Climate Visualizer visualizes Swedish climate statistics, allowing the user to evaluate to what extent local emissions and targets are compatible with the Paris agreement.
- Reflect back on the objective of the tool you built: did you exceed it, or fall short? If so, why?
ClimateVisualizer offers a municipality or region its own carbon budget calculated according to best practice and by leading and independent researchers. This carbon budget is updated annually, which makes the work easier for the individual municipality. The tool also makes the carbon dioxide budget available to more people, by offering not only a current but also educational and visual understanding of the municipality’s or region’s emissions and the remaining carbon dioxide budget. The image that is conveyed is important, because it shows and explains that we have a finite and remaining emission volume available, if we want to limit global warming to, for example, 1.5 or two degrees. However, there are several statistical perspectives on this, and regardless of which perspective we choose, there are also major shortcomings in the available statistics. ClimateVisualizer shows a territorial perspective and is mainly based on official statistics from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, which are partly standardised at the municipal level, which limits the accuracy of the carbon budget.
So far, we haven’t been able to develop all the interactive functions, or improve the interface as much as we had hoped for. The short answer to why we haven’t managed to do that is that we haven’t had the resources. We’re a small non-profit company struggling to keep our head above the surface. Being non-profit has made it harder to get private investors interested. On the other hand, being non-profit is important to us, in order to not lose track of our cause.
When we started our work, we had an enlarged hope about what can be done with statistics. From that perspective, our first expectations and hopes have come to naught. However, this does not apply specifically to our tool, but has to do with the difficulties that exist when we try to a) measure exactly what is emitted and where it happens b) to create a coherent framework for allocating responsibility for different emissions and c) to steer and plan our future with the support of knowledge we have today. ClimateVisualizer, and the local carbon budget, has, however, attracted great interest and today we work with a large number of municipalities and county administrative boards, which we did not dare to hope for. Which municipality wants to make its ongoing failure visible? Did we wonder when we started working with local carbon budgets? At that time, 4—5 years ago, however, the concept was virtually unknown. Today, the carbon dioxide budget is in the middle of the debate on ideas, and the most common climate-related citizen proposal in Sweden’s municipalities is now about wanting to see your municipality establish its own carbon dioxide budget. We thus have the privilege of working with almost all these municipalities, county administrative boards and regions in Sweden and now receive many inquiries from abroad, where they are interested in how we in Sweden and the UK have started working with local carbon budgets. We are thus surprised that the public sector has proved so brave and interested and today we receive inquiries from new Swedish municipalities every week.
- What are the tools’ metrics for success and what does metric say – how well did the tool do?
The metrics for success is how much the tool gets used and it’s message spread. So far, we fall very short from reaching as many visitors as we want to reach.
Our business goal is altruistic and we are what in Sweden is called an svb company. This means that all financial surplus must be invested in the business in accordance with the Swedish Companies Act. Therefore, we do not measure success in typical measures, but always try to evaluate the extent to which we contribute to accelerated emission reductions and faster climate change. Our tool is first of its kind and is attracting a lot of interest inside and outside Sweden right now, but success is not actually measured when a municipality obtains a carbon dioxide budget, but when we see that the same carbon dioxide budget reaches out and has a real impact. If it becomes sharply governing and leads to more ambitious measures, it is a successful metric for us at Klimatsekretariatet (the NGO Climate Secretary). If we see that it reaches out to the public and civil society and becomes a tool that they can lean on and use, then we also see a great value arise. We also appreciate that many municipalities and regions support and hire us, but that is not a success factor in itself.
- Were your assumptions that the tool you built would: increase participation/engagement or tackle an issue/raise awareness correct? Do you think you chose the right approach – and what would you do differently?
That was our assumption, but we also always knew that we would have to do more than having municipality authorities sharing it at their website. Therefore we want to develop school material connected to the tool. We also want to extend the scenario-part so that it becomes more interactive, as well as improving the interface in order to make it more pedagogic. Today the front-end of the carbon budget is quite cumbersome, which is due to the animation of the carbon budget. We wanted this animation in order to visualise the temporal and cumulative aspects of the carbon budget. However, this has made it difficult for us to add on functions that would increase the interactiveness of the tool. Starting over, I think we would have focused more on creating a code environment that was easier to manage so to speak.
It is difficult to say to what extent we contribute to increasing engagement. We collaborate and offer knowledge to many organisations and it is from a community of milk queue organisations, researchers and pioneers in the public sector. Here we feel that we contribute with an operational focus and also build important expertise around the cumulative perspective. Our tool certainly contributes to more participation and commitment, but it is more unclear how well it reaches out and contributes on a larger scale so far.
