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New markets emerge for carbon accounting businesses as cities like LA push proposals

Jonathan Shieber
·4-min read

Earlier this month, Los Angeles became the latest city to task its various departments with prepping a feasibility study for deploying new software and monitoring technologies to better account for its carbon footprint.

LA's city council initiative, led by council member Paul Koretz, follows a push from the state legislature to mandate that all businesses operating in California that gross over $1 billion annually disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and set science-based targets to reduce those emissions.

California is far from the only state in the U.S. that's feeling the disastrous effects of global climate change, but it's among the most aggressive in trying to address the causes. Whether that's a dramatic effort to remove fossil fuels from its power supply or the proposal to make businesses accountable for their contributions to climate change, California has been a leader in trying to encourage the adoption of new technology and services that can mitigate the impact of climate change and reverse course on the production of greenhouse gas emissions.

With this move, Los Angeles wants to hitch its wagon to this momentum and is actively looking for tech businesses that can help with carbon accounting.

That means good things for companies like CarbonChain, Persefoni, ClimateView and SINAI Technologies, which all have offerings meant to help with carbon accounting and management.

It shows that some of the largest cities, with billion dollar budgets, will open their wallets to pay for the tools they need to get a better handle on how they're contributing to the climate change that threatens their own citizens.

In Los Angeles, the city council tasked the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and chief legislative analyst to report back on the feasibility of developing or buying technology to provide a more accurate accounting of the city's carbon footprint.

“The City provides a number of services — from lighting and maintaining municipal buildings, facilities and streetlights, to paving roads and operating a transit fleet, and delivering water and operating reclamation facilities — all of which come with environmental impacts," said council member Koretz in a statement earlier this month. "If we’re going to take our carbon reduction goals seriously, and make a real difference in the lives of frontline communities near LAX and the Port of Los Angeles, we need a better, more consistent, and more transparent accounting of our emissions.”

Los Angeles has steadily worked to give climate change and climate friendly policies a more central role in political discussions. Roughly two years ago, in July 2019, Los Angeles set up an office of climate emergency and earlier this year Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the climate emergency mobilization office to coordinate activity between civic leaders, the mayor's office and the city council.

Budget hasn't been allocated for the accountability plan, but people familiar with the city council's plan expect that implementation could begin in the 2021-2022 budget cycle.

Los Angeles has tried to address its carbon footprint in the past, but the efforts weren't very successful. The study was conducted using historical emissions data and did not include the "scope three" emissions, which refer to the greenhouse gas emissions created by service providers for the city's operations.

As the City of Angels looks to improve its ability to provide accountability and metrics on its contribution to climate change, it could do worse than look at the standard that's been set by New York City. Under the Bloomberg Administration, carbon accounting and resiliency measures became a priority -- even before Hurricane Sandy made clear that the city was highly exposed to climate and weather-related disasters.

That 2012 storm inflicted nearly $70 billion in damage and killed 233 people across eight countries from the Caribbean to Canada.

The disaster only furthered New York's resolve to be more aggressive with its climate action. The city has a robust accounting program for emissions from its operations and is moving forward with policies across the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment, transportation and industry.

“Data drives decision-making and without data, we cannot chart a path toward a zero-emission future," said council member Joe Buscaino. "Today's generation of leaders must continue to address climate change with urgency and be held accountable to the goals we set for Los Angeles, and this motion sets us on the path to do just that.”