CDP, Cities, Cities and sustainability reporting, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), ISO 37120, Sustainability

Resilient Cities Conference 2018 #2

It was my pleasure to make this presentation on how the City of Bloomington, Indiana tracks its progress on resilience and sustainability during the session entitled Measuring urban resilience and evaluating impacts at the Resilient Cities Conference 2018.

Measuring urban resilience and evaluating impacts

I represented the City of Bloomington at the Resilient Cities Conference 2018 in Bonn, Germany in my role as Chair of the City of Bloomington Commission on Sustainability.  The commission has as part of its mission to measure, monitor, and report on the community’s progress toward sustainability.

See my slide presentation and comments below.

 

This slide represents a list of reporting frameworks that all cities could use to report on their sustainability progress.

The city prepared its first Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Report in 2012. You can access Bloomington’s full GRI report here.

Bloomington was involved in the STAR Community Index Leading Indicators Program.

You can read about how Bloomington reduced its GHG emissions in its latest GHG inventory here.

As the City of Bloomington considers its long range plan for land use and development, it completed its 2018 Comprehensive Plan. The plan is a set of goals, policies, maps, illustrations, and implementation strategies that state how the City of Bloomington should address development: physically, socially, and economically.

The city is engaged currently in preparing a Sustainability Action Plan, which will address transportation, energy, food, and the built environment.

In an earlier blog post, I discussed how ISO 37120 Sustainable development of communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life would be useful to a city.

As we look at our next steps in reporting, there are numerous things to do to monitor the city’s progress. The metrics set out in the Comprehensive Plan and the Sustainability Action Plan will provide information about how well the city is adhering to its plans. In addition, other standardized reporting frameworks can be used to monitor Bloomington’s progress in its sustainable development.

To help understand all of our metrics, I recommend that a summary of all the reports be prepared to get a picture of what the city is doing. A summary report should be written each year to determine our strengths, weaknesses, and progress. This report could be presented to the City Council and Mayor as part of a formal annual reporting by the Commission on Sustainability.

 

 

Cities, Cities and sustainability reporting, Sustainability

Resilient Cities Conference 2018

I just returned from the Resilient Cities Conference 2018  where I was invited to make two presentations.  I represented the City of Bloomington, Indiana in my role as Chair of the City of Bloomington Commission on Sustainability. This conference is held annually in Bonn, Germany.

Started in 2010, the Resilient Cities Conference was conceived as a way to connect local government leaders and climate change adaptation experts. The goal was to create discussion about adaptation challenges facing urban environments and to encourage partnerships that could benefit cities.

What is a resilient city?

“A ‘Resilient City’ is prepared to absorb and recover from any shock or stress while maintaining its essential functions, structures, and identity as well as adapting and thriving in the face of continual change. Building resilience requires identifying and assessing hazard risks, reducing vulnerability and exposure, and lastly, increasing resistance, adaptive capacity, and emergency preparedness.”

The Resilient Cities Conference 2018 featured speakers from all over the globe, which included Australia, North, Central, and South America, Europe, Africa, Pacific Islands, and Asia. I was one of three U.S. city/state representatives. The program was packed with sessions about challenges and strategies for cities as they adapt to climate change.

The First Plenary set the tone for the need for action with speakers from the UN, ICLEI, City of Bonn, and experts on climate adaptation. Ashok Sridharan, the Mayor of Bonn, welcomed us all.

 

Ashok Sridharan, Mayor, City of Bonn, Germany

 

Speakers and attendees at first Plenary Session

 

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

I was invited to the Mayors Lunch.

Mayors Lunch

At the Mayors Lunch, we were given Rubik’s cubes to symbolize how one’s perception of progress can be deceptive. In trying to solving the puzzle, although progress may be occurring, things often look much worse before they look better.

Mayors Lunch

In addition, I was invited to the Talanoa Dialogue and Dinner.

“This year’s conference has been confirmed as a Talanoa Dialogue. Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji to describe an inclusive and transparent dialogue and decision-making process. The Talanoa Dialogue was launched by the COP23 Presidency of Fiji and is designed to take stock of and strengthen national climate plans known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. In order to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, greater ambition and more effective implementation involving all levels of government is critical.”

Talanoa Dialogue and Dinner at Town Hall, Bonn

Great conversations occurred between the sessions.