- What are you hearing from users? What do they enjoy in tool? What do they find challenging?
Our users often like the look of our tool, and they often think that the interactive part illuminates the challenge of emission mitigations. They are often confused about what emissions go into the calculations and what is left out, and why. That part is also something we want to improve.
We hear from the municipalities that they demand a clearer consumption perspective as well as more advanced functions and support for planning and following up measures based on their own carbon dioxide budget. This is also where we put a lot of energy now and in the future, in order to get the requested functions in place in collaboration with various universities, institutes and county administrative boards and municipalities.
We hear applause and a great deal of commitment from civil society. Here we experience ourselves as a small and fairly anonymous expert body—a (climate) secretariat—that can support with expertise around this concept. We can also connect the growing interest in the public sector, environmental movement and academia, and ensure that we work together to mature and stabilise the carbon budget as a concept and reach out widely in the public discourse.
Returning to our tool ClimateVisualizer, we see that it needs to be more interactive and offer the user an opportunity to create scenarios for the future, and that a view is needed that manages the local consumption emissions.
- Did your tool deliver what you were hoping for? Are they useful for your key user audience? Are they being adopted?
That depends on what we mean by “our key user audience”. Today, municipality officials use the tool to communicate about the local emission mitigation challenge, so in that sense the tool delivers part of what we hoped for. However, our real key user audience was always the general public. With regard to this goal we haven’t reached as far yet.
ClimateVisualizer needs to be further developed in several ways, and the carbon budget as a concept will be clearer for the layman to really understand. Today, however, a basic offer is in place: we can offer a current territorial carbon dioxide budget that is calculated according to best practice.
The tool and our work, but perhaps mainly the work that took place at Uppsala University, have all meant that several dozen Swedish municipalities and county administrative boards today implement local carbon dioxide budgets. Decisions are made in the municipal council, governing documents are rewritten and the carbon dioxide budget is thus relatively sharply implemented nowadays. These are good signs and could certainly be described as a success. However, it remains to be seen whether these municipalities and regions succeed in reducing their emissions more quickly, or whether a clearer local opinion emerges for faster adjustment.
Our work with civil society is more difficult to measure. Here we enter a new phase in 2022 where we hope to see major players such as the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, WWF and the Climate Change Day exchange their opinion and policy work. Here we perceive ourselves as a valuable support to the environmental movement, with both the calculations and the strategic outlook on the concept. We have close conversations with the environmental movement and the larger environmental organisations today, and we anticipate many campaigns and projects arising where we feel that we can have a supportive or coordinating function. For the Swedish parliamentary elections 2022, we know that many environmental organisations want to highlight the carbon dioxide budget. We support this in various ways.
- What worked well through the implementation process? What areas have room for improvement?
We were fearing that the carbon budget perspective would be too radical for municipality authorities, and thus, that it would be hard to get them onboard, so to speak. This has turned out to be easier than we thought. However, officials who want to use the carbon budget in their daily work often find it hard to identify adequate means for addressing the problem that the carbon budget describes. In this sense the carbon budget itself is not always helpful, since it is calculated from available statistical boundaries that do not always map very well to the officials’ operational scope and limits. This is a major area for improvement.
Our strength is our strong proximity to the end users and their (work) reality. We have a very close and daily dialogue with the country’s climate strategists and also to a growing extent with civil society. We therefore think we understand quite well what the municipalities are, how they work, what they ask for but also what they really need. It is a strength and we have had both the citizen and the climate strategist in mind.
The surface for improvement is an essay. For example, we have not had the resources to set up a focused development team that works continuously and according to proven agile methods of developing ClimateVisualizer. Therefore, the implementation process is not a pretty story with some minor flaws, but basically flawed.
Although we are an open source, we have not had the time and energy to really invite the open source community. They may have been a mistake, we think today. It would definitely have changed the speed of how quickly ClimateVisualizer can be developed.
The consolation is that the world has changed in recent years. Today, we see a strong interest in supporting ourselves and getting stable local carbon budgets in place. We thus see that many also want to support financially and suddenly see good conditions for method development, take our tool further and in various ways offer support for those who want to plan and work with their carbon budget operationally.
- GOAL:Tracking progress on carbon emissions and reductions
- TYPE:Cloud Tool
- Made by:Klimatsekretariatet
- YEARS ACTIVE:2020 – to date