The new Environmental Insights Explorer from Google puts the Anthesis-developed SCATTER tool in the spotlight.
From A Coruña in Spain to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, 9155 cities across the globe, representing more than 770 million residents, have committed to reducing their carbon footprint to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Some of the world’s biggest cities, including Rio de Janeiro and New York, have pledged to reduce their carbon output by 80% within the next 30 years.
One big question looms - how are they going to achieve this?
Less than 20% of cities have completed and submitted an inventory of emissions, let alone monitored their footprint levels to check progress. Gathering carbon outputs for a whole city requires a huge amount of data from multiple sources - how is it possible to gather this much information to give an accurate emissions total?
Carbon footprint tool for cities – Google enters the market
The newly launched Google Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) tool, created in partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, has been designed to give cities and local governments access to their current emission levels, so they can build a plan to reduce and measure emission levels.
Using data from Google Maps alongside standard greenhouse gas (GHG) emission factors, EIE estimates three city-level data points:
- Building emissions
- Transport emissions
- Renewable energy potential (solar)
With the tool still currently in Beta version, Google has released datasets for five cities, with more likely to come on board in due course.
How will the Environmental Insights Explorer tool be used?
|Image from Google's Project Sunroof|
The tool highlights the significant scale of city emissions and with it their role in being part of the solution. Using common methodology that can be standardised and scaled, it makes it easy for cities to benchmark their emissions against other cities.
The tool will be used by city policymakers to develop clear plans of action to reduce their carbon emissions.
Comparing Google’s new EIE and the Anthesis SCATTER tool
It’s very encouraging that Google has invested in the EIE tool, brightening the spotlight on reducing emissions as a city-level – an intention we’ve been working on with many UK cities.
Earlier this year, we expanded our sustainability software portfolio with the launch of our carbon footprint reduction tool - SCATTER. It builds upon similar details provided by the EIE to allow cities to drill into the interventions; the areas of activity where the potential for carbon reduction lies. This gives policymakers the evidence required to make informed decisions for their city.
What is SCATTER?
A city-focussed emissions tool to measure carbon outputs, set reduction targets and implement a plan of action. The tool was been piloted on 5 UK Core Cities and is now ready to roll out across all local authorities.
SCATTER = Setting City Area Targets and Trajectories for Emissions Reduction
Whereas Google looks at 3 main interventions (buildings, transportation and solar), SCATTER focusses on a comprehensive list of 45 interventions. Google helps to identify the scale of the problem, while SCATTER enables cities and regions to develop a picture of the solution by building up future reduction scenarios from detailed practical from detailed practical areas under a city’s control.
This means city governments can get a very accurate handle of their current emissions and set carbon reduction trajectories and targets that are driven by a technology-led ‘bottom-up’ approach of what’s feasible. This leads to evidence-based targeting setting and informed policy making.
SCATTER integrates five key technologies to deliver on carbon reduction:
- Carbon capture, utilisation and storage for industry
- Decarbonising heat
- Energy efficiency in buildings
- Electrifying transport
- Recycling infrastructure improvements and bio-energy
Image: The electrification of city transport is necessary to deliver a reduced carbon footprint
What’s happened with SCATTER since the 2018 launch?
Since the launch of SCATTER at the Greater Manchester Green Summit in March 2018, we’ve been working with policymakers in a number of major UK cities to help them interpret the evidence and develop policy to enable change.
We’re in the process of working with other UK Core Cities and have also been engaged by several other UK regions. Furthermore, we’re now supporting the Greater Manchester Climate Agency to translate their SCATTER modelling outputs into policy and action to achieve the reductions targets in line with international standards.
It’s not just relevant to the UK however, we’re also in dialogue with a Nordic region to see how SCATTER can translate to Scandinavia.
Further uses of SCATTER - CDP submission and in the commercial world
|Image: SCATTER is proving useful for both companies and cities when it comes to carbon disclosure submissions|
Multiple users have also used SCATTER to obtain the data for carbon disclosure, such as CDP, where companies, cities and regions submit data on their environmental performance. This year over 500 cities have disclosed their environmental information through CDP 2018.
Within each city-region, we’re also working with sector leads using the SCATTER tool as an effective and dynamic stakeholder engagement vehicle. We’ve spoken to leaders in commercial organisations, housing associations and domestic, transport, energy distributors, technology providers and academic institutions.
What next for the city carbon reduction tool?
Thanks to work with BEIS and central government, the momentum with SCATTER is growing. Not only does it easily and efficiently generate a compliant emissions inventory, but it develops a credible, forward-looking pathway to decarbonisation that can be implemented by the city region.
As technology and policy landscape are advancing at a rapid rate, SCATTER is also evolving to meet needs. For example, the approach to hydrogen application in the UK is likely to differ both locally and nationally. To incorporate these nuances, the latest thinking and pilot testing feedback, the functionality of the SCATTER tool is regularly updated to make it relevant for future use.
Data visualisation - simple interpretation of complex data is vital
Robust datasets are only as good as the user’s ability to interpret it. Information from these complex tools needs to be easy to absorb, so that such insights can be turned into action.
Standard outputs from the SCATTER tool can translated using the latest data visualisation software to support messaging and make it simple for policymakers and planners to explore future carbon reduction scenarios, ‘seeing’ the outcome of the policy decisions they may or may not decide to make.
|Image: The data visualisation capabilities associated with the SCATTER tool|
For example, a city could model the impact of improving energy efficiency in buildings via retrofit scenarios and new technologies to reduce heat leakage. Or a city could track how carbon capture storage will reduce emissions from industrial use and power generation before investing. Being able to see the potential impacts is a huge benefit for decision makers.
If you are a policymaker, commercial partner or local authority decision maker and would like a free demonstration of the SCATTER tool, please get in touch and we’ll arrange a session for you to explore this exciting, highly useful tool.