Cities account for more than 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Many recognize the importance of GHG inventories in city planning and have started measuring and reporting their GHG emissions. However, the absence of a universal accounting standard led to a number of issues in city GHG inventories, including:
Inconsistency: Inventories varied in types of gases measured, emissions sources included, and categorization of emissions, reducing clarity and comparability of results.
Incompleteness: Many of the methods out there focus only on carbon dioxide emissions, excluding other essential greenhouse gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol.
Double-counting: Due to unclear categorization and division of direct and indirect emissions, double-counting within and between inventories occurred.
These differences confused and sometimes misled decision-makers, users, and practitioners.
The pilot version of the GPC was released in 35 cities in May 2012. In the first 6 months, the three core partners deliberated on how to develop the standard together and engage diverse cities. Early this year, the partners agreed that the GHG Protocol program at WRI would lead development of the GPC while C40 and ICLEI would lever their extensive city networks to participate as pilot testers. WRI has since established an advisory committee that consists of more than 30 international organizations, cities, national governments, and foundations.
Within a year of the GPC’s launch, we have influenced 60 cities to measure and report city-wide GHG emissions. Successful implementation by these pioneer cities has created momentum to scale up GPC’s global adoption in other cities. In particular, we continue to work with our partners to promote it in China, Brazil, and India. In these countries, we’ve begun developing country-specific, GHG calculation tools and provided training and technical assistance to help local practitioners. Once the GPC is finalized in early 2014, we aim to convince more than 500 cities to use the standard by 2018.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – a high-quality, efficient, bus-based mode of public transport – can shorten commuting times, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and generally improve quality-of-life for city residents. Today, 160 cities around the world use BRT and busway systems—up from just 45 cities since WRI’s EMBARQ program was founded in 2002. EMBARQ has played a major role in expanding the BRT concept to cities throughout the world.
Rapid urbanization, motorization, and climate change require high-quality, sustainable urban transport solutions that can be developed quickly and cost-effectively. BRT systems can carry up to 46,000 passengers per hour—matching some of the world’s busiest metros—and can be implemented at one-tenth to one-half of the time and cost as subways or light rail. Yet in the early 2000s, BRT systems were largely limited to Latin America, and the rate of adopting the new system had plateaued.
Since EMBARQ’s founding in 2002, our experts have helped implement and develop the BRT concept around the world. We collaborate with local, regional, and national-level decision-makers to provide research and expertise that is both technical – advising on aspects such as safety, operations, fare integration, and branding – and political – navigating relationships to create a common vision.
EMBARQ provided technical assistance to more than 20 cities over the past 11 years. These cities’ BRT systems have now carried passengers on more than 5 billion trips. These systems save passengers almost 30 percent travel time, reduce CO2 emissions, and improve safety. In 2013 alone, we directly influenced new or improved BRT systems in cities such as Lima, Peru; Indore, India; Puebla and Chihuahua, Mexico; and Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Currently, EMBARQ is helping to plan or expand systems in Bangalore, India; Izmit, Turkey; Brasilia, Brazil; and Chengdu, China..
EMBARQ has also played a major role in championing financial support from international banks and national programs, such as in Mexico and India, for sustainable transport systems like BRT. In addition, we’ve published and widely disseminated cutting-edge research such as Modernizing Public Transport, and built BRT capacity through learning networks and trainings.
Today, 160 cities have adopted BRT. The BRT concept has reached a tipping point, with massive new investment and significant expansion planned on six continents. EMBARQ estimates that dozens of cities around the world are planning new or expanding existing BRT or busways, giving citizens access to safe, equitable transport and a higher overall quality of life.
Moving forward, EMBARQ will continue to promote major global BRT scale-up through project implementation, national policy advice, influence in major financing initiatives, and capacity building.
Most of the original forests in Ghana have been degraded or converted into agricultural lands. In order to avoid further deforestation, Ghana proposed a $50 million plan to the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds. However, the World Bank declined to endorse the plan, arguing that it wouldn’t generate sufficient impact. The plan did not have any component for the restoration of forest and landscapes.
Meanwhile, IUCN, CERSGIS, and WRI had spent two years developing and applying a method to evaluate national forest and landscape restoration opportunities, supported by the World Bank Program on Forests (Profor) and the German International Climate Initiative. They found that Ghana had large-scale opportunities to capture carbon and improve quality-of-life through agroforestry, improved treatment of fallow land, and other measures.