Gwen White and Anthony Socci, Sr. Lead on International Resilience and Adaptation Policy at U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

 

Monika Zimmermann, Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and Sunandan Tiwari, Senior Program Manager, Global Projects, ICLEI World Secretariat, Bonn, Germany

 

Steve Gawler, Regional Director, ICLEI Oceania, Melbourne, Australia, Geoffrey Rutledge, Deputy Director-General, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Australian Capital Territory Government, Canberra, Australia, Stephanie Ziersch, Director, Communities and Climate Change, Sustainability Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, and Gwen White

It was a great conference that I hope to attend in the future. In my next posts, I will talk about my two presentations at the Resilient Cities Conference 2018.

Metropolis
Cities, Cities and sustainability reporting, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Integrated Reporting, Integrated Reporting, Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting

GRI Standards for Cities

City sustainability reporting would be improved if cities used the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards.

GRI Logo, 2015

The GRI framework is used by 74% of the 250 largest corporations. So what does this have to do with cities? As the most widely used framework, it is known by a variety of investors, governments, and NGOs. Many of the same investors, governments, and NGOs are scrutinizing city reports. If the city reports were prepared with a widely used standard, the reports would likely be better understood and more usable for decision making.

Cities have economic, environmental, and social impacts that should be measured in a systematic approach in order to be managed. The GRI Standards provide such an approach and encompass the triple-bottom-line by focusing on an organization’s economic, environmental, and social dimensions. All three are necessary to measure a city’s progress toward sustainable development. The GRI Standards state that organizations need to report only what is important to that city and to be transparent about its determination process.

What are some of the benefits? They are adaptable because they can be applied to any organization of any size and in any location. Cities can compare their progress from period to period. Does using the GRI framework allow for direct comparisons across cities? No two cities are directly comparable but by using the same standards sharing lessons learned would be easier. Cities can assess their economic, environmental, and social risks in addition to engaging their stakeholders about what impacts are important.

The GRI Standards provide metrics that could be used for input into an integrated report under the International Integrated Reporting Council Integrated Reporting <IR> Framework. The <IR> Framework allows organizations to demonstrate how they create value in the short, medium, and long terms. This is especially relevant for cities as they plan for the long  term. For example, if a city invests in electric buses powered with cheaper renewable energy, this investment creates value for the city in many ways. The city’s assets have increased because it purchased the buses. It now has a fleet of electric buses. Value is created each year because fuel and maintenance costs are reduced. The reduction in carbon emissions improves air quality, which results in the improved health of citizens. As a result, health care costs are reduced.

Health care cost reductions can be quantified and reported by a city. A 2014 study by a team of scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), RAND Corp., and the University of Washington, reported that costs saved from reduced health impacts of GHG reduction strategies in the U.S. are estimated to be between $6 and $14 billion annually in 2020. This means the resulting GHG reductions amount to health costs benefits of between $40 and $93 per metric ton of carbon dioxide eliminated.

Take a look at cities that have adopted the GRI framework. The list includes Chicago, Atlanta, Melbourne, Dublin, and Warsaw.

 

Chicago - River Walk and State Street bridge
Cities, Cities and sustainability reporting, ISO 37120, Sustainability Reporting

ISO 37120 – Cities’ Sustainability Reporting Option

Chicago - River Walk and State Street bridge
Photo by Michael J. White

There are numerous ways that cities can monitor their sustainability progress. One example is ISO 37120-2014 Sustainable development of communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life. As the first ISO standard for city indicators, it covers the three pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social. The standard provides 100 indicators that include 17 areas, which are economy, education, energy, environment, finance, fire and emergency, governance, health, recreation, safety, shelter, solid waste, telecommunications, transportation, urban planning, wastewater, and water and sanitation. Cities of any size or location can choose which indicators to report.

What is in it for cities?

By using this set of standardized metrics, cities will see numerous benefits. Benchmarking performance and setting targets are a fundamental place to start. If you want to lower greenhouse gas emissions, you need to know what your emissions are. In addition, better management of city resources can be achieved with sustainability metrics. For example, keeping track of wastewater management initiatives can enable cities to manage more efficiently and effectively both financial and environmental resources. Urban planning can be facilitated by use of these indicators. These metrics can provide information about transportation, recreation, safety, and health to inform a city’s decisions about housing policies. In addition, comparisons with other reporting cities are possible on the World Council on City Data (WCCD) website.

An added benefit is the ability to obtain WCCD Certification. Certification levels depend on the number of indicators reported.

If you are involved with a city, this is worth looking into.

As a member of the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability, I will be working on applying this standard to the City of Bloomington, Indiana in the next several months. Over time, I will report about the process.