly accelerate the SDGs
Opinion
Part two: Climate action #NotinNewYork
Andy Kerr Director, UK & Ireland, EIT Climate-KIC
Part two: Climate action #NotinNewYork
Opinion
Climate action #NotinNewYork
Andy Kerr Director, UK & Ireland, EIT Climate-KIC
Climate action #NotinNewYork
In The News
Circular Cars Initiative launched at United Nations Climate Action Summit

On the occasion of the United Nations Climate Action...

Circular Cars Initiative launched at United Nations Climate Action Summit
In The News
We’re closing for business in solidarity with #ClimateStrike

EIT Climate-KIC will close this Friday 20 September, the...

We’re closing for business in solidarity with #ClimateStrike
In The News
Open Innovation Call targeting air quality and urban heat island effect launch...

The City of Copenhagen’s department Resilient and Sustainable City Solutions within...

Open Innovation Call targeting air quality and urban heat island effect launched
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC cleantech start-up ZOLAR attracts 10 Million Euro Investment

The Berlin-based start-up Zolar raises a 10 million EUR...

EIT Climate-KIC cleantech start-up ZOLAR attracts 10 Million Euro Investment
In The News
Breaking down barriers to climate-finance: the City Finance Lab launches secon...

Competition for the five most innovative financing solutions for...

Breaking down barriers to climate-finance: the City Finance Lab launches second call for proposals
Opinion
Innovating in complexity: Systemic investing
Dominic Hofstetter Transformation Capital, EIT Climate-KIC
Innovating in complexity: Systemic investing
In The News
Climathon onboard ‘Sail to the COP’

On 2 October, 36 young climate change agents will...

Climathon onboard ‘Sail to the COP’
In The News
Research reveals surprising link between socio-economic indicators and sustain...

A new study by EIT Climate-KIC partner academic institutions...

Research reveals surprising link between socio-economic indicators and sustainability transition
Opinion
Transformation capital: A new investment logic for catalysing systems change
Dominic Hofstetter Transformation Capital, EIT Climate-KIC
Transformation capital: A new investment logic for catalysing systems change
Opinion
Innovating in complexity: From single-point solutions to directional systems innovation
Dominic Hofstetter TRANSFORMATION CAPITAL, EIT CLIMATE-KIC
Innovating in complexity: From single-point solutions to directional systems innovation
In The News
Four EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for annual EIT Awards

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has released...

Four EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for annual EIT Awards
In Detail
Report offers recommendations for development of agricultural impact tool

A new report supported by EIT Climate-KIC’s CSA Booster programme proposes technical, governance and business arrangements for the development of a new tool for...

Report offers recommendations for development of agricultural impact tool
In Detail
Food value chains strategy report offers recommendations based on systemic i...

A new report details the work of EIT Climate-KIC and its partner Metabolic, a consulting company using systems thinking to tackle major sustainability challenges,...

Food value chains strategy report offers recommendations based on systemic impact
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supports digital roadmap for a circular economy

EIT Climate-KIC, along with several European stakeholders, is advocating...

EIT Climate-KIC supports digital roadmap for a circular economy
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC urges London to lead in turning climate emergency into action

Climate innovation agency EIT Climate-KIC welcomed today the first...

EIT Climate-KIC urges London to lead in turning climate emergency into action
Opinion
London Climate Action Week: Climate Innovation Insights
London Climate Action Week: Climate Innovation Insights
Opinion
How can we deliver a net-zero emissions UK?
Andy Kerr Director, UK & Ireland, EIT Climate-KIC
How can we deliver a net-zero emissions UK?