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Nitrogen Trifluoride Now Required in GHG Protocol Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories

Scientific understanding of the chemicals that contribute to climate change is constantly improving. So, too, is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP), as we work to keep abreast of such advances and ensure that they are reflected in our tools and standards.

One recent example concerns the greenhouse gas (GHG) nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a chemical that is released in some high-tech industries, including in the manufacture of many electronics. The GHG Protocol now requires NF3 to be included in GHG inventories under the Corporate Standard, Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard, and Product Standard. A new GHGP Amendment updates the existing requirements.

How does this update affect my organization?

NF3 is used in a relatively small number of industrial processes. It is primarily produced in the manufacture of semiconductors and LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panels, and certain types of solar panels and chemical lasers. To the extent that these processes occur in your company’s direct operations or value chain, they may need to be reflected in future inventories to ensure conformance with GHG Protocol standards.

What information has emerged about NF3?

Until recently, it was not possible to directly measure the atmospheric concentration of NF3, and scientists had assumed that only a small percentage of the NF3 used in industry escaped into the atmosphere.

New measurement techniques have revealed much higher atmospheric concentrations of NF3 than expected, which can be partially attributed to the fact that industrial losses of the gas had been underestimated. NF3 emissions are increasing rapidly – rates of industrial production increased 40-fold between 1992 and 2007 alone . This is particularly alarming because NF3 has a 100-year global warming potential of 17,200, meaning that it is 17,200 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping atmospheric heat over a 100-year time span – much higher than most other GHGs.

NF3 is now considered a potent contributor to climate change and is therefore mandated to be included in national inventories under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The GHG Protocol closely aligns its reporting requirements with those of the UNFCCC to ensure consistency between national, corporate and product lifecycle inventories.

Where can I find more information?

More details on NF3 and answers to frequently asked questions are on the GHG Protocol website. This document is the first in a series of new GHG Protocol publications – GHG Protocol Amendments – that alter existing requirements in the standards to reflect new scientific information or changes in business practice. We view them as an essential way to keep our standards up-to-date and to facilitate more impactful emissions-reduction efforts. Please make sure to keep an eye out for future Amendments on lease accounting and other topics.

For more information, please contact Stephen Russell at srussell@wri.org.

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