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What is the Carbon Disclosure Project?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 17 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Carbon Emissions Climate Change Carbon

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a UK-based initiative that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It was launched at 10 Downing Street back in 2000 with the intention of compiling, recording and making use of information on climate change. It is obvious that climate change is not something that can be looked at within national boundaries. Emission of greenhouse gases from one location can have effects outside that area and can even bring about changes in the climate and weather of places on the other side of the planet.

The aim of the project is to collect data on global climate change from organisations all over the world. It is now the only official global organisation that reports on climate change using data in this way.

What Information Does the Carbon Disclosure Project Collect?

The initiative sent out its first calls for information in 2003 and in that first year, 235 organisations sent in their information on carbon emissions and the strategies they were planning and implementing to reduce their impact on the environment. The number of organisations joining the disclosure scheme has increased each year and currently about 2500 different companies and organisations in over 60 countries send in their information to the CDP.

The CDP works with a large network of organisations that partner its activities and it is associated with over 500 institutional investors, including mega corporate bodies such as Walmart, PepsiCo and Cadbury. The total assets of its investing portfolio is estimated at a massive 64 million million dollars, which is 42 million million UK pounds.

How is Information on Climate Change Used?

The CDP spends a lot of its time and resources producing in depth reports using the information that it collects. This is made available to individual companies and organisations to enable them to set carbon emission reduction targets and to monitor how well they are doing in terms of limiting their environmental impact. Some of the reports compile information from groups of organisations, sometimes on a national or international basis and are produced every year so that it is easy to see trends and changes over time.

What Information Does the CDP Collect on Cities?

In 2009, the CDP ran an ambitious pilot to produce a report looking at the carbon emissions and potential impact on global climate change produced by various cities in the world. Data was derived from 18 cities, all of which were in the USA, including Las Vegas, New York City, Chicago, Denver and West Palm Beach. Although just 18 cities cannot give a representative picture of cities across the USA, their data does provide some interesting information as the cities that responded are quite different. New York, for example, has more than 8 million people living within its boundaries with a further 12 million in the metropolitan area that surrounds that. One of the smaller cities in the report was Fairfield, a small city of 10 000 people in the agricultural heartland of the MidWest.

Some of the statistics provided by this report are staggering. Chicago alone produces 350 000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and a total of 100 million tons of greenhouse gases, if you also take into account the suburban areas of the city.

As well as looking at the impact that each individual city contributes to global climate change, this report also looked at the way in which climate change has impacted on particular cities. Three of those included face threats from rising sea levels; West Palm Beach is just a few feet above the level of current high tides and New Orleans experienced the destructive effects of Hurricane Katrina as a city that is already situated below sea level.

How Global is the CDP?

Not as global as it would like to be is the likely answer. In 2009, the last available global report from CDP indicated that the data for that year had come from organisations in 30 countries but that 70% of all responses could be traced to just five countries – the USA, the UK, Japan, France and Germany. Analysis of trends showed that the number of countries from Asia and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and China) who were disclosing information to the CDP had increased and was expected to increase further. In the future, the CDP aims to expand still further and provide more exact and useful information that can help international climate change measures.

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