ELITE Cities: A low-carbon Eco-city Evaluation Tool for China
China is pursuing the development of Low-carbon Eco-cities with the intent of providing urbanites with a clean environment, a growing economy, and a society that promotes harmonious citizen interactions, while limiting carbon dioxide and GHG emissions. However, it is unclear what makes a low carbon eco-city and how to evaluate it. The Eco and Low-carbon Indicator Tool for Evaluating Cities (ELITE Cities) was developed by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in 2012 to evaluate Chinese cities’ performance by comparing them against benchmarks as well as ranking them against other Chinese cities. ELITE Cities measures progress on 33 key indicators that represent priority issues within 8 primary categories. These indicators were chosen based on international commonality and SMART criteria in an extensive review of 16 international and 11 Chinese indicator systems. An excel based tool is then developed to package the key indicators, benchmarks, measurement methods, point calculation functions and transparency-oriented data recording instructions. The two primary goals of this tool are to minimize data input needs and to present results in a simple format that transparently shows the basis for any city’s final score. To minimize problems associated with the use of new software, the tool was developed as a simple Excel macro-enabled workbook featuring a navigation bar, data input sheets, and results outputs in the form of tables and graphs, and a database of underlying parameters and assumptions. ELITE Cities could be a useful tool for city governments in defining the outlines of low carbon eco-city policies and assessing the progress of the city’s efforts. ELITE Cities can also be used by higher-level governments to assess performance and discern best practices. This paper explains the framework of the ELITE Cities tool, the methods by which the indicators and indicator benchmarks were established, and a detailed how-to guide on tool use.