Beyond the Inventory: Communicating Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies


"Chicago’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2000", copyright CNT, 2010.

When CNT set out to inventory Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions, our goal was to give the Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Change the information it needed to better understand where Chicago’s emissions come from and to establish a baseline for comparison in future years. In addition to that, we created a portfolio of emissions reductions measures to better understand the scale and scope of actions that needed to be taken to meet the city’s emissions reduction targets.

Beyond the City-commissioned research, our broader goal is to make our climate change analysis transparent and available for cities around the world to take action on reducing their impact on climate change. Soon this research will be available in the Journal of Great Lakes Research and it is our belief that the valuable information in this peer-reviewed, scientific journal can serve as a useful tool for cities to use a model.

The forthcoming article, “Greenhouse gas emissions in Chicago: Emissions inventories and reduction strategies for Chicago and its metropolitan region”, summarizes the research methods and results CNT used to develop Chicago’s greenhouse gas inventory for the Chicago Climate Action Plan. The paper also describes the portfolio of mitigation strategies CNT investigated for reducing Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions and meeting its target of emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Our analysis of climate change mitigation strategies was designed to address two key questions for Chicago:

  1. What are the most promising strategies for substantially reducing Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions?
  2. What scale of deployment of these strategies is necessary to achieve the goal of 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2020?

CNT answered these questions by researching and developing a portfolio of 33 emissions reduction strategies tailored to Chicago. The Chicago Climate Task Force used this portfolio to select the final mitigation strategies and implementation scale for the Chicago Climate Action Plan.

With the subsequent publication of the Chicago Climate Action Plan and the ongoing efforts of the City of Chicago and many others to implement real-world emissions reductions, the details of the projects and programs has changed to adapt to the realities of program execution. Moreover, the exact greenhouse gas reduction impact of any program will depend on hundreds of small details—from participation rates to weather.

Accordingly, CNT encourages cities to use this research into the potential greenhouse gas reduction benefits of programs as a guide to compare programs and a reference as to the scale of impact, but our research findings are not the same as measured results from a specific program.

As useful as it is to estimate potential program impacts in the planning phase, nothing compares to strong program evaluation that tracks real-world results on the ground. In the end, an inventory of all emissions generated by a community will be the real measure of whether a city is meeting its emissions reduction goal. CNT looks forward to continuing to assist cities as they take climate action to help them achieve real emissions reductions that create benefits for the residents and businesses in their communities.

CNT’s version of McGraw, J., et al., “Greenhouse gas emissions in Chicago: Emissions inventories and reduction strategies for Chicago and its metropolitan region”, J Great Lakes Res (2009), doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2009.11.010, is available from our website here or by purchasing the published copy from the Journal of Great Lakes here.