Award: Consumption Based Greenhouse Gas Emissions Program

January 1, 2017

Innovations in American Government Awards

  • AWARD WON: 2017 Semifinalist
  • AWARDEE: Consumption Based Greenhouse Gas Emissions Program
  • DESIGNEE: City of Oakland, CA
  • JURISDICTION: California

The city of Oakland has developed the first municipal greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory in the nation to use a consumption-based approach, which addresses all emissions associated with goods and services consumed by the population of the community. This approach aligns GHG goals, programs, and reporting with traditional demand-side economics and policy, and offers the most direct and comprehensive strategy for reaching the internationally determined GHG reduction targets set by the UN at COP21 in Paris in 2015. The city responded by developing a methodology to assess the lifecycle GHG impacts of goods and services consumed in Oakland. While the data available for this effort is limited, the city coordinated with partners at UC Berkeley, Argonne National Laboratory, and a host of local and regional service providers to estimate the consumption associated with economic activity and develop GHG emissions associated with the development, transport, use, and disposal of all such products. This approach underwent review by ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, a nonprofit that developed the standard software used by cities to conduct these inventories, which found the approach innovative and dynamic. The resulting emissions characterizations were remarkable: The City's emissions under the standard approach were 2.77 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e). Using the new consumption-based approach, the emissions total rose to 7.63 MMTCO2e, highlighting that 64 percent of the emissions profile is not captured under the standard approach and the difference in impact of the various policy options undertaken by the city to reduce emissions. Waste reduction programs were found to have an enormous impact on consumption-based emissions, by not only reducing methane generation in landfills (the only emission counted in the standard approach), but also by reducing the need for raw materials extraction, processing, manufacturing, and transportation. The city's report highlighting these findings was released in April 2016.