You can’t change what you can’t measure. That’s true whether you’re talking about losing weight, improving your race time or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

When it comes to climate action, measuring countries’ emissions and the progress they make toward reducing them is critical for evaluating whether the world is on track to limit temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees C. Measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of emissions and emissions reductions is necessary to ensure that efforts to combat climate change are paying off.

The Paris Agreement, forged last December, took a major step forward when it established a universal system of transparency for MRV, with built-in flexibility taking into account countries’ different capacities. Effective MRV can help countries understand emissions sources and trends, design mitigation strategies, enhance credibility and take other policy actions.

The 3 Types of Measurement, Reporting and Verification

The challenge is that MRV can mean a lot of different things, and accordingly, has been used in many different ways. To help decision-makers identify the types of MRV that are most relevant and the methodologies that are right for their needs, WRI published MRV 101: Understanding Measurement, Reporting and Verification of Climate Change Mitigation. This new research disentangles the term MRV and examines the three types of MRV:

MRV of GHG emissions. This MRV is conducted at national, organizational and/or facility levels to understand an entity’s emissions profile and report it in the form of an emissions inventory. For example, countries report their emissions from energy, industry, agriculture, waste, etc. in a national inventory. Companies may measure and report emissions from their activities in organizational-level inventories on an annual basis.

MRV of mitigation actions. Often related to policies or projects, this MRV is used to assess GHG effects and sustainable development (non-GHG) effects, as well as to monitor implementation. In this case, the focus is on estimating the change in GHG emissions or other non-GHG variables. Assessing the effect of a sustainable transport policy on traffic congestion, air pollution, mobility, GHG emissions and employment is an example of this kind of MRV.

MRV of support. Support can come in many forms, including climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building. This MRV helps track provision and receipt of climate support, monitor results achieved and assess impact. For instance, countries track financial support provided towards mitigation efforts and building capacity. At the same time, the recipient countries also track support received for various climate and other initiatives.

This infographic shows the 3 types of MRV and the different levels at which they can be undertaken.

What Process Should Decision-Makers Follow to Determine the Right Type of MRV to Use?

MRV 101 presents four initial questions to answer in order to identify the appropriate type and level of MRV, before getting into detailed discussion on implementing MRV systems. They are:

  • Why: What are the objectives and purpose of undertaking MRV?

  • How: What are the methodological and technical guidelines and processes involved in performing MRV?

  • When: What is the appropriate timeframe for undertaking MRV?

  • Who: Which are the entities and individuals responsible for undertaking MRV?

While these answers provide decision makers with an implementing framework, the next step is to seek detailed guidance on the building blocks of a MRV system, including establishing institutional arrangements and data management systems, and enhancing capacity to carry out MRV.

For more guidance on mitigation-related MRV at any level, read the publication MRV 101: Understanding Measurement, Reporting and Verification of Climate Change Mitigation.