- The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), a regional planning authority for 101 towns and cities around Boston, rolled out a new tool for localities to keep a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventory.
- MAPC's spreadsheet-based Community GHG Inventory Tool allows municipal staff to enter emissions data, then uses publicly available datasets to automatically calculates emissions across all sectors of the community. The accompanying Step-by-Step Inventory Guide builds on ICLEI's global protocol for community GHG inventories to help local leaders understand what types of data they need to collect based on community characteristics.
- The resources represent a "localized approach" for cities and towns to understand their primary sources of GHG emissions, and could be translated to other regions across the country, MAPC clean energy analyst Megan Aki told Smart Cities Dive.
The first step for cities of any size to take when putting together a climate action plan is to understand their biggest sources of emissions, Aki said. Typically, those emissions are the highest from buildings and transportation, though communities with a heavy manufacturing or industrial presence may see those strongly represented as well.
Keeping track of emissions can be tricky, especially for jurisdictions that do not have resources, staff or expertise dedicated to sustainability and climate issues. But by making the tool easy to use, specialist knowledge is not necessarily required. A staffer or volunteer would only need experience with Excel spreadsheets and managing data, according to Aki.
The regional nature of the work — taking into account the role of smaller communities in cutting emissions — is about establishing a consistent set of data standards across jurisdictional lines, she said. Regional planning has become increasingly important in recent years, as more governments aim to tackle climate change together rather than in isolation.
And regional bodies like MAPC, which received financial support for the project from the statewide Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, are "well-positioned to do this type of work," she said. Regional groups are in possession of many relevant datasets, allowing them to add information more easily in one place rather than leaving it to individual jurisdictions.
"We're looking to work with more and more of our cities and towns on what comes next after you know where your primary sources of emissions are, and figuring out the right programs and policies that they can implement within their communities as well," she said.
The inventory could also serve as a good way to show community members the changes that need to be made to drive down emissions, according to Aki, and why potentially painful shifts in policy could be necessary.
"[It's a] good communications tool for municipalities to help them translate the issues they are working on to the public on why some of these transitions and changes are so critical in their communities, and could be helpful to help the broader community see the responsibility they have to tackle climate change," she said.