The Government of Ghana and the World Bank incorporated the results of this restoration analysis into a revised plan. The addition of this evidence-based, well-argued restoration component persuaded the World Bank to green-light the Forest Investment Plan.
The $50 million investment will not only make Ghana a pioneer in restoring degraded lands to mitigate climate change, it can significantly improve the lives of the country’s rural populations. Restoring landscapes for agriculture, conservation, and other purposes can yield better harvests, improved water supplies, ecosystem services, jobs, and more.
WRI is currently working with IUCN and local partners as part of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, continuing its engagement in Ghana and conducting similar national assessments in Brazil and Rwanda. The aim is to meet the Bonn Challenge, an ambitious, international goal to initiate restoration on 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020.
Three major financial institutions and two of the world’s largest food and beverage companies are driving improved water management using data from Aqueduct’s Water Risk Atlas. This list includes: Anheuser-Busch InBev, the leading global brewer; Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company; LGIM, one of Europe’s largest institutional asset managers; one of the world’s largest banks; and one of the world’s largest pension fund managers.
Water risks—such as floods, drought, and increased competition for scarce water resources—are increasingly chipping into corporate bottom lines. The financial sector is taking notice, as companies and investors seek robust and comprehensive data to inform their decision-making processes. Previously, water risk had not been widely incorporated into financial risk assessments or business strategies, primarily because of a lack of awareness of business vulnerability to water risks, poor data, and uncertainty on how to use what information was available.
In January 2013, WRI launched the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, a comprehensive water risk mapping tool that highlights water risk hotspots for a company’s direct operations and supply chains. Using a scientific approach, the tool is transparent, robust, and is translated into a set of easy-to-use water risk indicators and maps. Within six months from launch, the uptake of Aqueduct’s data by investors and companies has steadily increased, as has use by governments, academic, and civil society groups.
Some of the world’s biggest global companies, funds, and investors are driving improved local water management, thanks Aqueduct’s information. Investors like LGIM are increasingly using Aqueduct water risk data to inform investment decisions, and multinational industry leaders like Nestlé and AB InBev are adopting Aqueduct’s Water Risk Atlas as a critical component of their corporate water strategies. The popularity of the Aqueduct tool provides strong evidence that:
The investment community’s water-related risk awareness is growing;
Investors can become key drivers for improved corporate water management worldwide; and
Major multinational companies are incorporating water into business strategies to drive action on the ground and reduce shared water risks in watersheds.
In June 2013, Mexico took a big step toward a low-carbon economy and improved public health by implementing a new fuel-efficiency standard for light vehicles– the first fuel-efficiency standard in Latin America. EMBARQ Mexico played a major role in developing this new standard, writing the draft regulation, proposing mechanisms for economic flexibility, and assisting the government of Mexico during the negotiation process.
National fuel-efficiency standards are critical tools in reducing CO2 emissions and improving public health. Yet, Mexico was the only OECD country without a fuel-efficiency standard, and Mexican car manufacturers were hesitant to support a new fuel-efficiency regulation.
For four years, EMBARQ and our partner, Centro Mario Molina, collaborated with the Mexican government to help develop a new fuel-efficiency standard. Originally, EMBARQ Mexico offered the Mexican government our transport and economic expertise. Then, when negotiations between the government and the car industry broke down, EMBARQ and Centro Mario Molina stepped in and presented Mexico’s National Environmental Ministry (SEMARNAT) with a fully written draft regulation and strong technical support. This draft brought the automotive industry to the negotiation table, and won EMBARQ a voting seat on Mexico’s National Standardization Committee of Environment. Finally, on June 21, 2013, the final fuel-efficiency standard was released, with recognition for EMBARQ’s contributions published in the official journal text.
The new standard mandates a new vehicle fleet average of 14.9 kilometers per liter of gas (or 35 miles per gallon) by 2016. This will reduce CO2 emissions by 170 megatons– the amount of CO2 captured by a forest 10 times the size of Mexico City. It’s a win for people and the environment – consumers will save $2,700 USD each in fuel over the lifetime of a regulated vehicle.
