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A New Tool to Measure and Reduce Emissions from Agriculture

Agriculture is a major actor in spurring global climate change. The sector is already responsible for at least 10-12 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and agricultural emissions are expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2030.

Mitigating agricultural emissions, then, could go a long way toward mitigating global climate change. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is currently developing an Agricultural Guidance to help companies measure and reduce their agricultural emissions. We’ve just released a second draft of the Guidance for open comment period, which will run until May 31, 2013.

Key Challenges to Measuring Agricultural Emissions

Reporting agricultural emissions in GHG inventories is a decidedly complex endeavor, which can hinder reduction efforts. For example, agricultural emissions are strongly affected by weather and are therefore often calculated with a large amount of uncertainty. This ambiguity makes it challenging to set and track progress toward reduction targets. The carbon stored in biomass and soils can often be emitted into the atmosphere, making it imperative that companies do not over- or under-count the impact of farming practices on stored carbon. And companies vary widely in how they control different parts of agricultural supply chains—such as commodity production, processing, and retail —so it’s difficult to maintain consistency in how inventories are reported.

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For the First Time, a Common Framework for Cities’ Greenhouse Gas Inventories

UPDATE: The deadline to apply to pilot test the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GPC) has been extended to March 31, 2013. Download the Terms of Reference and Application Form for the pilot project, as well as other relevant documents about the GPC. Or, for more information, please contact Wee Kean Fong at wkfong@wri.org.

“You cannot manage what you cannot measure” is a well-known adage for business, and the phrase is increasingly relevant for cities. In the past decade, many cities have started measuring their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data. GHG inventories are essential for building effective low-carbon strategies, tracking GHG reductions, responding to regulations and local GHG program requirements, and securing climate finance. Some cities also believe that tracking emissions can eventually conserve financial and other resources.

The challenge is that most cities conduct their inventories using different methodologies. Without an internationally consistent framework for GHG accounting and reporting, inventory results can be confusing and misleading to decision-makers, investors, and civil society stakeholders. This lack of consistency can even jeopardize the accountability and effectiveness of cities’ emission-reduction efforts.

The Global Protocol for Community-Scale GHG Emissions

But there is a solution: WRI partnered with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) to develop the Global Protocol for Community-Scale GHG Emissions (GPC) Pilot Version 1.0. This guide—which is now beginning its pilot-testing phase—is set to become the first internationally accepted framework for city-level GHG inventories.

As the GPC begins its pilot-testing phase, city leaders may wonder about the specific benefits of using a standardized GHG accounting method. Let’s take a look at GHG reporting trends in cities and the risks of using inconsistent methods.

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Released for Review: New Standards for Tracking GHG Emissions from Policies and Goals

With the latest round of global climate negotiations at an end, many countries, states, and cities around the world are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through mitigation policies and goals. Decision-makers need to understand the emissions impacts associated with these initiatives in order to evaluate effectiveness, make sound decisions, and assess progress.

However, there is currently little consistency or transparency in how such analysis is done. WRI aims to address this situation through forthcoming Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol standards for mitigation accounting, which have recently been released for review.

The Need for Accounting Standards for Mitigation Policies and Goals

To date, no standardized approach has existed for quantifying the GHG effects of policies and actions and tracking performance toward mitigation goals. For example, there is an ongoing debate on whether the United States is on track to meet its goal of reducing emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. A recent study by Resources for the Future found that the United States is on track to meet its goal. However, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook expects carbon dioxide emissions to be only 9 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 as a result of policies currently in place. This difference in findings reflects differences in assumptions about the emissions impacts of policies, such as performance standards for power plants and vehicle fuel efficiency standards. These variations have very real policy implications for the degree to which the United States needs to ramp up actions to meet its 2020 goal.

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We Need Your Help: Take Our Survey on Greenhouse Gas Accounting for the Financial Sector

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol recently partnered with the UNEP Finance Initiative in a critically important endeavor – developing guidance to help the financial sector measure its ”financed emissions” and track reductions. These types of emissions, which are associated with lending and investments, are the most significant part of a financial institution’s carbon footprint.

