Google has introduced a new feature that helps city planners get access to the carbon footprint of all buildings, cars and subway rides in a city.
An online tool, the Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE), has been developed in partnership with an international alliance of cities and local governments called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), to help cities lower carbon emissions by looking at how much energy is used and the corresponding emissions.
Google is now acquiring data from Google Maps which tracks user location. Combining the traffic data it collects, with the aerial photography of the city and some other parameters like modes of travel, it is able to measure the carbon footprint of a city. The tool can also decipher whether the buildings are houses or workspaces and then calculate the size of the building and its carbon emissions.
The beta version of the tool has currently been launched in a few pilot cities including Buenos Aires, Argentina; Melbourne, Australia; Victoria, Canada; Pittsburgh and Mountain View in the United States.
According to the company, the application can benefit more than 9,000 cities who have signed the Paris Agreement on climate change. The agreement presents a formal strategy and timeline to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. However, Google states that less than 20 percent of these cities have been able to submit or monitor greenhouse gas inventories.
In a statement, Maroš Šefčovič, co-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Energy Union said, “Many small and mid-size cities, especially those in the Global South, experience resource limitations that present a roadblock. Connecting them with vital GHG emissions data is the first step in enabling them to take the science-based climate action needed to increase urban resilience and improve the well-being of citizens.”
EIE can estimate city-scale building and transportation carbon emissions data, as well as renewable energy potential, leading to more globally-consistent baselines from which to build policies, guide solutions, and measure progress. And cities using EIE findings would have access to all this data without having to invest in collecting all the data themselves.
“Cities are making great progress in cutting emissions and better data will help them do more, faster, to help us reach our Paris goals – and that’s why this new global standard and new partnership with Google are both so important,” said Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors and Global Climate Action Summit.
“They will arm cities with a wealth of valuable new data to target emissions – and new evidence to help smart strategies spread,” he added.