We are starting a new series here on CleanTechnica to highlight more women working in the broad field of cleantech and sustainability to add to the diversity of voices in the cleantech conversation.
For the first article in the series, I interviewed Katie Walsh, the Senior Manager of the Cities North America program at CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project. I got to interview Katie at Verge (formally the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Conference) in Honolulu a few weeks ago. I loved learning more about how CDP is helping cities, states, and companies manage their carbon and risk data to build stronger cities, states, and companies. Below is a condensed version of our interview.
Andrea Bertoli: Tell me a little bit about CDP, what you do there, and why it’s so important? How does your work fit into the broader sustainability and energy landscape?
Katie Walsh: CDP is formally the Carbon Disclosure Project, and we are the world’s largest environmental disclosure platform for cities, states, regions, and companies. Currently we have 6000 companies annually reporting, measuring, and tracking their climate change activities, water activities, and deforestation – participation is totally voluntary.
We also have a platform for cities, states, and regions to participate in this tracking. We started in the private sector and went to companies on behalf of investors since the investors wanted to know what these companies were doing to reduce their impact on the environment. Cities began reporting several years ago because city leaders want to track and measure their data to manage critical environmental risks to make better and healthier decisions for their cities and benefit from opportunities they didn’t realize they had. Now tracking of this sort is ‘business as usual–’ with multinationals like Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart measuring their impact with CDP. But when we started in 2000 this was a game-changer.
AB: Tell me a bit more about your specific role at CDP.
KW: I work with US and Canadian cities with the annual reporting process to the CDP. The process of going through the questionnaire is essentially a diagnostic tool for the cities, since they can look at the city and benchmark current progress. Even if they can’t answer all the questions on the diagnostic tool, they now know the questions that need to be asked next year, and perhaps they can build a budget that makes room for these climate change solutions.
Once we gather the data from all the entities, we give it back to them using our analytics platform that can help them compare to regional and global cities.
The cities are all in different places: SF and NYC might be leading the pack, but then there are cities that are just getting started. Some might have economic issues, or legacy pollution issues leading to a different climate profile. And if a city or state has not yet established an office to address climate change – I get to find the champions. This could be the person in city or state departments. I love being able to meet cities where they are on their climate journey.
I’m really excited to be working with Hawaii. We’ve been working with the Hawaii State Energy Office for the past year or two, which is pretty exciting on the disclosure side since Hawaii set the 100% renewable energy goals and it was the first state to commit to the Paris Climate Accord. This leadership is signaling for other cities and states.
AB: Do you think this means that cities become competitive with each other? Is there some potentially healthy rivalry between cities and their benchmarks?
KW: I haven’t seen competition– really those managing this aspect in their respective cities are just trying to do the best for their cities, whether it’s working on clean air issues or protecting against rising coastlines. People love coming to events and ‘stealing’ people’s ideas: it’s very friendly and is more about coop-etition [cooperative competition].
AB: Are the Mayors that have signed on to the Paris Agreement the ones leading with CDP disclosure? Or is this your new pipeline?
KW: We did lots of recruitment for the We are Still In agreement, which includes over 2,200 corporate, investment, city/county, and university signatories that have committed to Paris. And there is now a lot of interest among cities. The Paris Agreement has no deliverables or tracking, but CDP offers this accountability. We can give them the diagnostic tools to help meet the goals of Paris.
AB: Is there a rating system for the tracking?
KW: There is no rating for cities, but you can track your specific city or state using our various benchmarks. You can search using our Data Portal. Click over to CDP.net, then click Data & Insights, then Open Data Portal. From here you can search for specific cities, or browse by city, state or specific benchmarks, like forests or climate change.
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