The power of data: what can it do for cities?

Urban sustainability is more than just a buzzword – for many cities it will make the difference between struggling or flourishing. 
Key to this story is how cities collect and use data. From projecting population growth and resource use, to tracking and cutting carbon emissions, city governments have been discovering the benefits of a data-driven approach to sustainability.
CDP's data is an essential pillar within the work of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. It provides the established reporting framework and evidence base cities can use to track progress on reducing emissions and adapting to climate risks, and to share best practice.

Five benefits of data

1) Future proofing your city
Data provides city planners with the insights they need to plan effectively. They can identify the principal environmental risks they face, their main sources of carbon emissions, and the multiple economic, social and health benefits of taking early action.
Our water infographic report highlights how gathering reliable data is crucial for cities as they plan for future demographic and climatic changes. By collecting data on projected population figures and water availability, for example, London developed a water-use strategy to ease the rising pressure on supplies by reducing leakage, installing smart meters and testing demand reduction incentives.
2) Building international momentum
By collecting and sharing data, cities can push sustainability ever further into the mainstream. It shows that ever more local governments in ever more countries are measuring and acting on environmental risks and opportunities. Data disclosed to CDP reveals that 95 cities have a renewable energy target, including Vancouver, Canada and San Francisco, USA who have ambitious targets to be 100% powered by renewable energy.
Cities renewable energy target
3) Measuring your successes
Cities can also use the data collected by CDP to learn from each other. Data from over 500 cities is publicly accessible through the Open Data Portal so planners can draw inspiration from some of the world’s environmental pioneers.
Explore data from over 500 cities
“CDP is our first stop when researching what other cities are doing, how they do it, and their progress. We are able to find new strategies and compare how our implementation stacks up with other leading cities. Most importantly, it demonstrates that cities are not isolated in their efforts.” 
Tom Herrod, the Climate and GHG Program Administrator for Denver, Colorado. 
4) Showcasing action to citizens
Data leads to transparency and accountability. By publishing and tracking their commitments to cut emissions, cities can keep citizens and the global community informed about their progress. It is the only way to know if we are on track to keeping the global temperature rise well below 2°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement. 
Singapore, for instance, has pledged to cut its emissions intensity by 35% on 2005 levels. By publicly disclosing year on year, the city state has empowered its citizens to assess its progress, while kick-starting a city-wide shift towards a low-carbon future.
5) Identifying opportunities for investment and collaboration
Data helps access investment for green infrastructure projects. For example, 132 cities are disclosing 147 renewable energy projects to CDP worth over US$2 billion. And 62% of cities say they collaborate with businesses on sustainability projects. But all too often they report a shortfall in private investment -- despite investor enthusiasm for green projects.
This is where CDP’s Matchmaker portal comes in. Through the portal, subscribers can access information on climate resilient infrastructure projects worldwide. Matchmaker serves as a clearinghouse for cities to showcase projects to the finance sector, while receiving assistance to improve the quality of their data. It pairs up cities with investors, enabling ambitious green projects that will boost resilience in cities across the globe.

Towards a sustainable future

Data lies at the heart of the sustainable transition. By measuring environmental risk, resource use, and energy consumption and production patterns, cities can drive economic development and improve the lives of their citizens, while taking action to prepare for tomorrow.