Cities in the U.S. and around the world are increasingly tracking their energy performance and associated emissions to meet commitments to reduce their climate impact.
This blog is the second in a two-part series which first discussed the value of disclosing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through platforms like CDP and carbonn® Climate Registry (cCR). While many cities want to disclose their GHG emissions, they may not know where to begin.
Recognizing that there is no shortage of national and international agreements, covenants, pledges, and charters for cities to choose from, Part II walks through the elements of the most prominent coalitions to help cities determine which might be best for them.
It seems that every few months there is another coalition cities can join. Most recently, the Chicago Climate Charter was launched, but how is that different from We Are Still In, or Climate Mayors? There are different levels of commitment across these coalitions and deciding which is best is a matter of how serious a city is about achieving its goals and what type of network it wants to be a part of.
The reality is, we’ve been here before and we know that commitment without metrics doesn’t get results. The original city-level climate agreement, the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, was initiated in 2005 by Seattle’s former Mayor Greg Nickels, in response to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to address climate change. This agreement asked U.S. cities to commit to meeting or exceeding the Kyoto Protocol targets (reducing global emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels); urge state and federal action; and push congress to establish a national emissions trading system.
Since 2005, 1,060 mayors across the country — including 45 from Minnesota – had signed on to the agreement. This was a non-binding agreement without reporting requirements. It safe to say that the goals of this commitment were not met. With the Paris Agreement, a new era of commitments has been ushered in.
Post-Paris Climate Agreements
The Climate Mayors, founded by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, is a network of U.S. mayors of cities, towns, and municipalities collaborating on climate action. This includes a non-binding commitment to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement that asks cities to achieve emissions reduction targets through the following:
- Develop a community-wide GHG inventory
- Set near and long-term targets
- Develop a climate action plan
To date, 391 Climate Mayors representing 69 million Americans have committed to upholding the Paris Agreement through this network, including Chicago!
Chicago Climate Charter
Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago hosted the 2017 North American Climate Summit in December, which led to the Chicago Climate Charter. The Charter commits signatories to reducing GHG emissions by an aggregate of at least 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. It also asks cities to quantify, track, and publicly report any progress toward their commitment, though it does not appear to stipulate a specific reporting method. As of December 26th, 2017, 67 Mayors from around the world have signed on to the charter.
We Are Still In
We Are Still in is a declaration made by more than 2,500 U.S. public and private leaders to demonstrate a commitment to upholding the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limits global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. This was in response to the announcement of the U.S. Government that it would be pulling out of the agreement and is intended to show the global community that many Americans are still committed to climate action. Those who have signed the pledge represent 127 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy.
Under2 Coalition MOU
The Under2 Coalition was formed in 2015 and originated as an attempt to bring subnational groups together in advance of the Paris Climate Change Conference, which culminated in the Paris Agreement. The group is committed to reducing GHG emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels or limiting emissions to less than 2 metric tons per capita by 2050 in order to limit warming to 2°C. The Coalition offers opportunities for members to share ideas and best practices, share success, and demonstrate impact. The requirements of joining the MOU are very similar to the Global Covenant of Mayors. Signatories must state their commitment, set GHG targets in line with the Under2 MOU, adopt a strategy to achieve the targets, and measure and disclose emissions through CDP.
The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy
The Global Covenant of Mayors (also called the Compact of Mayors in the U.S.) is an international alliance of cities and local governments that is committed to taking climate action and meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. Any city or town may participate in the Covenant by signing a letter of commitment. For U.S. cities, they can follow the guidance of the Compact of Mayors, which requires participants to disclose emissions through either CDP or cCR; complete and maintain a community-wide GHG inventory and identify climate hazards within one year; set emissions reductions targets within two years; and establish a plan within three years to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change.
For any city looking to commit to tackling climate change, there are several options to choose from. For the more serious commitments, tracking emissions annually is crucial. The Chicago Climate Charter, Under2 Coalition, and the Global Covenant of Mayors ask the most from participants. The Under2 Coalition has perhaps the most aggressive carbon reduction goals and is strictly focused on mitigation. The Chicago Climate Charter, and the Global Covenant of Mayors include strategies for resilience and adaptation in addition to mitigation, with the Global Covenant of Mayors having the most prescribed course of action.
As more cities join and begin tracking emissions through these platforms, there will be a better sense of the progress that is being made and the impact that cities are having absent federal action. America’s Pledge is an effort to aggregate the commitments and efforts across various entities to demonstrate how the U.S. is delivering on its commitment under the Paris Agreement. Through standardized disclosure practices, there will be better information available to accurately represent progress.
This is part two of a two-part series. See part one here.
By Abby Finis, Senior Planner, Great Plains Institute