Tracking city climate actions: There's a new website for that

Tracking city climate actions: There's a new website for that

NAZCA city climate change platform
A snapshot of the new online platform for climate action, NAZCA, which includes 317 cities and 261 companies working on issues such as climate resilience, food supply and energy efficiency.

Much of the international climate change conversation has focused on national government-level action — or inaction — but there is also a growing awareness of the need to act at the municipal level.

Cities produce 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making the world's growing urban centers the single-greatest opportunity for taking on climate change. Cities are also our future; more than half the world population lives in cities, and global urbanization is expected to hit 60 percent by 2030.

Already some cities have established ambitious goals to reduce those emissions 20 percent to 30 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Many of these initiatives aim to take advantage of Big Data to develop smarter cities.

In September, cities around the world took a major step towards amplifying their collective voice on the international stage when more than 2,000 signed the Compact of Mayors (PDF), which includes over 200 targets and strategies in place to reduce emissions. The agreement focuses on scaling up climate resilience efforts, energy efficiency programs and resilient financing mechanisms, including through an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 454 megatons by 2020.

Collective impact

Among the slew of announcements, initiatives and documents that came out of the United Nations' recent COP20 climate conference in Lima was the launch of the new NAZCA (Non-state Actors Zone for Climate Action) data platform — an online portal showing the actions that cities, companies, regions and investors are taking to address climate change.

The platform showcases thousands of climate action data, many of which have been supplied by ICLEI’s carbon Climate Registry, a global reporting platform for local and subnational climate action. This also acts as the central repository of the Compact of Mayors.

Many actions featured on the site are individual commitments disclosed through CDP, Carbon Climate Registry or sustainability reports. Others featured have been made by several entities collectively, such as those launched at the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York in September. The NAZCA portal will, for the first time, aggregate all these actions together to provide a clear sense of the sheer scale of climate action taking place.

Some notable examples include:

The New York Declaration of Forests

In recognition of the serious role deforestation plays in exacerbating climate change, dozens of governments, influential civil society, indigenous organizations and 34 companies — including Asia Pulp and Paper, Cargill and Unilever signed this agreement, which sets a global timeline to halve deforestation of natural forests by 2020 and end it altogether by 2030.

It also calls for restoring forests and croplands for an area larger than India. Meeting these goals would cut 4.5 billion to 8.8 billion tons of carbon pollution every year — about as much as the current emissions of the United States.

The Urban Electric Mobility Initiative

This initiative aims to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles and increase the share of electric vehicles in the total volume of individual motorized transport in cities to at least 30 percent by 2030, according to UEMI’s mission statement.

Naturally, this would result in significant reduction of carbon emissions in urban environments. Some notable signatories include BMW, General Motors and Tesla.


This is a coalition of companies, backed by CDP and The Climate Group, that have committed to procure 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

Prominent signatories include megaretailers IKEA and H&M, plus Dutch technology firm Philips.

Building momentum for Paris

While a new online tool is nice to bring together disparate pools of data on climate action, the bigger upshot is how such efforts might be leveraged on the global stage.

World leaders left the United Nations climate talks in Lima this fall feeling as if the groundwork had been laid for meaningful mitigation agreements to be made at next year’s COP21 U.N. meeting in Paris.

One of the most encouraging developments in Lima was the abundance of support for a long-term effort to reduce emissions, with over 100 countries now supporting a long-term mitigation goal.

The Lima talks also were bolstered by major contributions to the Green Climate Fund in the weeks before COP20. Additional contributions in the second week of the negotiations helped the fund surpass the $10 billion mark. The recent landmark climate deal between U.S. and China — the world’s largest carbon polluters — also offers reason to hope that Paris will produce a powerful climate agreement, although it's worth noting that many observers also remain skeptical.

In terms of progress already being made, the Lima talks did catalyze the launch of the Global Protocol for Community Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories, a new international standard for greenhouse gas accounting and reporting by cities, developed by ICLEI, C40 and WRI. The protocol gives cities the standards and tools they need to measure their emissions, build more effective emissions reduction strategies, set measurable and more ambitious emission reduction goals and to track their progress more accurately and comprehensively.

Tools such as NAZCA can help maintain this positive momentum moving into 2015 by offering a mechanism that helps turn the tide in favor of cities and subnational governments, giving national governments the confidence to sign an ambitious climate agreement in Paris next year.

NAZCA launched with almost 1,000 strategic actions and adaptation and mitigation initiatives. Look for many more to be uploaded over the next 12 months in the run-up to Paris as cities, businesses and national governments look to build a case for concrete action on climate change mitigation.