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Google in Asia

The city using Google tools for environmental education

The skyline of of the City of Yokohama in Japan, with low industrial buildings and parkland in the foreground and modern skyscrapers in the background, set against a clear blue sky.

Since launching Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) in 2018, my team and I have seen how data can help local governments develop relevant climate plans.

EIE is a free tool designed to help measure emission sources and identify strategies to reduce emissions. In Pune City, India, the local government has used data from EIE to better analyze trip emissions. In Australia, Ironbark Sustainability and Beyond Zero Emissions have developed Snapshot Climate, a community climate tool that incorporates EIE transportation and emissions data — and shares it with local councils and other organizations across the country.

So far, over 320 cities worldwide have made their data available for the public to view through the platform — including West Nusa Tenggara, in Indonesia, the first place in Southeast Asia to adopt EIE.

While we have seen how EIE has helped cities shape their efforts to reduce emissions using data, that’s not the only benefit that the tool offers. Cities like Yokohama in Japan are also using it to educate their citizens.

I wanted to learn more about this initiative — so in the lead-up to Earth Day this week, I sat down with Hiroki Miyajima, the Executive Director of the General Affairs Department in the International Affairs Bureau of the City of Yokohama.

Hiroki-san, it’s wonderful to know that Yokohama City uses Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE). What motivated the city to use this tool?

I was introduced to EIE back in 2020 and found it to be an excellent tool with visual capabilities and accessible simulation features for us to understand our city better. As we already had data on greenhouse gas emissions, I saw the tool as a great way to build awareness around sustainability among our citizens.

Households in Yokohama generate about 25% of our current CO2 emissions. With our mayor having announced a goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030, we need to encourage our citizens to change their behavior as we work towards decarbonization. That starts with education, in particular for children and young people: our next generation. We’ve begun incorporating EIE into education programs from junior high school to universities. By exploring EIE, these students can visualize and better understand the impacts of CO2 emissions.

A male student with a mask on, looking at the Environmental Insights Explorer on his computer.

A student using the Environmental Insights Explorer in class.

What impact have you seen since the education programs have rolled out?

I’ve heard several anecdotal stories from teachers. After attending one class, a junior high school student commented that he would make sure to turn off unnecessary electricity if he saw no one using the classroom. Another student said he plans to incorporate energy-saving ideas at home and share what he learns with his parents.

At universities, we see student teams incorporating EIE data into their projects. For instance, one group created a report on promoting the use of electric vehicles and shared their presentation at an international conference held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I’m incredibly encouraged knowing that our younger generation cares about their city and this planet. We can motivate them to take practical action through education, no matter how big or small they are. We look forward to bringing EIE to more institutions.

Why should other cities consider getting on board in using EIE with city planning?

We’ve been collaborating and supporting urban development projects with emerging cities in Southeast Asia. We’ve noticed that many of these cities have not had the chance to calculate the amount of GHG emissions they generate. One reason for this is that calculating emissions can be time-consuming and requires significant funding. However, using EIE, it’s possible to get insightful data efficiently and effectively.

If you’re part of a local government and interested in what EIE can do for your community, fill out this form to get in touch with our team, or visit our website.

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