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October 11, 2012
GHG protocol issued for communities

Local governments can now use the “first-ever national standard” to measure and report GHG emissions associated with communities, announced ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI-LGS).  The protocol is a “consistent national standard,” says ICLEI-LGS, which also offers the flexibility to allow local governments to choose an accounting approach that accommodates each community’s capabilities and make informed decisions about GHG reduction goals.  ICLEI-LGS claims a network of over 1,000 towns committed to sustainability, clean energy, and climate action.

Start with basic activities

Under the protocol, all GHG community inventories must address emissions from five basic activities:  use of electricity by the community; use of fuel in residential and commercial stationary combustion equipment; on-road passenger and freight motor vehicle travel; use of energy in potable water and wastewater treatment and distribution; and generation of solid waste by the community.  The protocol encourages local governments to include other sources and activities in accounting and reporting as well.

The protocol includes innovations that ICLEI-LGS believes will depart from approaches that may have been used in past inventories.  For example:

  • Distinctions are drawn between GHG emissions sources that may be located in a community and activities of the community that result in GHG emissions.
  • Multiple reporting frameworks are available so the community can report on GHG emissions in a manner that tells a story suited to audience and purpose.
  • Reporting requirements include activity data, emissions factors, accounting methods, context data, and disclosure of emissions sources and activities included and excluded.
  • Emphasis on line-item reporting of emissions numbers with guidance on aggregating, where appropriate, and avoiding double counting.

Software needed

ICLEI-LGS notes that conducting an inventory using the protocol requires a “Web-based inventory tool” that will be made available in the first quarter of 2013.  Until then, the 2009 version of the Clean Air and Climate Protection (CACP) softwaremay be used.  Unlike the promised ICLEI-LGS software, the CACP program does not provide a “one-stop solution” for completing a protocol-compliant inventory.  This means some calculations and allocations will need to be done outside the CACP software.  For example, the CACP program does not address energy used in potable water and wastewater treatment and distribution.

ICLEI-LGS emphasizes that an inventory produced under the community protocol will differ from one produced by an organization or for a project.  “A community inventory attempts to provide as complete a picture of community emissions as possible,” says ICLEI-LGS.  “Nevertheless, no inventory is comprehensive as some emissions-generating sources and activities cannot be estimated due to a lack of valid estimation methods, a lack of emissions data, or for other reasons.”

RECs, sinks, and offsets

Other features of the protocol include the ability to account for life-cycle emissions associated with production of products purchased by a community.  ICLEI-LGS also plans on releasing supplemental guidance on accounting for upstream emissions avoided by recycling.  The protocol focuses on gross emissions associated with a community and does not contain guidance to account for emissions reductions such at renewable energy credits (RECs), sinks, or offsets.  In other words, these items can be included for information purposes in any report prepared under the protocol provided gross emissions are stated first.  

Click here for information on ICLEI-LGS’s  U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

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