We are seeking responses to a short (5 – 10 minute) online survey to assist us in establishing the content of the new guidance, which will supplement the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. The deadline for completing the survey is November 23, 2012.

As risk management experts, it’s essential that financial institutions have the necessary tools to consider the implications of continued investment in, and financing of, carbon-intensive sectors and companies. Some financial institutions have developed their own methodologies for accounting for financed emissions, but there’s a lack of consistency between them. Financial institutions need new guidance like that being developed by GHG Protocol and UNEP to adopt risk-management policies and lending procedures that address climate change in a systematic way across the sector.

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3 Lessons for Better Supply Chain Management

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

What do three leading chemical, automobile, and software companies have in common? All three – Honda, BASF, and SAP – are looking to curb risks and take advantage of opportunities across their global supply chains. They’re doing so by measuring their greenhouse gas emissions—not just in their operations, but up and down their value chains.

Many other multinationals are heading in the same direction. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) annual survey of the Global 500, released last month, reveals that seven in ten respondents measured some value chain emissions in 2011, up from about half in 2010. (Note this figure is based on WRI’s analysis of the 405 companies that submitted data to the CDP 2012 survey data.)

What’s driving the world’s biggest corporations down this path? In a nutshell: reputation, risk, and opportunity.

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A Look Inside Facebook’s Carbon Footprint

Facebook, a business that relies so heavily on people’s willingness to share information, took an important step recently by sharing some details of its own. The social networking company has, for the first time, released information about its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Facebook used the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Standard for reporting emissions, categorizing them into Scope 1 (direct emissions), scope 2 (emissions from electricity consumption), and scope 3 (all other indirect emissions including, in Facebook’s case, emissions from business travel and the construction of its data centers). Measuring GHG emissions is a crucial first step for any company seeking to manage and reduce its climate change impact.

Facebook’s GHG Inventory

Here are some of the key figures from Facebook’s GHG inventory:

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Sustainability at WRI: Recommitting to Walking the Talk

At WRI, we pride ourselves in being a mission-driven organization that defines success as bringing about positive outcomes in the world. But what about our own operations? Along with the work we do externally to achieve our mission, we have a responsibility to ensure that our own actions are the best reflection of the changes we want to see in the world.

WRI’s History of Sustainability

We recognized the need to “walk the talk” back in 1999, when we became the first NGO to complete a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventory and set a net-zero reduction target. At that time we also relocated to a green office, striving to incorporate our values directly into our physical surroundings.

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VIDEO: Leading Companies Use New Standards to Uncover Greatest Sources of Carbon Emissions

Last week’s Rio+20 conference failed to yield strong sustainability commitments from corporations. As Manish Bapna, interim president of the World Resources Institute (WRI) stated earlier this week, companies in Rio didn’t “grasp the fundamental recognition that the planet is on an unsustainable course and the window for action is closing.” The gap between where we need to get to avoid climate change’s worst effects and the actions companies are willing to take to get us there have never been further apart. While governments have an important role to play in setting policies to reduce emissions, legislation on its own will never be enough to put us on a development trajectory that is sustainable. Leadership from business is urgently needed.

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Rio+20 in the Rear View: A Look at Rio de Janeiro’s New Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program

WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here and here.

During the informal sessions of the U.N.’s Rio+20 conference on sustainable development last week, Rio de Janeiro city officials and the World Bank jointly launched a very timely project: the Rio Low-Carbon City Program. Under this initiative, the city will introduce low-carbon strategies like bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors, upgraded urban rail systems, bikeways, and an integrated solid waste management system in order to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The program came about due to the city’s landmark 2011 municipal climate change law, which requires Rio to avoid 20 percent of 2005 GHGs emissions by 2020. This cut will amount to a reduction of 2.27 million tons of carbon dioxide from the business-as-usual scenario.

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