WHY ARE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES IMPORTANT FOR TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE?
Cities and urban areas present both a challenge and a significant opportunity in the management of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to the concentration of people and activities within them.
At ‘COP21’ in Paris – the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – almost 200 countries came together and collectively committed to limiting global temperatures to ‘well below’ 2 degrees and avoiding the worsening effects of climate change. With the next COP on the horizon in November, focus has transferred from making promises to taking action. Effective and committed governance at the national level will be key to achieving the Paris Agreement, however it is at the sub-regional level where we will see the real gains in climate change mitigation.
Cities account for approximately 75% of global energy consumption and 70% of energy related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. With an additional 2 billion people predicted to be living in urban environments by 2050, this number is only going to increase. Urban emissions reductions from the aggregated effort of cities and urban areas by 2030 are equivalent to nearly 25% of the gap between national pledges and the 2 degrees target. Recent research also suggests that urban policy decisions before 2020 could determine up to a third of the remaining global carbon budget that is not already ‘locked-in’ by past decisions. In other words, where countries pledge, it will be cities and sub-national governments that will actually deliver.
Many cities, regions and local communities are doing just this, developing and delivering practical actions to fill the voids left in national policy. Climate action is also bringing a range of co-benefits for urban populations, from boosting local economies to reducing air pollution. Gibraltar is one of those urban communities, and has been blazing a trail in GHG reporting.
COMMUNITY-SCALE GHG INVENTORIES - WHAT ARE THEY?
For communities to take meaningful action on climate change, they need to understand the relative contribution of different emission sources. A comprehensive and robust “inventory” of GHG emissions is therefore the starting point of any climate change mitigation activity, enabling policymakers to understand the emissions contribution of different activities in the community, inform policies, and maximise the effectiveness of mitigation actions for reducing emissions.
In December 2014 the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) was launched. The GPC offers cities, communities and local governments a robust, transparent and globally-accepted framework to consistently identify, calculate and report city GHGs. A ‘City’ inventory following the GPC considers emissions induced by the community’s activities, rather than just those directly produced from within the boundary (like a national GHG inventory), and excludes those emissions produced that are not the responsibility of the community. In Gibraltar, this includes activities like Bunkering, which unfairly skew the ‘footprint’ of the community. Through the categorisation of emissions into different ‘scopes’ and sectors, as shown in Figure 3, it is possible to differentiate between emission causing activities in the community that can be influenced, and those outside of the community’s control.
THE COMPACT OF MAYORS - INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Reporting GHG emissions using the GPC has been adopted by a number of international organisations and initiatives, and is a central component of the Compact of Mayors , the world’s largest cooperative effort among mayors and city officials to reduce GHG emissions, track progress and prepare for the impacts of climate change. To date, 633 cities, representing 492,134,481 people worldwide and 6.79% of the total global population, have committed to the Compact of Mayors2, including Gibraltar.
To commit to the Compact, cities must annually undertake a GPC-compliant inventory and Gibraltar has been leading the way, as one of the first to publish a comprehensive GHG inventory for the community, and one of the first to report all emission sources and scopes.
As Gibraltar has committed to the Compact of Mayors, the Government is now required to assess and report emissions every year, as well as taking further action to understand and manage emissions and climate impacts.
GIBRALTAR'S GHG EMISSIONS - WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
In 2014/15, Ricardo Energy & Environment supported the Government of Gibraltar to undertake and compile a GHG inventory for calendar year 2013. At that time, Gibraltar was one of a small, but growing number of urban communities in the world to report a compliant GHG inventory.
The results of Gibraltar’s 2013 inventory (excluding port activities) show that total emissions within the scope of the ‘community’ were estimated at 324,683 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), and the breakdown is broadly aligned to those expected for an urban area, with stationary energy dominating, accounting for 52% of emissions. Transportation contributes about one third of emissions, with 16% from road transport sources. Waste and product use are smaller, at 10% and 3% respectively, and energy associated with water supply 3%.
On a ‘per capita’ basis, emissions equate to over 9 tonnes per person. This is relatively high, reflecting possibly the relatively small resident population compared to the amount of energy consumed for all the economic activities occurring. More information can be found at: https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/new/sites/default/ files/HMGoG_Documents/20150301-A_City-Level_ Greenhouse_Gas_Inventory_for_Gibraltar_2013.pdf
Inventory data such as this is a critical tool in helping to identify and prioritise areas for action. Although there are uncertainties in data and methodologies, what this shows is that stationary energy, as the highest contributor to overall community-level emissions, should be a priority area for reducing emissions. In particular, the industrial, commercial and government sectors, as the highest end user category. Road transport is not one of the larger sources, but is significant given the small size of the territory and the potential for interventions to reduce vehicle use, and also improvements to air quality. Waste emissions are high compared to some cities, mostly from solid waste disposal at landfill sites. This is also an area of considerable local influence and waste management and recycling is an active policy area in Gibraltar.
In continuing to support the Government of Gibraltar in fulfilling their commitment to the Compact of Mayors by annually compiling a GPC-compliant inventory for Gibraltar, Ricardo Energy & Environment aim to help the Government to better understand and track emission reductions, identify and develop targeted policies and strategies to reduce Gibraltar’s GHG emissions. This will help Gibraltar to contribute to the global fight against climate change, continuing to be a leader in GHG reporting.