November 10, 2022
Contact: Philip Horowitz, HorowitzP@c2es.org
Brief: C2ES Cites Policies to Improve Embodied Emissions Reporting
Reducing Embodied Emissions Through Improved Data Reporting
WASHINGTON—The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) today released a new brief that identifies a range of policies to address supply chain emissions and those embodied in construction materials. The brief’s recommendations focus on improving reporting on emissions generated across the various stages of a product’s life cycle, allowing purchasers to identify and prioritize lower-carbon materials and goods.
Improved reporting on embodied emissions—those that a product generates across its life cycle—is necessary to facilitate federal, state, and local clean procurement policies, also known as “Buy Clean,” aimed at reducing emissions from public activity. The C2ES brief, A Building Block for Climate Action: Reporting on Embodied Emissions, points to the growing emergence of Buy Clean policies across the country as an important driver to create broader uniformity and comparability for product-level environmental disclosures.
“Reducing emissions across the entire lifecycle of products, including raw materials, manufacturing and disposal, is a foundational element in meeting our climate goals. Unless we deal with the current emissions information gap, the public and private sectors will struggle to have confidence that procurement decisions will actually lower emissions on a lifecycle basis,” said C2ES Vice President of Policy and Outreach Brad Townsend. “Without accurate data, companies and governments can’t fully understand where emissions are or how to address them—as global markets increasingly value lower-carbon products, our ability to do this well has significant implications for the long-term competitiveness of American businesses.”
The brief also points to growing pressure from investors and regulators for the private sector to report on and reduce their scope 3 carbon emissions—a company’s indirect emissions originating from its supply chain. As this pressure increases, companies are likely to further pursue product-level emissions reporting to better evaluate and adjust their supply chains.
“As the adage goes, what gets measured gets managed; and right now, without reliable product-level emissions data, we face major constraints to effectively mitigate emissions across products’ life cycles. These gaps are limiting carbon management and the ability of purchasers to meet their own climate goals,” said C2ES Industrial Fellow Chris Kardish. “Without reliable product-level data, companies will be unable to identify emissions hotspots across their value chains, and government-sponsored Buy Clean policies will face implementation challenges.”
In the brief, C2ES identifies critical outcomes and targeted policies to achieve them:
- Updates to the rules for Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) development to address data gaps: requiring more primary data and more reporting on post-production life cycle stages where relevant.
- Standardization to improve comparability and consistency: improving standardization on the use of secondary data—data from a variety of inputs and processes that cannot be directly measured—and life cycle analysis tools, enhancing efforts to improve the quality and availability of secondary data, and working to achieve greater consistency on EPD requirements in state and federal Buy Clean initiatives.
- Incentives to increase EPD availability: providing education, assistance, and financial incentives to manufacturers (especially small- and mid-size manufacturers) to support their production of EPDs. EPD availability can also be boosted through the expansion of Buy Clean laws.
This brief is part of the C2ES Climate Innovation 2050 “Closer Look” series that investigates important facets of the decarbonization challenge, focusing on key technologies, critical policy instruments, and cross-sectoral challenges. Review more from the C2ES Closer Look series here.
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) works to secure a safe and stable climate, by accelerating the global transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and a thriving, just, and resilient economy. Learn more at www.c2es.org.