U.S. Cities Join Carbon Disclosure Project

What gets measured gets managed, and for too long the processes that emit carbon into the atmosphere have gone unmanaged. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a nonprofit consortium of some 385 global institutional investors with a combined asset base of more than $57 trillion, is trying to change that. The CDP said yesterday that 21 American cities have agreed to report their greenhouse gas emissions and other climate change-relevant data through the project’s transparent tracking system.

The cities, including New York, Denver, Las Vegas, Saint Paul and Portland, will report the carbon emissions of all activities under their budgetary oversight, including emergency services, municipal buildings and waste management. The cities will use ICLEI’s (formerly the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) Local Government Operations Protocol and software tools to track and profile the information, which will be published in the first CDP Cities Report and ICLEI Local Action Network Report in January 2009.

Founded in 2000, the CPD has big goals and big name signatories. As of 2008, the CPD had gotten 3,000 of the world’s largest companies to respond to its carbon risks and opportunities questionnaire, and it hopes to get all S&P 500 companies to participate. Its web site represents the largest repository of corporate greenhouse gas emissions data in the world, according to the group. Much of the information is made publicly available, allowing policymakers to see the carbon costs of business to inform the regulatory process.

But it’s also good for private sector players to track the carbon risks associated with their investments. Merrill Lynch, who helps fund the CPD, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AIG Investments, Barclays and HSBC are all “signatory investors” in the CPD, have access to information not publicly available. These huge investors are already dealing with carbon regulation in the European market and expect America will soon follow suit; when that happens, they’ll need baseline info on their existing investments to start gauging carbon-related risk. Many of these companies are also tracking carbon credits and cleantech indices.