Cities all over the world have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as much as 80 percent in the next 30 years to combat climate change. However, the fulfilment of these ambitions very much relies on knowledge and data. In order to adjust policies and create a type of city management and development that has a low carbon footprint, cities need emission, energy and climate datasets relevant to their territories.
Unfortunately, not all world cities have enough resources or expertise to successfully gather and analyze the meaningful data, especially in the developing world. And without the right information, a low-carbon future is hard to plan. The proof of a great gap between wishes and possibilities is current statistics: of more than 9,000 cities that have committed to comply with the Paris Agreement, “less than 20% have been able to complete, submit or monitor greenhouse gas inventories” .
Google is about to tackle the issue with its new tool called Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE). What is EIE exactly? It is a new online tool that Google created in collaboration with Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), an international alliance of almost 10,000 city and local governments taking concrete action to reduce climate change. The tool’s main purpose of making new climate-relevant datasets easier for cities to access.
EIE combines the Goggle’s comprehensive global mapping data with standard greenhouse gas emission factors. By crossing the data, it can estimate building and transportation carbon emissions, as well as the renewable energy potentialof a particular city.
EIE is also able to deliver other interesting predictions, for example, what will be the faith of the city in 20 years if nothing is done about the global GHG emissions.
The data is available in four categories:
- Building emissions
- Transportation emissions
- Energy offset potential
- 20-year climate projections
All categories contain more sub-categories and information on total and particular emissions, transportation, and renewable energy potential. Information and ideas on how to reduce emissions are also available and are based on the relevant literature (for example, The Carbon Free City Handbook).
It is easy to see that, besides environmental and sustainability analysis, EIE offers other benefits along the way, such as giving city councils easy way to analyze and optimize traffic, ideally leading to less pollution and less congested roads in the future.
The newly-introduced beta version of EIE covers the following pilot cities: Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Mountain View, Pittsburg, and Victoria (Canada). However, that is only the beginning – Google’s big plans are to make the tool available to thousands of cities, towns and regions all over the world. As more and more cities use the tool and as science accumulates more knowledge, EIE will be expanded accordingly.
Watch: Introduction to the Environmental Insights Explorer
Although it is in its first stages of development, it is already obvious that Environmental Insights Explorer is a big practical step to help cities achieve their emission targets and curb global warming.
 The More You Know: Turning Environmental Insights Into Action. 2018. Google Blog. https://www.blog.google/products/earth/more-you-know-turning-environmental-insights-action/