Organizational Carbon Footprint of the City Council of Zurich

Main Presenter:    Martin Ulrich 

Co-Authors:   Niels Jungbluth                                               

The Zurich City Council aims to achieve net-zero emissions for parliamentary operations by 2035, with initial steps planned for 2026-2030. The project’s goals include defining system boundaries and creating the carbon footprint for the Zurich City Parliament.

The system boundaries of the average operational activities of the Zurich City Council with 125 members per year are determined using the “Polluter Pays Principle”. Linked with the budget planning of the council, this principle allows to determine which processes are included and which are the upstream and downstream processes that are excluded.
Process LCI datasets are used in combination with LCI data from the Swiss Input-Output database to model the Organisational Carbon Footprint according to determined system-boundaries. The following processes lie within the system-boundaries:
• Expense reimbursements for council members
• Catering, events, and travel
• Other compensation
• IT support and software
• IT hardware and office equipment
• Office supplies, newspapers, and additional materials
• Other services
• Rent for town hall, parliament office, and external meeting rooms
• Direct emissions
• Waste and wastewater

In the defined scope of the study, and for the 2023 budget, the Zurich City Council is responsible for a climate change potential of 240 tons of CO2 equivalents per year. Indirect emissions from upstream and downstream processes (Scope 3) dominate (over 90%). Electricity use (Scope 2) and on-site energy generation (Scope 1) are of lesser importance. The main contributions in Scope 3 originate from expense reimbursements for Council Members and IT software/services.

The scope of this analysis is a new field of applying life cycle thinking for achieving net zero goals. Due to diverse budgeting approaches, assumptions and rough estimates were made for some budgeted items, aiming for a conservative estimate of the climate change potential. The expense reimbursement budget is based on theoretical cost calculation. However, these budgeted goods and services differ from actual consumption which introduces high uncertainty. The budget based on theoretical cost calculation is critical to understand the carbon footprint of the city council and calls for discussion on how to assess actual consumption.
Further, the approximation of IT and other services based on their monetary value with datasets from Input-Output databases is accompanied by high uncertainty. This leaves the discussion of how to collect data of upstream provided services for scope 3 assessment. This study shows the difficulties and possible solutions to make first steps for achieving net zero emissions in all parts of society.

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