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New measures emerge for measuring carbon emissions, both corporate and municipal

Public comment now being sought on standards for reporting the impact of your supply chain; reporting guidelines for cities also progress.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Two organizations with a stake in encouraging thorough and accurate reporting of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have released new reporting guidelines that should interest both sustainability executives and municipal leaders working on community sustainability projects.

First, the more straightforward of the two developments.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) have released proposed new standards for how companies should report the GHG impact of their supply chains and products. These guidelines supplement the Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, which is (in turn) part of the GHG Protocol Initiative, which is a larger framework for calculating and reporting a company's environmental footprint.

The changes are part of the Product Accounting and Reporting Standard and the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. "These two new standards give businesses the tools they need to understand the emissions across the entire life cycle of their products and through their value chains, and manage it accordingly," said Bjorn Stigson, president of the WBCSD, in a press release announcing the changes. The new guidelines were developed over the past two years and have been tested over a six-month period by 62 companies across different industries. If you want to submit a comment, you have until Dec. 3, 2010, to do so.

The second batch of reporting guideline developments focuses on cities. Notably, the Carbon Disclosure Project says that it has launched something called the CDP Cities program, which provides a framework for cities to report on GHG emissions and on climate-related strategies in general. The project is first focusing on a request that some of the largest cities in the world -- the 40 cities that are part of the Clinton Climate Initiative and the 19 member cities of the C40 (part of the Climate Leadership Group) -- voluntarily and measure their carbon emissions.

Three cities have already agreed to do so: London, Toronto and New York.

Why should a city report? Accenture has just written a white paper, "The Case for City Disclosure," that details while local disclosure matters and how it might foster innovation, cost savings and lead to safer communities.

Here's some perspective from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "New York City has tracked greenhouse gas emissions since 2006, and we are already seeing real reductions in our carbon emissions. We have to keep the pressure on to continue our progress. The C40's partnership with CDP will ensure that all member cities have a reliable platform to report emissions. We will never meet the ambitious goals we set as an organization without solid data to measure our progess; as I've always said: if you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

The actual technology and software that the cities are using was developed in collaboration with Accenture, Microsoft and SAP. Autodesk also is involved with helping to create the next generation of this reporting platform.

Of course, that doesn't mean other perspectives aren't valuable. That's why I wanted to point out the publication of a new paper that explores ideas for how cities can specifically manage and measure one specific part of their portfolio, their transportation systems.

A new paper published by EMBARQ, the "World Resources Institute Center of Sustainable Transport," includes best practices for choosing what to focus on measures through a region. The paper is called "Citywide Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories: A Review of Selected Methodologies." It explores hurdles that municipal governments and administrators might face and how to surmount them.

The reason this matters is because transportation is among the three highest emitting activity sectors, after emissions caused by electricity consumption and heating, and industrial production. According to the report, the U.S. transportation sector accounted for approximately 33 percent of all nationwide carbon dioxide emissions in 2008. Urban transport accounts for roughly half of that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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