Christopher P. Loreti

An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Verification Issues

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An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Verification Issues

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
October 2001

By:
Christopher P. Loreti, Scot A. Foster, and Jane E. Obbagy
Arthur D. Little, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts

Press Release

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Foreword Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

The need for information on how to count, track, and verify greenhouse gas emissions has never been greater. Many of the world’s nations are working toward international, national, and subnational regimes for reducing emissions. These efforts have been accompanied by a growing number of corporate targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the emergence of a greenhouse gas trading market. To ensure that the numbers on which governments determine compliance, and on which companies stake their finances and reputations, are real, greenhouse gas emissions verification is critical.

In this Pew Center report, authors Christopher Loreti, Scot Foster, and Jane Obbagy of Arthur D. Little, Inc. describe the evolving approaches to corporate greenhouse gas emissions verification. They identify factors that drive verification activities and suggest a number of principles that organizations should consider when verifying greenhouse gas emissions, with an eye toward the experiences of the firms, governments, and non-governmental organizations that have been involved in verification activities.

This report builds on An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Issues which the Pew Center released last year, and which offered a set of principles for conducting greenhouse gas inventories. Both of these reports are part of the Solutions series, which is aimed at providing individuals and organizations with tools to evaluate and reduce their contributions to climate change.

The authors and the Pew Center would like to thank the companies featured in this report for sharing their experiences and perspectives, and acknowledge the members of the Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council, as well as Jean-Bernard Carrasco of the Australian Greenhouse Office, Nick Hughes of BP, and Janet Ranganathan of the World Resources Institute for their review and advice on a previous draft of this report.

Executive Summary

The growing number of companies that inventory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, implement emissions reductions projects and targets, and trade GHG emissions reductions has generated increasing interest in emissions verification. Stakeholders in the corporate, governmental, and non-governmental sectors recognize the need for complete, credible, and accurate information about GHG emissions and emissions reductions. To address this issue, some government bodies have developed standards for verifying GHG emissions for specific programs. More general approaches to verifying emissions are just beginning to evolve, however, as uniform approaches to inventorying and reporting GHG emissions are not yet fully established.

This paper describes the evolving approaches to corporate GHG emissions verification. The authors discuss the experiences of leading firms that inventory and verify GHG emissions, the approaches to verification embodied in various GHG programs sponsored by governments and non-governmental organizations, and the factors that drive verification. They also review general verification issues, including who should verify, what should be verified, and when verification should occur.

This paper builds on an earlier publication of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Issues (Loreti et al., 2000). Much of the content is the result of discussions with the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council, a survey of leading corporations on approaches to GHG emissions verification, a review of the current literature on corporate GHG emissions verification, discussions with representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in GHG emissions issues, and prior experience of Arthur D. Little, Inc. in environmental auditing and GHG verification.

Just as there are multiple purposes and methods for performing emissions inventories, there are a variety of reasons for verifying emissions inventories and a range of approaches to verification. However, the authors’ review of the work to date on GHG emissions verification suggests several principles for any firm that conducts a GHG emissions inventory:

  1. Conduct your inventory as if it is going to be verified, regardless of whether your organization is planning to verify it. Rigorous reporting, emissions estimation, and data management systems will facilitate any future verification. Indeed, these systems will make it possible to conduct third-party verification of today’s emissions in the future should it become necessary, for example, to establish a baseline or obtain credit for early emissions reductions.

  2. Be clear on the purpose of verification. Verification can be conducted for many reasons and the results of verification performed for one purpose may not be applicable to another. Be sure that all stakeholders who rely on the verification result will be satisfied with the scope and methods of the verification.

 3. Choose your verifiers carefully. Be sure the individuals conducting the verification understand your organization, its type of business, and its emissions. The verifiers’ knowledge and experience are more important than the type of organization they are from. If the verification is performed as part of an established GHG reporting or reduction program, be sure the verifiers you choose have the qualifications that that program requires.

 4. Learn from your verification experience. Organizations will maximize the value of the verification if they use it to improve their inventory process, improve the reliability of reported information, and facilitate future verification. When hiring third-party verifiers, be sure that they provide specific recommendations for improving your organization’s GHG inventory.

About the Author

Christopher P. Loreti
Arthur D. Little, Inc., Cambridge, MA

Christopher P. Loreti is a Senior Manager in the Global Environment and Risk practice of Arthur D. Little, Inc., and the author of two Center reports, An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Issues, and An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Verification Issues. Since joining Arthur D. Little in 1985, his work has focused on the assessment of the release, fate, and transport of pollutants in the environment. He has conducted numerous air pollutant emission inventories for conventional and toxic air pollutants and greenhouse gases. He has co-authored reports examining trends in Canadian emissions of selected greenhouse gases and technologies to reduce these emissions, economic instruments for reducing U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, and the potential for electric vehicles to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and conventional air pollutants in Hong Kong. Mr. Loreti holds an M.S. in Technology and Human Affairs from the Department of Engineering and Policy at Washington University and B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Environmental Engineering from Northwestern University.

Christopher P. Loreti
Jane E. Obbagy
Scot A. Foster
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An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Issues

An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Issues

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
August 2000

By:
Christopher P. Loreti, William F. Wescott, and Michael A. Isenberg, Arthur D. Little Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts

Press Release

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Foreword

Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

At a Pew Center conference on Early Action held in September 1999, DuPont announced plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 65 percent from 1990 levels by 2010. BP Amoco intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent of 1990 levels by 2010 and has implemented an emissions trading system across all of its businesses. United Technologies Corporation has announced targets to reduce energy and water usage by 25 percent per dollar of sales by 2007.

