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Climate Action Instruments for Municipalities

By Ana Guasque - Tlalli Energia
Senior Consultant


By Ana Guasque | Senior Consultant - Tue, 07/26/2022 - 13:00

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Nowadays, municipal governments have plenty of useful instruments that allow them to go beyond mandatory environmental issues and make climate action a true commitment and an easy path.

The world is fast-changing, with global challenges, such as the pandemic, disruption in supply chains and, of course, climate change. As the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarizes, “climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health.” Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are driving climate change and its impacts around the world. Therefore, it is an urgent need to accelerate efforts to reduce GHG emissions.

From a subnational level, municipalities, as entities in charge of their territory and with diverse political and administrative arrangements, are among the smallest public units responsible for taking action and ensuring a sustainable development for their population.

Municipalities may engage climate action in various forms: mitigating GHGs, adopting energy efficiency measures, promoting renewable energy, adopting circularity measures. Each approach will depend upon the geography, climate risks, and of course its population. Every effort may respond to different needs and desires but, in the end, every city or region will pursue its own objectives whether they are to achieve local benefits, respond to the preferences and pressures of influential local actors, or mitigate risks.

But far beyond complying with legal and regulatory environmental commitments, municipalities have plenty of best practices, associations, guidance and international cooperation, all useful instruments to truly commit to climate action. Let’s examine some of these tools and highlight their benefits.

Climate Action Plan

When a municipality wants to engage in climate action, the first step to do so is to try to understand its current situation and start monitoring its GHG emissions to start a Climate Action Plan (CAP). Through a complete municipal GHG inventory, they will have a metric for measuring the impacts of policies and projects on emissions and a strong base and best practice for GHG management.

The methodology for climate action planning follows these general steps:

  1. Commitment of municipal authorities (establish core team and review general strategy)
  2. Baseline construction (data collection, risk assessment, GHG inventory, needs assessment)
  3. Action and development of the plan (identification of strategy, selection of actions, definition of actions, compilation of the plan)
  4. Revision of the CAP)

The key features of a CAP are:

  1. Designed as a strategic document
  2. Aligned with the objectives of the Paris Agreement
  3. Plan based on scientific evidence based on diagnosis of GHG emissions
  4. Adaptation and mitigation measures in an ambitious scenario toward a target date
  5. Process that allows continuous monitoring and updating

GHG Inventory

A GHG inventory is a list of emission sources and the associated emissions quantified using standardized methods. GHG inventories are developed for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Managing GHG risks and identifying reduction opportunities
  • Participating in voluntary or mandatory GHG programs
  • Participating in GHG markets
  • Achieving recognition for early voluntary action

In general, municipalities are small-scale emitters of GHGs, given their public services and activities, such as public buildings, public transport, public services (water, waste management, sanitation).

GHG management and reporting

Managing GHG emissions and protecting a municipality from potential impacts of climate change are fundamental to achieving sustainable growth and welfare for its population. They are also useful contributions to each country’s efforts toward climate action given the bottom-up approach and the cumulative effect on accounting and mitigation of its emissions.

In terms of frameworks for GHG accounting and reporting, municipalities also have several options:

  • IPCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventories
  • Guide to Good Practices and Management of Uncertainty in National Inventories of GEI (Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in National GHG Inventories)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • ICLEI, Network of Local Governments for Sustainability
  • GHG protocol standard for cities, formally known as Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC), created by the World Resources Institute (WRI), C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and ICLEI

The benefits of GHG management and reporting are multiple; first of all because it is essential to know and measure everything you want to reduce and mitigate. Among the major benefits, it is important to mention:

  • Cost savings: GHG emission accounting, management and reporting as a system allows the monitoring of the energy source and to identify GHG emission reduction projects that can lead to cost savings. For example, the use of alternative fuels that replace diesel in a vehicle fleet.
  • Risk and opportunity management: Managing GHG emissions helps to analyze risks and reap benefits from opportunities. It can also create a suitable environment to be ready for incoming regulations.
  • Stakeholder’s requirements: Citizens are now seeking more information from their public organizations’ efforts toward carbon emission reduction. Therefore, quantification of GHG inventory will help a municipality to meet current and future requirements and the population’s expectations.
  • Communication and transparency: When emissions are published by the municipality, a strong statement to citizens is made regarding the responsible management of resources. These reports can also be presented at various forums, including citizen forums, state government and international forums. The use of a technological platform helps ensure transparency in the publication of results and the communication of strategies toward the population.1


Technological platforms

There are intelligent and collaborative solutions from which municipalities can benefit. Today, the market offers technological solutions to measure, calculate and monitor GHG emissions, allowing sectoral and peer-to-peer comparisons. Often, the implementation involves a sustainability and technology consulting team and municipal staff with access to the required base information.

Through these technological solutions, several applications can be added to understand and improve the efficiency of key indicators, such as energy and consumption and emission reduction.

To effectively engage in climate action and be ready to fulfill local, national, and international commitments, each municipality must carry out the actions aimed toward mitigation efforts to reduce those emissions and be able to design adaptation measures that will be implemented to cope with climate change.

At Tlalli Energia, we work with stakeholders from the public and private sectors, to bring low-carbon solutions into their subnational strategies, providing technological tools that help to identify, quantify, group, and manage their GHG emissions.

No matter your focus, such as participating in a voluntary or mandatory GHG program, nor your purpose, such as participating in GHG markets, or if your municipality wants to achieve recognition for early voluntary action, we are ready to support you with a variety of climate action tools.

Photo by:   Ana Guasque

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