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Tracking Greenhouse Gases: 3 Factors for Successful National Inventories

This blog post was co-authored with Soffia Alarcon-Diaz, an intern with WRI's Climate and Energy program.

Measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) across different sectors is no easy feat. But creating a national inventory of GHGs is one important step for countries to take toward managing them. Starting in 2014, many developing countries will begin providing more frequent updates to their national inventories under guidelines from the COP 17 Durban Platform. How can they best meet international reporting requirements and, more importantly, use the development of their national inventory systems to support domestic low-carbon growth?

In a new set of case studies (see the text box) we have documented experiences from Brazil, Colombia, India, Mexico, and South Africa—countries that have already made notable efforts to develop robust national inventory systems. Each study explores critical aspects of these countries’ inventory processes and provides lessons that could benefit other countries looking to further develop their own systems.

3 Attributes of Successful National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

Although each national inventory system is unique, the case studies reveal several common attributes of successful inventory improvement. Here are three:

New Guidance Makes Corporate Value Chain Accounting Easier

An effective corporate climate change strategy requires a detailed understanding of a company’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Until recently, most companies have focused on measuring emissions from their own operations and electricity consumption, using the GHG Protocol’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 framework. But what about all of the emissions a company is responsible for outside of its own walls—from the goods it purchases to the disposal of the products it sells?

The GHG Protocol Scope 3 Standard, released in late 2011, is the only internationally accepted method for companies to account for these types of value chain emissions. Building on this standard, GHG Protocol has now released a new companion guide that makes it even easier for businesses to complete their scope 3 inventories. The guidance is freely available for download via the GHG Protocol website.

How Can Businesses Use the New Guidance?

Assessing GHG emissions across the entire value chain can be complex. For companies just beginning to assess their scope 3 emissions, it can be difficult to know where to start. This calculation guidance is designed to reduce those barriers by providing detailed, technical guidance on all the relevant calculation methods. It provides information not contained in the Scope 3 Standard, such as:

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.

Reflections on COP 18 in Doha: Negotiators Made Only Incremental Progress

This piece was written with analysis from Athena Ballesteros, Edward Cameron, Yamide Dagnet, Florence Daviet, Aarjan Dixit, Heather McGray, and Clifford Polycarp.

Expectations were low for this year’s UNFCCC climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar (COP 18), which concluded last week. It was scheduled to be a “finalize-the-rules” type of COP, rather than one focused on large, political deals that went into the early hours of the morning. Key issues on the table included finalizing the rules for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period; concluding a series of decisions on transparency, finance, adaptation, and forests (REDD+); and agreeing on a work plan to negotiate a new legally binding international climate agreement by 2015. The emissions gap was also front-and-center, as the new UNEP Gap Report showed that countries are further away than even a year ago from the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below two degrees C.

In the end, countries were successful in making progress, but only incrementally. The lack of political will was breathtaking, particularly in light of recent extreme weather events.

Here’s a look at what happened across nine key issues that were on the table:

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.

Accounting for Risk

Conceptualizing a Robust Greenhouse Gas Inventory for Financial Institutions

This report takes a first step in helping financial institutions create more robust GHG inventories, by discussing objectives, options, and challenges for financial institutions and stakeholders to consider when creating and evaluating a GHG emissions inventory.

Designing a Cap-and-Trade Program For the Midwest

The Greenhouse Gas Accord announced by ten Midwestern governors in November 2007 involves nearly one fourth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in a regional agreement to improve energy security and design a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction program. Among the strategies described in this accord is...

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