On the ClearPath interview series is an opportunity to highlight stories from ICLEI members and ClearPath users in an effort to share best practices and the user experience of ClearPath, ICLEI’s online emissions management platform. With over 300 local governments and regional agencies actively leveraging the platform to monitor and track their municipal and community scale emissions, ClearPath is becoming the premiere local government emissions management platform.
We start with Columbus, OH which is a thriving metropolis with a population over 820,000 and has seen its population jump almost 30% since 1990. Columbus, OH’s Office of Environment Stewardship manages Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s Get Green Columbus Initiative and we “sat” down virtually with Erin Miller, Environmental Steward to learn more about the exciting work in Columbus and their work in ClearPath as one of the larger cities utilizing the platform.
What action plan(s) does Columbus have in place?
Columbus has a variety of plans in place whether it is tackling community scale GHG emissions or focusing on internal operations for city government. The Columbus Green Community Plan (2015-2020) is our five year plan which has a goal of reducing emissions 20% below baseline 2013. The City also has our Internal City Operations goal of reducing emissions by 30% by 2020 and 40% by 2030. We are proud of our Green Fleet Action Plan which helps monitor and track our progress for our 6,000 unit vehicle vehicle. The Bicentennial Bikeways Plan outlines targeted priorities for transportation, recreation and quality of life in Columbus. Finally, our Air Alert Action Plan is a great opportunity to set in place actions to minimize ozone and particulate matter as well as inform employees regarding the risks and encourage best personal responses to an air alert.
Is Columbus on target to reaching its emissions targets?
On the community scale, we estimated a 14% reduction from 2013 to 2014 built environment emissions. At the local government scale, our emissions are estimated to have reduced by 25% since our 2005 baseline.
What are the challenges or barriers with emissions data at the government operations and community scale?
I would say energy data is easier to collect as well as fuel for city operations due to our Green Fleet Action Plan. It has always been challenging to get community transportation data so we are following the verified protocols to maintain consistency and comparability. Unfortunately, we do not have mandatory business sector recycling so we don’t have a better understanding of that sector’s contribution to overall waste.
How is the City using emissions data to drive decisions?
Emissions data helps focus our efforts to reach our unified goals. We are taking our sustainability goals very seriously and see emissions data as a critical component to help us understand whether we are on track and need to put in place further measures to meet our goals. We recently met with the Utilities in Columbus and actual went over our energy and emissions goals as an opportunity to potentially partner with them to help increase energy efficiency in the community.
What story is Columbus trying to tell with the data generated in ClearPath?
We are excited to be able to update and report on our progress through our annual report powered by the data generated in ClearPath. We hope to tell the story of progress in each sector and how the data helps to inform our Get Green plan. We are looking forward to diving into the forecasting and planning modules to communicate what emissions will look like if no action is taken and additionally, what measures will help us reach our reduction targets.
What did you like most about using ClearPath?
The fact that ClearPath is an online platform is a huge plus for me. We were using old software and out of date methodologies and the fact that ClearPath is compliant with USCP and GCP is very important. The report functionalities have been critical in being able to produce a variety of different information sets and I’ve even been able to do a few print screens and email them to other staff at the City. All the built in calculators across both the LGO and Community track are great and the fact that ClearPath is the platform to help with comparability across local governments is a big asset in my mind. Last but certainly not least, the ICLEI staff support has been critical to building my capacity around the tool and being able to fully leverage ClearPath to my advantage.
Do you have any advice to others starting with ClearPath?
I would recommend getting a second set of eyes to double check the work being done in ClearPath and figure out a QA/QC strategy. ClearPath is worth the investment and it takes the guessing game out of emissions accounting and provides a platform to report on a level playing field.
What is your favorite climate mitigation or adaptation program of your community?
I would say “Neighborhood Pride” is my favorite right now. It is a program where residents or businesses apply to get city services delivered within 2 weeks, including home energy efficiency audits and installed energy conservation measures in partnership with our utility companies. The Mayor comes out to meet with neighborhood leaders as an opportunity to further build community cohesion and resilience.