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sustainability reporting

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I recently presented at the 7th Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) World Forum Summit, a gathering of experts brought together by Berlin-based think tank Thema1 “to foster and facilitate international discussion on how to assess, reduce, and communicate the impact of goods and services on the climate.” This group historically has focused on the life cycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and product-level emission inventories. But this year’s theme included an additional focus: whether and how renewable energy purchases should be reflected in corporate GHG emissions calculations.

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At an official side event to the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference this week, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), ICLEI– Local Governments for Sustainability, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and partners released Pilot Version 1.0 of the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GPC). The release of the GPC Pilot Version 1.0 marks an unprecedented international consensus on the greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting and reporting framework for cities and communities. For the first time, cities around the world will be able to manage and reduce their GHG impacts through a method that’s both comprehensive and easy-to-use.

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Thousands of companies have developed greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories in recent years as a crucial first step towards measuring and ultimately reducing their emissions. Agricultural emissions are a large part of many of those inventories: farming is currently responsible for between 10 and 12 percent of global GHG emissions. Globally, agricultural emissions are expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2030, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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Let me ‘fess up. The state of the environment sometimes gets me down. But to be fair, Earth’s vital signs would drive any respectable emergency room doctor into a state of utter panic. Globally, two thirds of ecosystem services, such as freshwater, pollination, natural hazard regulation, have been degraded in the past 50 years. Annual rates of growth in yields of many basic crops have declined over the past 20 years. The effects of global climate change are already being felt around the world.

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I was recently at the New York Stock Exchange for the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) Spring Workshop, where I moderated a panel discussion with representatives from Walmart, Microsoft and Coca-Cola on Smart Thinking in Delivering Significant Supply Chain Emissions Reductions. We had a lively discussion about how to drive greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions in the supply chain, and I left the event encouraged, but also aware of the challenges companies face when assessing emissions across their value chains.

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The United Nations has put global reporting by companies on sustainability among its proposed key outcomes for the Rio+ 20 summit in June. The "zero draft" policy agenda that negotiators will consider, calls for "a global policy framework requiring all listed and large private companies to consider sustainability issues and to integrate sustainability information within the reporting cycle."

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For decades, many companies have typically responded to sustainability challenges by pursuing incremental operational improvements. But we are beginning to see an interesting new trend – businesses using sustainability as a tactic for long-term offense, rather than just short-term defense.

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Today the GHG Protocol launches two new global greenhouse gas accounting standards - for corporate value chains (scope 3) and product life cycle emissions. Janet Ranganathan, WRI's Vice-president for Science & Research, and Pankaj Bhatia, WRI’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol Director since 2004, describe the 12-year program's critical role in business and government efforts to address climate impacts.

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