Cincinnati Inventories Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Help with Reduction Targets

Lessons Learned

The Office of Environment and Sustainability reported that the top benefit of completing a greenhouse gas inventory was the ability to understand which carbon reduction projects were most successful. This knowledge provided insight on where to focus future efforts. The Office of Environment and Sustainability used the results of the inventory to estimate the carbon reduction potential of each strategy proposed to the City Council in the 2018 Green Cincinnati Plan. Additionally, the inventory helped garner support from other departments for reducing carbon emissions. Support and collaboration from other departments was vital to the project.

The Cincinnati Office of Environment and Sustainability recommends ClearPath, but notes that cities should expect to experience a learning curve. ClearPath is widely used and therefore useful for comparing data with other cities around the world. ICLEI provides numerous opportunities for members to connect with sustainability directors and other peers across the nation. According to greenhouse gas project inventory staff in Cincinnati, the decision of whether to conduct the inventory in-house or hire a consultant largely depends on staff capacity. It is valuable for someone at the City to conduct the inventory because they will have a better understanding of the data components.

Since the completion of the 2015 greenhouse gas inventory, the City has established a new goal to use 100% renewable energy for all municipal operations by 2035. The plan includes building a solar array covering 140 acres spread across City property.

Challenges

Completing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory is an estimate of the total emissions within the defined scope, and extrapolations, missing data and assumptions are common. At times, the Office of Environment and Sustainability struggled to find the best method for interpreting data using the framework in ClearPath. Each city can expect to encounter moments where a judgement call is necessary to complete an inventory.

In one example, the staff had to extrapolate and interpolate data from county-level data to determine what to include and exclude when confronting ambiguous or shared boundaries. Staff also had to determine their own methodologies for what to deem “within city limits.” Utility data providers often organize data by zip code, but many zip codes straddle city borders. The Office of Environment and Sustainability chose to include the zip codes that were more than 50% within the city boundary, and those estimated to be less than 50% were excluded. The analysis was completed using GIS.

Another challenge the Office of Environment and Sustainability experienced was interpreting the 2006 inventory results when most of the people involved in the project were no longer on staff. Because of this difficulty, clearly documenting procedures for the 2015 inventory became a priority.

Project manager Ollie Kroner gave this advice:

"If I had to do it all over again, I would utilize the ICLEI relationship anytime we faced a challenge. ICLEI has experience with this process on an international level, they have seen many of these issues before and they offer a lot of opportunities for support. Also, there is value in creating greenhouse gas inventory reports more frequently because staff stay sharp on the process and the people you are requesting information from recall how to pull the data.”

Project Resources

For more information about the greenhouse gas inventory in Cincinnati, contact: 

Oliver Kroner
Green Cincinnati Plan and Sustainability Coordinator
City of Cincinnati Office of Environment and Sustainability
oliver.kroner@cincinnati-oh.gov

513-352-6992