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What is ICLEI and what can it do for York?

In his presentation to the selectmen, Eric suggested that the town join ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) Local Governments for Sustainability. Below is a brief summary of what the organization can do for the town. It is taken from an interview with Timothy Burroughs, an ICLEI Program Director.

For the US, the Cities for Climate Protection campaign is the main campaign through which ICLEI provides assistance to its members. The main way the campaign assists cities is by providing them with a methodology by which cities can measure the emissions a city is responsible for in a given year, manage those emissions and reduce them. We call this our five milestone methodology.

The first milestone is conducting a baseline greenhouse gasses emissions inventory. The inventory is a snapshot of a local government’s emissions in a given year. Those emissions result from transportation, waste, and energy consumption within the geographic boundaries of the community.

The second milestone is setting an emissions reductions target. The target is important for a number of reasons. One really important reason is that it tends to rally community support. A city like Berkeley, for example, has set a really aggressive target, and now community members are getting excited about how they can reach that target. It also means the city has to be accountable: they have set a target and now they have to figure out how to meet it. And the people are going to hold them to that.

The third milestone is developing an emissions reductions action plan; this consists of policy measures that, when implemented, will get the city to its targets. Policy in the plan could be transportation measures, waste prevention measures like recycling, and energy measures like giving residents incentives to increase energy efficiency.

You put all this into the plan and have to figure out how to implement it – this is the fourth milestone. Implementation is key. I mean, you don’t want everything to just be recorded and then sit on a shelf. Its great to have an action plan but it’s meaningless unless you actually implement it.

The fifth milestone is monitoring, verifying, and recording the results of the policy being implemented. Basically this consists of doing another inventory. So it comes back to the first milestone of conducting an inventory. What the inventory allows a city to do is to establish a trend for what its emissions are doing over time. If I take a snapshot of emissions in 2005, another in 2006, and one in 2007, I’m able to establish a trend for what the emissions over time.

We assist cities through each of the milestones in a number of different ways. One is we provide a software tool that enables cities to quantify their emissions and conduct the emissions inventory. The software — designed specifically for cities – is basically a big calculator. You plug in a lot of data that includes how much energy your city is consuming and how much waste your city produces. The software tool gives you numbers on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions your city is producing.

As you said, we have member cities all around the country and world, and all of them are in a process of implementing one policy or a number of policies. When a city becomes a member, they gain access to the entire network of member cities. This is a huge benefit. Some of the first questions a city always asks when thinking about what to do when reducing emissions are “what have other cities done?” “How much has it cost in other cities?” “What has the benefit been to other cities?”

Read the rest of the interview.

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