What is the New Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory Protocol Anyway?

11.15.2012

With more and more cities and counties planning for a greener future, a key baseline of both an effective sustainability plan and climate action plan is to clearly assess current conditions.

Community-scale Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventories are critical to the development of GHG reduction strategies in both sustainability plans and climate action plans. The new Community GHG Inventory Protocol provides a framework for accounting consistency between inventories and among communities within a larger county, region, or state.

The need to inventory GHG emissions at the community-scale is increasing as cities and regions confront the planning challenges related to mitigating climate change. ICLEI, a non-profit association of cities and governments dedicated to sustainable development, released version 1 of their Community Protocol in early October, to provide a new, concise framework for inventory development. This Protocol underwent a lengthy review process, as it is expected to serve as the de facto standard for community-scale inventories going forward. ESA is working with clients to incorporate its framework in ongoing projects, including the Ukiah community-scale inventory for the upcoming Ukiah Climate Action Plan.

The Protocol recommends several modifications to how community-scale inventories were typically developed in the past. For one, the Protocol emphasizes emissions-generating activities by the community, rather than sources located within the community. It identifies five emissions generating activities that must be included, with other emissions sources and activities as optional. Inclusion of optional sources is dependent on the goal of the inventory, the availability of activity data, and the context in which the inventory will be used. Inclusion of lifecycle emissions associated with transportation, energy, and material consumption is strongly encouraged. This contrasts with prior approaches that generally included all emissions generating sources and activities within a jurisdictional boundary, regardless of the goal or specific reporting approach. Additionally, the Protocol does away with the concept of ‘scopes,’ and instead emphasizes the difference between emissions sources within community boundaries (for example, a large-scale power plant), as opposed to community activities resulting in emissions (on-road transportation, irrespective of boundaries).

For more information on this new Protocol, GHG inventories, or climate action planning contact Jeff Caton, PE, LEED AP at jcaton [at] esassoc [dot] com or at 415.896.5900.