Wednesday, November 15, 2023
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
What Could Be Better Than MTCO2e? Seeking More-Effective Metrics
Session ID
B7 - You Don't Always Get What You Measure: The Importance of Non-Energy Benefits
Behavior - based Programs

Climate action programs (including those that address energy, transportation, waste, and consumption) have typically defined their problem, goal, and progress by metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2e) or similar unit measuring emissions, energy consumption, waste tonnage, etc. While these top line metrics are most directly tied to the ultimate outcomes we seek, there may be metrics better suited for effective implementation. Decades of using MTCO2e, kWh, and tonnage metrics have revealed the lack of their ability to serve the following programmatic needs: (1) Storytelling: Stakeholders and participants need to be able to understand tangibly the existing condition, goals, and progress made. For example, average commute distance instead of total vehicle-miles traveled. (1) Actionable: Many variables that drive top line metrics are out of the control of any one entity (government, program, company), and therefore do not guide anyone's best course of action. For example, percentage of new heaters installed that are heat pumps instead of total therms consumed. (1) System Transformation: Our climate, energy, and waste predicaments live within complex systems. Measuring only MTCO2e ignores how emissions and behaviors are driven by economy and culture. Incremental reductions of 10-20% can occur without systemic changes, but nearing zero requires an understanding of market conditions and cultural norms. Join this interactive solutions session where we will explore alternative metrics that better serve these program needs. We will begin by clarifying the history of our current metrics frameworks and their limitations. We will then brainstorm alternatives and assess them against our own real life use cases. If we meet our ambitious collective climate and energy goals, we will see tangible and undeniable changes in our systems. Our metrics should be suited to this task.