The City of London is one of the latest cites to be included in Google’s new Environmental Insights Explorer site.
The site allows the city and residents to access data on London’s greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of helping communities reduce their carbon footprint.
Manager of Community Energy Initiatives for London, Jamie Skimming, said the timing of the collaboration was great because it coincided with London updating its Community Energy Action Plan.
“By using Environmental Insights Explorer to compare the greenhouse gas emission estimates to the city’s own emissions calculations, city staff can be more confident in making data-informed decisions aligned to our Community Energy Action Plan, London’s plan to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and resulting emissions,” said Skimming.
The online tool was created in 2018, in collaboration between Google and the Global Covenant of Mayors.
The project launched in Victoria, B.C., and now includes data for six cities in Canada and a total of 35 cities worldwide.
Skimming said London used its own emission estimates over the last 15 years to help Google fine-tune its information.
According to the data, London produces approximate 2.7-million tons of carbon per year with 96.25 per cent of transportation emission coming from vehicle transit.
Skimming said this shows why projects like the Bus Rapid Transit Plan and cycling infrastructure are important investments for the city.
The Environmental Insights Explorer is based on Google’s own data sources, combining information from its 3D models of buildings and information collected from travel using Google Maps.
“All of us carry phones around in our pockets,” said local tech expert Carmi Levy. “Those phones are tracking our activity all the time, whether we are driving, taking the bus, your bike, or telling our smart speakers to turn on our lights, all of that information goes somewhere.”
This project is radically different from other information on carbon emissions, he added, because it’s not a big data collection effort that costs a lot of money. It’s being collected from everyone at every single moment, and being made available to the public for free.
The tool will give Londoners an insight into their carbon emissions, and with the Rooftop Solar Potential section, people can see the feasibility of adding solar panels in a particular area or house.
The data shows in London there is the potential to reduce emissions by 295,000 carbon tones a year by adding rooftop solar panels in specific areas. This is the equivalent to taking 62,300 cars off the road each year and growing over seven million trees.
“You can almost see how individual investments in earth friendlier behaviors can drive London’s numbers in the right direction, and make us a more environmentally friendly city,” said Levy.
“London has already declared a climate emergency, tools like this let us actually do something about it.”