95% of the world’s largest 250 corporations over 4,000 organizations already publish data on their environmental, societal, and economic impacts, but Warsaw is at the vanguard of cities to do so (and the first of any entity to adopt the latest GRI standard).
If cities embraced measuring and publishing environmental impact data on a widespread basis, it could be a critical step toward curbing costly, needless, and destructive environmental negative side effects of how we conduct our daily affairs – including those that are contributing to climate change. This statement is supported by five facts:
(1) a majority of the planet’s +7 billion (soon to be 9 billion) people now lives in cities (a recent epochal tipping point);
(2) we enjoy a greater degree of access to – and control over – local government (compared to national government);
(3) many energy, water, sewage, waste, transportation, and other infrastructures are managed by municipalities (or other sub-national levels);
(4) inasmuch as public infrastructure functions are often outsourced, reporting can involve (and thereby put appropriate constructive pressure on) for-profit infrastructure service companies. In other words, cities can demand that companies and other organizations start measuring, reporting, and reducing negative impacts;
(4) the long-predicted impacts of climate change are being acutely felt in the world’s cities – especially in major coastal metropolises providing an impetus for immediate constructive change and adaptation; and
(5) ambitious goals have been set and significant tangible steps taken by cities.
Cities and other sub-national units of organization therefore (1) are vital foci for change, (2) deserve to have their voices heard, and (3) should have their readily replicable best practices – including efforts related to measurement – highlighted and propagated.
The author helped the Warsaw Department of Infrastructure prepare the City’s 2013 Integrated Sustainability Report and is scheduled to speak about the importance of measuring environmental impacts at the COP19/CMP9 UN Climate Change Conference.