Despite the shortcomings in the report, some groups still believe it has value. “It illustrates the importance of local governments since emissions are local and so are solutions,” says Annie Strickler, a spokeswoman for ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives), an umbrella organization of local governments working on sustainability issues.
ICLEI, which is based in Oakland, Calif., is in the process of a more comprehensive rating of cities on sustainability. It will try to cover all sources of carbon emissions.
Some of the Brookings ratings may appear puzzling. For example, the Los Angeles area is rated second behind Hawaii. The L.A. basin is famed for smog and traffic backups. However, Muro says, the research underscored the density of the area’s build-out. “While there are not a lot of tall buildings, it has places with a lot of small lots, master-planned large developments, and an increasing density,” he says. “And the state is increasingly pulling out of dirty energy sources and requiring lighter, low-carbon sourcing.”