This post is co-written with Avipsa Mahapatra, a former intern with WRI's Climate and Energy program.

A number of programs that require businesses to report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have emerged in the past decade at the regional, national, and sub-national levels. Most of these programs operate in developed countries, but some developing countries are also showing an interest in adopting mandatory emissions disclosure programs.

Establishing these programs is a resource- and time-intensive exercise. It can be a daunting task for developing countries with competing priorities and limited resources. So where can these countries begin as they consider setting up their greenhouse gas reporting schemes?

WRI’s new working paper, Designing Greenhouse Gas Reporting Systems: Learning from Existing Programs, reviews corporate and facility-level greenhouse gas reporting programs in Australia, California, Canada, the European Union, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The paper identifies steps to implement a mandatory reporting program and discusses factors to be considered at each step in designing the program.

It also discusses some strategies for developing countries keen to set up reporting programs. Developing countries may find it easier to adopt a gradual, phased approach to develop a reporting program. Engaging in the following three key steps allows developing nations to make the most of their more limited resources:

1) Assess Capacity Gaps and Needs

Adequately preparing for a GHG reporting program includes putting in place a sustainable framework of institutions to administer the program. A fair assessment of available—and unavailable—institutional, human, resource, technical, and financial capacities can be the first step toward laying a strong foundation for the reporting program.

Only after an assessment can countries move forward with targeted strategies to address their capacity needs. For example, industries will need technical preparedness on how they can engage in data collection, calculation methods, and reporting. Building a community of experts in emissions accounting, verification, and management could help meet this need. Lining up financial resources (e.g., through budget allocations and through global climate finance) can strengthen the likelihood of a program’s success. Developing countries can seek to attract global climate finance for capacity gap assessment and fulfilling the identified needs to ensure a high-quality, credible program.

2) Create Awareness and Engage Stakeholders

Generating buzz and building a constituency for the program is another important early step that can be initiated with limited resources. Early and continuous engagement with stakeholders—including businesses, industry associations, environmental groups, and government agencies—improves program outreach and uptake by generating interest. Consistent communication can build support and create ownership for the program. These types of activities could include discussions, webinars, workshops, and individual meetings. Awareness-raising exercises can also include consensus-building on the program’s potential objectives—such as achieving emissions mitigation and providing information to stakeholders--and program design-related issues, such as addressing data confidentiality in emissions disclosure or harmonizing reporting with existing programs.

3) A Targeted Approach

Further, developing countries need not necessarily start with an economy-wide reporting program. Instead, they can adopt a modular approach, starting with a few major sectors or large emission sources and simplified methodologies. For example, a country can begin with high-emitting industry sectors such as cement or iron and steel or with the electricity sector. This will allow them to gain expertise, build capacity, and put data collection and inventory systems in place without requiring huge upfront costs.

Of course, designing a reporting program is context-specific—there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. But to effectively combat the global climate change problem, all countries must measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions. Taking a phased approach can provide developing countries time to build the program that suits their needs and their resources.