City Carbon Index: Los Angeles

THE PROJECT

Global Green's City Carbon Index was created in 2011 to show a city's current status on greenhouse gas emissions and policies so residents can quickly become empowered to take action. Cities are responsible for 70% of global CO2 emissions, and Los Angeles was selected as the pilot city for the Index -- as a global center of media and culture, the City has the power to change its own course and influence how other cities act. With inaction, Angelenos face an increased threat of wildfires, water shortages, extended heat waves, and severe winter storms. Los Angeles’ current emissions and actions shows there is significant room for progress on implementing effective policies.

OUR PARTICIPATION

At Global Green, we recognize that climate change is often framed as a global problem with solutions at the global scale. While a massive shift in the way our global society relates to, and interacts with, the natural environment is necessary, thinking about climate change as a far-away, global-scale problem may not be the best way to inspire meaningful action.

With that idea in mind, we created the City Carbon Index, a tool designed to communicate climate change as a local issue and answer the following three questions:

    •    "What is the carbon footprint of my city?"

    •    "Is my city doing enough to address greenhouse gas emissions?"

    •    "What can I do about it?"

The Index presents both a number value for the current estimated annual Carbon emissions (in millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide [CO2]) of the City and a letter grade that reports on how well the City is doing from the perspective of adopting and implementing policies related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

OVERVIEW

The first component of the City Carbon Index is communication of estimated annual emissions at the City scale.

Annual emissions of greenhouse gases in millions of metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the primary measure of a City’s progress at combating climate change. The source of the estimated annual emissions of greenhouse gases within the City of Los Angeles come from the City’s most recent comprehensive community-wide greenhouse gas inventory analysis. The current values are based on 2004 data, generated at the time by the City’s Environmental Affairs Department and released in 2007 in the City’s “Green LA” plan. The reporting tool continues to indicate these values for each calendar year until a new comprehensive report takes its place.

To demonstrate the City’s progress at reducing its emissions on the reporting tool to the right, we indicate the current emissions value relative to City’s goal for emissions reductions over time. The City’s goal of reducing emissions to 35% below 1990 levels by 2030 requires emissions to decrease to 35.2 million metric tons by 2030. We do not issue a grade, per se, for the current emissions level on the reporting tool, but instead indicate how close the most current values are to the 2030 goal.

It is important to note that the approach taken to calculating emissions (in this case, called a “community-wide inventory”) is only a first attempt. As the methodology for calculating community-wide emissions values improves, our approach to reporting emissions, and the values themselves, will likely change.

GREENHOUSE GAS REDUCTIONS

The graph below shows the City of Los Angeles’ annual reported community-wide C02 emissions (in red) against the City’s goal of 35% below 1990 levels by 2030 (35.2 MMT, in blue). The graph also shows the goal of an 80% reduction from 2000 levels by 2050 (10.5 MMT, in green), which is the minimum national emissions reduction goal recommended by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The slope for both goal lines begins in 2007, the year in which the 2030 goal was announced in the City’s GREEN LA plan. The initial value (51.6 MMT) is based on 2004 actual values, which remains unchanged because there is no newer comprehensive inventory to take its place.

INVENTORY

The current annual greenhouse gas emissions value reported on the City Carbon Index is derived from a community-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory conducted on behalf of the City in 2006, using 2004 emissions data.

The inventory estimates CO2 emissions across six major categories of fossil fuels use:

Residential Fuel Combustion

Commercial Fuel Combustion

Industrial Fuel Combustion

Transportation Fuel Combustion

Electricity Generation Fuel Combustion

Miscellaneous Fuel Combustion (End-Use Not Specified)

Many of the emissions estimations in the report were made by scaling available statewide data down to the city scale by the ratio of state population. This results emissions values that are very approximate at best. However, this report is the only comprehensive community-wide report currently available, and it is the only analysis that establishes not only "current" emissions values, but also the 1990 "baseline" from which the City’s reduction goals are based on.

MORE INFORMATION

Press release on the City Carbon Index

Global Green would like to thank the following individuals for their support in developing in the Index:

Angie Brooks, AIA, LEED AP, PUGH + SCARPAJose Gutierrez, Environmental Supervisor, Public Works, City of Los AngelesNick Lapis, Policy Associate, Californians Against WasteJane Paul, Coordinator, Green Economy Initiatives, Green LA CoalitionDenny Zane, Executive Director, MoveLA

MADE POSSIBLE BY THE JENA AND MICHAEL KING FOUNDATION