In addition, Mexico patterned their standard on U.S. and Canadian regulations, meaning these three countries now have a harmonized fuel-efficiency standard. Mexico exports 81 percent of its cars to the global market, so this regulation could make the Mexican car industry more competitive globally.
The Mexican experience, tools, and methodology can be replicated in other developing countries that are in the process of implementing fuel-efficiency standards. Furthermore, expanding this regulation to other countries creates incentives for an increasingly homogeneous and more efficient global automotive industry.
EMBARQ Mexico is part of the EMBARQ network. EMBARQ is a program of the World Resources Institute. EMBARQ helps cities make sustainable transport a reality.
China’s main policy-making body, the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), adopted a groundbreaking policy this year to limit CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. The policy—which promotes the demonstration of carbon dioxide capture, storage, and utilization—is the first-of-its-kind in any country, and reflects WRI’s Guidelines for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), developed in partnership with Tsinghua University, China.
World energy use is estimated to increase by 56 percent between 2010 and 2040, with half of the increase attributed to China and India alone. In addition, 76 percent of new coal-fired power plants will be located in these two countries. Shifting to a much-needed, low-carbon economy requires that these nations either rely on more efficient and renewable sources of energy or find ways to manage the greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Our Guidelines for CCS in China were issued at a time when CCS was not a high priority within the Chinese administration. Yet we remained determined to continue actively engaging with experts and bringing our expertise to the table.
In collaboration with Tsinghua University, WRI began an early stakeholder effort to discuss guidelines for CCS in China. We convened leaders from China’s state-owned enterprises with NDRC officials and academics to develop the guidelines. This was perhaps the first time coal, oil, and electricity sectors ever met to discuss whether and how CCS would proceed in China. The group also traveled together on CCS study tours in 2009 and 2010, maintaining engagement with the Chinese government during these trips. This process contributed significantly toward the NDRC adopting a policy to promote demonstration of CCS and incorporating many aspects of the Tsinghua-WRI Guidelines.
NDRC’s adoption of the policy has created strong support for CCS projects within China. China has 11 large-scale, integrated CCS projects in the planning stages. On top of this, four large-scale, integrated pilots are already operating or in the construction stages. This type of leadership can not only inform other CCS practices and standards throughout the world, it can boost collaboration—particularly with the United States.
Borrowing major themes from our guidelines, the policy also promotes environmental standards and includes public engagement. It lays the groundwork for testing a variety of different technologies and, more importantly, phases out the use of naturally occurring CO2. The NDRC and other relevant ministries have since focused on the incorporation and implementation of the policy – a critical next step in scaling up this outcome.
Laws that ensure access to information provide citizens with the right to crucial facts and data, including those about natural resources that are critical to livelihoods. These transparency laws are the cornerstone of good governance, which all governments have a duty to respect, protect, and fulfill. With the goal to improve governance, The Access Initiative (TAI) successfully influenced a model African Union access-to-information law, as well as a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) access-to-information policy.
WRI is the Secretariat of TAI, the largest network in the world dedicated to ensuring that citizens have the right and ability to influence decisions about the natural resources that sustain their communities.
International and regional institutions, such as UNEP and the African Union, have wide-reaching effects that shape national policies. However, without robust access-to-information policies, UNEP and the African Union lacked practical means of ensuring that their decisions consider sustainable development concerns and the interests of the poor.
WRI has a long history of shaping legal, institutional, and practical reforms to improve transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability around environmental decision-making. This history lay the groundwork for WRI and TAI partners to effectively campaign for UNEP and African Union reforms.
Before Rio+20, WRI and TAI partners presented strong arguments to delegates and helped draft language, which were incorporated into UNEP’s final decision to adopt an “access to information” policy. Simultaneously, WRI worked with partners to review and comment on an African Union model access-to-information law. WRI submitted official comments and provided recommendations to reduce exceptions to the law and include new provisions to better guide implementation and promotion of the policy. The majority of our specific recommendations were adopted in the final model law.
Today, UNEP is finalizing its access-to-information policy and working with WRI to enhance stakeholder participation in decision-making. When the policy is finalized and implemented, UNEP will be one of the most transparent and inclusive organizations in the United Nations system.