Motivated by factors ranging from a desire to monitor and reduce energy consumption to concern for the environment to anticipation of future requirements to cut emissions that contribute to climate change, a growing number of companies are voluntarily undertaking action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This report provides an overview of how greenhouse gas emissions are estimated and reported in emissions inventories. It highlights a variety of approaches taken by companies to identify, track, and curb their emissions, and provides insights from their experiences.

This Pew Center report is the first in a new series aimed at identifying practical solutions to address climate change. The Solutions series is aimed at providing individuals and organizations with tools to evaluate and reduce their contributions to climate change. This first report, prepared by Christopher Loreti, William Wescott, and Michael Isenberg of Arthur D. Little, Inc., identifies credible approaches and offers a set of principles for conducting emissions inventories. The authors identify key decision points in efforts to conduct an emissions inventory. They note that the purpose of an inventory should influence the approach, pointing out, for example, the tension that exists between encouraging consistency in reporting practices and providing flexibility to reflect a specific company's unique circumstances.

In the absence of a comprehensive climate policy regime, voluntary efforts to identify and reduce greenhouse gases at the source are critical. Ensuring that such efforts are ultimately recognized under future policy regimes is equally important and only likely to be possible if greenhouse gas emissions reductions are found to be real, quantifiable, and verifiable. A subsequent Pew Center report will address key issues in the verification of emissions inventories and emissions reductions.

The authors and the Pew Center would like to thank the companies featured in this report for sharing their stories and insights, and acknowledge the members of the Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council, as well as Janet Raganathan and others involved in the Greenhouse Gas Measurement & Reporting Protocol Collaboration, for their review and advice on a previous draft of this report.

Executive Summary

There is great interest today in the inventorying of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by corporations — perhaps more than there has ever been for a voluntary environmental initiative. This interest is part of the general trend among corporations towards increased reporting of environmental performance. In addition, many organizations have concluded that enough is known to begin taking action now to understand, to manage, and to reduce their GHG emissions. The possibility of earning credit for taking voluntary actions to reduce emissions is also a motivating factor for many companies to conduct inventories. Conducting an inventory is a necessary first step in managing greenhouse gas emissions.

This paper provides an overview of key issues in developing greenhouse gas emissions inventories, with particular emphasis on corporate-level inventories. It illustrates the range of current activities in the field and the experience of major corporations that conduct GHG emissions inventories. Areas of general agreement, as well as unresolved issues in emissions inventorying, are described. More specifically, the paper discusses:

  • How national level emissions inventories relate to corporate and facility inventories,
  • How companies conduct their inventories,
  • Inventory accuracy,
  • How companies decide which emissions to include (drawing boundaries),
  • Baselines and metrics,
  • Challenges for corporations in conducting global inventories, and
  • Learning from similar measurement approaches.


One important issue this paper does not address is the verification of emissions inventories and emissions reductions. Verification is the subject of another paper being prepared by Arthur D. Little, Inc. for the Center.

This review of GHG emissions inventory issues is based on meetings and discussions with the Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council, a survey of selected major corporations on their greenhouse gas inventory practices, and a review of pertinent literature. It is also informed by the participation of the Center and Arthur D. Little, Inc. in a collaborative effort led by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to develop an internationally accepted protocol for conducting GHG emissions inventories.

The intent of this paper is not to advocate any specific methodology or approach for conducting GHG emissions inventories, nor to promote any particular policy positions. The review of the experience to date and issues surrounding GHG emissions inventories, however, suggests several general principles for developing effective GHG emissions inventory programs:

1. Start by understanding your emissions. Knowing the relative magnitude of emissions coming from various sources is necessary to understand whether or not they are material contributors to a firm's total emissions. Understanding the nature and the number of the emissions sources will facilitate the use of the inventory development guidance that is becoming available.

2. Understand the likely uses of the emissions inventory. Companies conduct GHG emissions inventories for purposes that range from internal goal-setting to external reporting to obtaining financial benefits. These different uses of the inventory information imply different levels of completeness, accuracy, and documentation in the inventory. Each organization will need to reach its own conclusion as to the cost/benefit balance of developing its inventory, depending upon its set of likely uses.

3. Decide carefully which emissions to include by establishing meaningful boundaries. Questions of which emissions to include in a firm's inventory and which are best accounted for elsewhere are among the most difficult aspects of establishing GHG emissions inventories. Since the purpose of conducting an inventory is to track emissions and emissions reductions, companies are encouraged to include emissions they are in a position to significantly control and to clearly communicate how they have drawn their boundaries.

4. Maximize flexibility. Since requirements to report or reduce greenhouse gas emissions under a future climate policy regime are uncertain, companies should prepare for a range of possibilities. By maximizing the flexibility in their emissions inventories — for example, by being able to track emissions by organizational unit, location, and type of emission or by expressing emissions in absolute terms or normalized for production — organizations will be prepared for a wide range of possible future scenarios.

5. Ensure transparency. Transparency in reporting how emissions and emissions reductions are arrived at is critical to achieving credibility with stakeholders. Unless the emissions baseline, estimation methods, emissions boundaries, and means of reducing emissions are adequately documented and explained in the inventory, stakeholders will not know how to interpret the results.

6. Encourage innovation. Now is the time to try innovative inventory approaches tailored to a company's particular circumstances. The range of experience and lessons learned will be invaluable as voluntary reporting protocols are developed or as possible regulatory requirements are established. Learning what works best — and doing it before any requirements for reporting are in place — will be as important as learning what does not work.

Christopher P. Loreti
Michael A. Isenberg
William F. Wescott
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