The Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) tool has been created in partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, an international alliance of almost 10,000 local governments and city representatives that have committed to combatting climate change.

The tool offers free datasets across building emissions, transportation emissions, energy offset potential and 20-year climate projections to enable city planners to explore new measures to set meaningful emission reduction targets.

“Many cities lack the resources to gather data such as building emissions, making it hard for them to set firm carbon commitments of their own,” Google Earth’s director of engineering, Rebecca Moore, said in a blog post.

“With EIE, data sets that once required onsite measurements and many months to compile can now be assessed virtually, reducing cost and time investment.”

The EIE analyses datasets from Google Maps to enable cities to create carbon baselines, set mitigation goals and identify reduction opportunities. The data can also outline opportunities for specific investments in solar installations, public and low-emissions transport and projects that reduce vehicle traffic.

Around 9,000 cities have pledged to align reduction efforts with the aims of the Paris Agreement. However, Google states that less than 20% of these cities are able to submit or monitor greenhouse gas inventories.

“The vast majority of cities aren’t in the position to finance a process that will take time and might be cost prohibitive, especially the small to medium cities in developing areas of the world. And that’s where most of the action will take place in relation to the Paris Agreement on climate change,” the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy’s executive director for the global secretariat, Amanda Eichel, added.

Data and detail

The EIE is the latest online tool provided by Google that enables users to explore ways to lower overall climate impacts. The tech firm’s Project Sunroof, for example, analyses how much solar energy could be generated by rooftop solar systems on a roof-by-roof basis. It launched in the US in 2015, before expanding to the UK earlier this year.

In 2017, Google released its first block-by-block dataset that enables residents to make different travel route decisions and help improve air quality in local areas. Google collected almost three million measurements across 14,000 miles of road in 2017, although publicly available data was limited to Oakland, California.

Google’s launch is timely. Research from UN Environment has this week revealed that less than 20% of the global population live in subnational areas covered by climate mitigation goals and targets.

Matt Mace

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