The Case for Reporting and Verifying Your Emissions

by Tymon Lodder, Western Regional Director, The Climate Registry

(This article appears in the May, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Reporting your greenhouse gas emissions in a consistent, rigorous and transparent fashion has never been able to yield so many benefits as it does today. With the ability to identify significant cost savings opportunities, meet pending greenhouse gas regulations at both the State and Federal level, and understand your supply chain impacts, taking the added step to publicly report and verify your inventory positions your organization to take a leadership role in a carbon constrained world.  The Climate Registry is a non-profit organization that operates the only North American voluntary GHG registry. Governed by states, provinces, territories and tribes, The Climate Registry helps hundreds of public and private organizations measure, report and reduce their carbon emissions with integrity.  We offer a variety of services and membership options to position our members to meet the challenges ahead.

Currently 18 universities participate in the Registry, including the University of California System and the University of Hawaii at Manoa(Click to read case studies.)

One key concept that the Registry encourages is the use of Third-party verification.  Third-party verification assesses whether an entity’s emissions inventory complies with the reporting principles of relevance, completeness, consistency, transparency, and accuracy, as well as the GHG program’s reporting criteria (e.g., materiality threshold, geographic requirements, etc.).  Verification activities apply not only to the calculation of GHG emissions, but also to the context and meaning of the reported data.

Verification is an additional step that has provided numerous institutions tangible and fiscal benefits.  Having someone independently review and audit your work adds credibility to that data as well as time and time again finds errors which help organizations better understand and manage their emissions.

Experience with both voluntary and mandatory GHG reporting programs shows that errors are common in the development of GHG inventories and that third-party verification can cost-effectively ensure accurate and consistent data that is compliant with established protocols and methodologies.

The California Climate Action Registry (CCAR) is a voluntary GHG registry that was formed in 2001 and will dissolve at the end of 2010, and which served as the basis for the development of The Climate Registry’s program in 2007.  Even though the members of CCAR’s voluntary program made honest efforts to submit accurate emissions reports, third-party verification has identified misstatements in 99 percent of the nearly 600 verifications performed for the CCAR program.

Universities taking the lead on Climate Change
The University community has always been on the forefront of environmental leadership and was quick to aggressively step forward with the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) to mitigate climate change challenges.  Eighteen universities currently participate in the Registry; two ACUPCC signatories that are, or plan to become members of The Climate Registry are the University of California system and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

University of California
by Andy Coghlan, Sustainability Specialist, UC Office of the President

The precursor to The Climate Registry was the California Climate Action Registry, or CCAR. CCAR is essentially a state-specific version of The Climate Registry. Like The Climate Registry, CCAR requires its members to follow a common reporting protocol, obtain third-party verification for scope 1 and scope 2 emission inventories, and publicly report inventories on the CCAR website. UC San Diego was a founding member of CCAR and began reporting in 2005. By 2008, all 10 UC campuses were CCAR members. The University of California San Diego has already joined The Climate Registry and the other nine University of California campuses plan to follow suit when CCAR ceases to accept emissions reports at the end of 2010. UC plans to do this for the following three reasons:

  1. Consistent reporting across campuses:
    As members of The Climate Registry, UC campuses will use the same general reporting protocol to calculate scope 1 & scope 2 emissions inventories. Absent a consistent reporting methodology, campus inventories would be incomparable.
  2. Consistent reporting over time:
    Membership in The Climate Registry helps to ensure that reporting practices remain consistent through staff transitions. The Climate Registry also acts as a central repository of information, helping to eliminate confusion born of multiple spreadsheets. Since the University has set emission reduction goals well into the future, these are both important considerations.
  3. Credibility:
    Inventories that receive third-party verification have a higher level of credibility than self-reported inventories. UC has made a very public commitment to reduce its emissions to year 2000 levels by 2014 and to 1990 levels by 2020. As we strive to achieve these goals, it is very important that our stakeholders believe that our accounting practices are rigorous and transparent.

University of Hawaii at Manoa
by Craig Coleman, UHERO Project Manager and GHG Research Analyst, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Hawai‘i has a dedicated place in the history of the CO2 record; the Keeling Curve, the longest continuous record of atmospheric CO2 in the world, comes from measurements made at Mauna Loa Observatory, Big Island of Hawai‘i.  The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) is a significant consumer of energy in Hawaii, second to the military, and can have a major impact on Hawaii’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

UHM is home to a community of scholars with international expertise on GHG measurement, renewable energy, and climate change and, as the premier research institution in the Pacific Basin, has a responsibility to provide leadership on climate change among Pacific island economies.  UHM Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw has committed to the following energy goals:

  • 30 percent reduction in campus energy use by 2012;
  • 50 percent reduction in campus energy use by 2015;
  • 25 percent of campus energy supplied by renewable sources by 2020; and
  • Energy and water self-sufficiency for the campus by 2050.

Governor Linda Lingle designated The Climate Registry as the recognized voluntary GHG reporting registry for the State of Hawaii and appointed Director of Health, Laurence Lau, to the Board of Directors of TCR.  UHM will be the first institution in the State of Hawaii and one of the first universities in the nation to register GHG emissions with a national registry. In so doing, M?noa can model climate leadership to Hawaii and our international academic community.

Much like the peer-review process, third-party verification raises the quality of our work and lends credibility of the results for others to learn from.  Furthermore, as researchers at UHM tap our data (and others in the TCR reporting system) to model and analyze the impacts of potential carbon regulation schemes, the verification process promotes confidence to researchers and policymakers alike knowing the data is sound and standardized.

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