More than half the world’s population lives in cities, and they contribute more than 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, city leaders are key players in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and curb climate change.

While many urban centers around the world are already taking action, until recently there was no broadly accepted, standardized guidance to help officials measure and report emissions from cities. This situation changed in 2012 with the release of the pilot Global Protocol for Community-Scale GHG Emissions, a comprehensive, easy-to-use pilot GHG accounting and reporting protocol jointly developed by WRI, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability.

The protocol is based on consensus built among key stakeholders, including WRI, C40, ICLEI, the World Bank, United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UN-HABITAT), and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). More than 30 other expert international organizations also provided inputs.

Enabling Cities to Take Climate Action

Launched during the international climate talks in Bonn, Germany in May 2012, the protocol marks a major step forward for city-level GHG accounting. It guides municipal authorities through gathering comprehensive data on emission sources, tracking performance, responding to local GHG regulations, and building effective, low-carbon strategies. Cities can customize their results for local reporting needs while being compatible with a common international standard.

Besides the above expert international organizations, the protocol drew on practical experience from city officials from Buenos Aires; Eugene and Portland, Oregon; Mexico City; Paris; Taipei; Toronto; and others. The final protocol will be released in 2013 and will incorporate lessons learned by 15-20 pilot cities around the world.

Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role

WRI’s GHG Protocol standards are the prime tool used for measuring and reporting corporate GHG emissions worldwide. In developing the cities protocol, our partners agreed to adopt GHG Protocol’s “scope” approach to emissions counting, which treats direct and indirect emissions separately and avoids double-counting. Drawing on lessons we learned in providing technical assistance to cities in China and Brazil, together with C40 and ICLEI, WRI—together with C40 and ICLEI—successfully developed a comprehensive framework, which includes all urban emission sources and six types of GHGs.

During 2013, we will work with C40 and ICLEI to pilot test the draft protocol on the ground. Our GHG Protocol team is already working with cities in India, Brazil, and China.