The African Union (AU) passed a strong model law, which provides a template for all African countries to write access-to-information acts. It provides legislators a tool to address issues specific to the African context, such as requirements to improve record-keeping and provisions for oversight and monitoring by an independent enforcement body. Currently, of the 54 African countries, only 13 have access-to-information laws. This new, model law encourages the 41 other countries to pass similar legislation.
WRI and TAI are building on our success with UNEP and the AU in new ways, such as working to influence the Open Government Partnership on high-level transparency and accountability policies.
Forest fires ran rampant across Indonesia in the summer of 2013, spreading a toxic haze across South East Asia. Governments and NGOs are using WRI’s data and analysis to hold palm oil and timber companies accountable for these damaging forest and peat fires.
Burning forest is illegal in Indonesia. Yet June 2013 was one of the worst months for Indonesia’s fires in more than a decade, spreading an enormous cloud of haze and unhealthy pollution across the country and into Malaysia and Singapore. However, the governments of South East Asia didn’t have access to the same forest data, making it difficult to know where the fires were located and who might be responsible.
Using data from NASA and the Indonesian government, WRI was able to show within a few hours that half of the fires were within the boundaries of timber plantations and oil palm concessions. We leveraged our deep expertise on Indonesian forest and land issues, strong data analysis, and communications expertise to frame the issues around the fires and encourage governments to hold specific companies accountable. Our experts provided in-depth background information, clarified the facts where possible, and offered ongoing insights to media, resulting in coverage in more than 200 local and international outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe, and Straits Times. The fires analysis became the most viewed blog series in WRI history, with more than 27,000 page views. This significant media outreach and attention improved the understanding of the crisis internationally, and helped build momentum to solve the problem.
The Indonesian and Singaporean governments have stated at the highest levels that they will prosecute major companies accused of setting illegal fires to clear land for palm oil and pulpwood plantations. Crucially, the governments of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and Thailand agreed at an ASEAN international summit to establish a joint platform for monitoring fires using satellite technology. They will also share company concession data among governments in order to hold companies accountable when fires are detected on their land. Improved data availability, law enforcement, and government cooperation could dramatically reduce the occurrence of forest and peat land fires in Indonesia, enhancing local communities’ health and the economy.
Moving forward, WRI will use Global Forest Watch, a soon-to-be-launched forest monitoring system, to push for strong natural resource management on a worldwide scale.
On June 25 2013, President Obama announced the Climate Action Plan to address climate change and put the United States on a trajectory to meet its international commitment of reducing its emissions 17 percent by 2020. The findings of WRI’s flagship report, "Can the U.S. Get There from Here", played a valuable role in influencing the Administration’s decision.
Given prevailing political inertia, there was scant hope in 2012 for any new U.S. legislation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Another unwelcome dynamic was that many government officials and influential leaders argued without credible evidence that recent declines in U.S. emissions meant the country was already “on track” to meet its international commitment.
WRI responded with its groundbreaking report, which recommended a “Four-Point Plan” to achieve emissions reductions by taking action on existing power plants, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, and energy efficiency. A strong outreach and communications effort followed, resulting in extensive media coverage of the report. We also held briefings for high-level Administration officials and enlisted allies in the environmental and business worlds to echo our message and carry our work into the White House.
When the President announced a Climate Action Plan, it included key elements of WRI’s “Four Point Plan” and other measures to reduce carbon dioxide pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change. His speech announcing the Plan was the clearest statement by a U.S. President of his intent to use the Administration’s existing legal authority under the Clean Air Act and other enacted legislation to reduce GHG emissions.
Although implementation of the Plan in the coming months and years will determine its success, the Plan itself represents the most substantial and comprehensive approach to addressing domestic GHG emissions since the defeat of cap-and-trade legislation in 2010. It also sent a clear signal to the international community that the United States is prepared to take significant actions to reduce its GHG emissions – without Congress, if need be – and be a more constructive partner in international negotiations.
Many nations struggle with how to manage and protect their natural resources—resources that are frequently the source of significant biological and economic value. Russia can better protect its important nature conservation areas, thanks to a new map and data set developed by WRI and Global Forest Watch Russia. This map provides the most comprehensive view of all of Russia’s federal-level protected areas. Now, the Ministry for Natural Resources can better monitor activities where logging and mining is allowed, and stop activities in pristine and protected areas. Already, Megatron, a Russian oil company, has changed the boundaries of its drilling concession where they overlapped a protected area.