Council releases greenhouse gas emissions tool

Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Metropolitan Council is developing two online tools to help local governments quantify their greenhouse gas emissions and choose strategies to reduce those emissions.

Screenshot of the greenhouse gas inventory toolThe first is a greenhouse gas inventory, which will provide local governments with high-quality data about greenhouse gas emissions from several key sectors. In celebration of Earth Day, the Council released an early version of the inventory, which includes transportation and energy emissions data for cities and townships in the seven-county region. Data for counties will be released in the coming weeks.

The second is a local scenario planning tool, being developed in partnership with the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network. Expected to be ready in fall 2021, the first-of-its-kind scenario planning tool will allow local governments to explore the potential for different climate solutions and mitigation strategies to reduce emissions in their local context.

The tools are part of the Met Council’s Metro Climate Stats project.

“Local governments are expressing great interest in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and becoming more resilient in the face of our changing climate,” said Chair Charlie Zelle. “These tools will allow counties, cities, and townships to develop their own tailored strategies to advance sustainability and livability in the region. We are committed to supporting them to do this critical work.”

Researchers from affiliated institutions of the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, including the University of Minnesota, Princeton University, and the University of Texas at Austin, are involved in developing the local scenario planning tool, focused largely on transportation and land use. ICLEI USA, a national membership organization of local governments for sustainability, and LEIF LLC, a sustainability consulting small business, are also core partners on the project.

Greenhouse gas inventory is first stage

The Met Council has been working on the greenhouse gas inventory for well over a year and testing it with local governments. The inventory focuses on several major sectors:

  • Energy, including electricity and stationary fuels
  • Wastewater
  • Transportation
  • Solid waste
  • Livestock and agriculture

A worker at a wastewater treatment plant.“Our goal is to provide local governments with high quality, greenhouse gas accounting data that allows them to understand existing conditions within their boundaries,” explained Mauricio Leon, researcher leading the project at the Met Council. “A few cities have already done a lot to measure their emissions. But this is the first comprehensive look at the entire region. By creating the inventory, we have taken a burden off many smaller cities that do not have the resources to develop these tools.”

Cities are responsible for an estimated 75% of carbon emissions, with transportation and buildings as the largest contributors, Leon said.

The inventory quantifies emissions using an international protocol that ensures consistency with data methodology across the country and the globe. Emissions data from all six major sectors will be added to the inventory by the end of the year.

Team is engaging local governments to develop scenario planning tool

In late April and early May, staff are holding five online sessions with environmental advocates, technical experts, and local government officials. Leon will discuss the inventory with participants and introduce the pending development of the local scenario planning tool.

To register for an upcoming online session, Contact mauricio.leon@metc.state.mn.us to register for an online session. Five are planned between April 28 and May 12. Space is limited.

“Many cities are already asking about the best strategies for reducing carbon emissions and how different strategies might work in combination,” Leon said. “Local governments can use the scenario planning tool as they look for answers. The data will help them explore potential futures and analyze the impact of different actions.”

The scenario planning tool will rely on robust quantitative models and academic research. It will help evaluate likely outcomes of policy and technology implementation. Cities will be able to use the information to create, evaluate, and improve their climate mitigation and adaptation plans.

The State and Local Policy Program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs will work with the Council to develop a broad policy and stakeholder engagement plan to help ensure that the tool is applicable and useful for as many communities as possible across the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Research universities assisting to build the tool

Professor Anu Ramaswami, director of the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network and professor of civil and environmental energy at Princeton University, has previously collaborated on climate action planning efforts with individual cities. She was part of a team of science and policy experts convened by ICLEI USA to develop the first U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

“This is a really exciting project, offering the chance to do something quite new in terms of climate action planning at this scale, with the potential to support action in so many communities,” Ramaswami said. “The work will make a real difference across the metro area. But it will also help develop new national standards of best practice for doing climate action planning at the regional level. The Met Council is positioning themselves as a real leader in this area.”

Sustainability is one of five outcomes anticipated in the Council’s long-range regional plan, Thrive MSP 2040. In the plan, the Council committed itself to provide leadership, information, and technical assistance to support local governments’ consideration for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience.

Visit the greenhouse gas inventory

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