Cities around the world are standing up to lead in the fight on climate change. While reporting cities that scored an A in the 2019 rankings are clustered in Europe and North America, every continent has cities that are taking action.
Leading cities include unexpected ones, including both Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta, home of Canada’s oil sands and orphaned wells. Cape Town in South Africa is one of the two African representatives on the list. Australia, suffering through its annus horribilis of climate-change fueled fires and floods, is home to five cities on the list, including the major urban areas of Sydney and Melbourne. Malaysia and Mexico have cities taking urgent and focused action, as does Brazil and Argentina. The countries with the highest number of A-list cities are USA (34 cities), Canada (7), and Sweden (6). It’s good to see US urban areas standing up and working for climate action given the inaction at the federal level at present.
For 18 years, CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) has been signing up corporations and governments to disclose their carbon emissions. Now, nearly 20% of all carbon emissions are reported through the organization.
“Today more than 8,400 of the world’s largest companies, representing over 50% of global market value, disclose information on climate change, water and deforestation through CDP. They do so at the request of over 525 investors with US$96 trillion in assets, and 125 major purchasers with over US$3.6 trillion in procurement spend.”
As I’ve noted in the past, cities are where the people are, where the money is, and where a tremendous amount of climate action is required, even though they are at the bottom of the governance food chain. The way the CDP counts things, cities are responsible for 70% of global carbon emissions, so their action is crucial.
I live in one of the 105 cities globally that gets an A from the CDP, Vancouver in Canada. I wrote about the climate crisis response plan Vancouver has created late in 2019. It includes 6 big moves and 53 accelerated actions. The big moves include walkable complete communities, safe and convenient active transportation and transit, pollution free cars, trucks and buses, zero emission space and water heating, lower carbon construction, and restored forests and coast.
Those actions were taken into account by the in depth scoring mechanism the CDP uses to assess urban action.
The intent is to recognize leadership and incent improvements globally. The actual scores are shared only with the cities, and only the A-list cities are disclosed. New for the 2019 scoring is a separation of actions into mitigation or adaptation, something cities have requested.
To achieve a leadership position, cities have to have achieved all the lower level goals, and then achieve the full set of leadership attributes as well. These leadership attributes include (a subset of a long list):
- Reports a detailed description of all reported climate hazards, with an understanding of how the frequency and intensity of the hazards will change in future
- Provides evidence of a city-wide adaptation plan from the last 4 years which has been implemented or is currently in implementation
- Provides city-wide emissions inventory, including the main Kyoto Protocol gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, SF6, NF3)
- Emissions have reduced since the last inventory, and describes how actions have resulted in reductions, including the amount of emissions reduced
- Emissions reduction target demonstrates at least 5% annual city-wide emissions reductions (based on target start year – target year)
- Provides examples of collaboration with business and the outcomes of collaboration
- Has a 100% city-wide renewable energy target OR already has 100% of the city’s energy from renewables
- Current city-wide energy mix is over 80% from renewables (does not include nuclear)
- Reports a breakdown of all mode share for passenger and freight transport within the city
- All anticipated water supply risks are addressed with an action
Some of these are tough to achieve. Over 80% renewables in the energy supply is a high bar. Certainly Calgary and Edmonton in coal- and natural-gas generation heavy Alberta achieving 80% is a tough achievement. I was aware that the City of Calgary was buying 100% wind energy for its light rail transit system and was building brownfield solar farms in city limits, but I hadn’t realized that it had achieved 80%. That’s easy for a city like Vancouver to do in hydro-rich BC.
The focus on driving corporate behaviors is present too, in the Opportunities section of the scoring. Business involvement is crucial to climate action, and the CDP’s long-term focus on corporate emissions is present in this urban government focused score as well.
The increase in A-list cities from 43 in 2018 to 105 in 2019 is encouraging. More climate action is being taken globally at more levels of government than ever before. Cities are where modern wealth is generated, where people live and where emissions occur. Taking responsibility and action is key. And as the saying goes, you get what you inspect, not what you expect. That’s where the CDP comes in.