More and more local governments, state governments, and
now report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Soon, federal
agencies will be required to inventory the annual emissions
from their buildings, fleets, and other sources.A daunting
challenge for any
public manager, the process of conducting an emissions inventory
lengthy and complex. In hindsight, few inventory veterans could
that their effort would require studying the minutiae of, say, how
to track fugitive
hydrofluorocarbon emissions from refrigerant systems.
Todays federal administrators have an enormous advantage: they can
on the expertise of local governments,which have a decade of
the methods, measures, and reporting protocols to complete GHG
for both government operations and communities at large.This
has been spearheaded by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability
member association of 500 U.S. local governments.Founded in 1990 as
Council for Local Environmental Initiatives,this organization is
to climate protection and sustainability goals. (ICLEI Global, the
organization, boasts an additional 500 members worldwide.)
ICLEI has driven a movement on local climate action, and the key to
has been our leadership and guidance with greenhouse gas emissions
ventories, saysMichelleWyman, ICLEI USAs executive
director.Over the past decade, individual cities, towns,
and counties have turned to ICLEI for support, software
tools, technical expertise, and,most recently,our Local Government
Operations Protocol, the new reporting standard
that is completely scalable for any size and level of government.
Together, adds Wyman, ICLEI and its
members have faced just about every challenge, question,
and misstep possible in the inventory process.
An executive order or regulation that mandates GHG
reporting for each federal agency is highly likely in 2009.
Now is the time for public managers to begin their preparations,
drawing on key lessons that apply at the federal
level from ICLEI and its network of local governments.
At first take, an emissions inventory may seem like
nothing more than a bureaucratic burden, but it lays the
groundwork for inspiring action.A 2005 survey of ICLEI
members around the world, for example, found that their
climate protection measures helped them collectively reduce
GHG emissions by 23 million tons and saved them
$535 million annually.
None of these successes could have been possible had
these local governments not started with an emissions inventory.
ICLEIs mantra since the beginning has been,You
Must Quantify, or, as New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, among others, puts it,If you cant measure
it,you cant manage it.You cant know whether your climate
protection efforts have been successful unless you first
measure your emissions (through a baseline inventory) and
track your progress accurately and consistently.
The lesson is the same for federal managers: before
you begin installing compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) light
bulbs in your facilities or switching to biofuels in your fleets,
you must calculate your starting point.Then, down the
line, youll be able to state definitively that your building
retrofit program saved $50,000 per year and reduced your
carbon dioxide emissions by 400 tons.
Questions and Guidance
The average local government inventory takes 400
hours (or 10 weeks), including the planning and strategizing
that typically precede data collection.Careful planning
is key.At the outset, nearly every local government
seeks the same reassurance:Will we be doing this inventory
theright way?Will we be following the same methods
and standards used by other local governments?
ICLEI has always strived to guide this consistency,but
back in the mid-1990swhen only a handful of proactive
local governments were even interested in emissions
inventoriesits standards were far less defined and its requirements
far less strict than they are today. ICLEI developed
many of the key components of any inventory
from scratch, including large sets of emission factors
(Table 1)numerical values describing the emission rate
of a given GHG from a given source.Many of these methods
and data sets evolved through trial and error.
Although the process may have been less clear for local
governments during that period, an intern or employee
working on an inventory could always pick up the phone
and call an ICLEI staffer with questions. Even today, getting
stuck and needing help is a normal part of the inventory
process. Federal agencies will need to know which oversight
organization they can call for consistent guidance.
National Reporting Standard
Over the past five years, local government inventory
guidelines have become far more sophisticated. In 2003,
ICLEI released its Clean Air and Climate Protection
(CACP) software,which has become the de facto tool for
local governments to enter their data, calculate the emissions
from each source, and complete an inventory in a
standardized fashion. Even CACP wasnt enough. Since
September 2007, ICLEI USAs membership has grown
by more than 35 percent.With so many member cities
from Chicago, Illinois, and Houston,Texas, to Roanoke,
Virginiaconducting inventories, the need for a national
standard was more urgent than ever.Only a national protocol
could help settle the endless debates about the gases
to be included in a local jurisdictions inventory (nitrous
oxide? sulfur hexafluoride?), the emissions sources
reported (airports? municipal landfills? pass-through
highways?), and the standard emission factors employed
In September 2008, ICLEI USA formally released
Version 1 of its Local Government Operations Protocol,
in partnership withThe Climate Registry,CaliforniaAir
Resources Board, and California ClimateAction Registry.
The protocol drew from existing GHG programs, including
theWorld Resources Institutes Greenhouse Gas
Protocol, the Environmental ProtectionAgency Climate
Leaders Greenhouse Gas Inventory Guidance, and The
Climate Registrys General Reporting Protocol.
ICLEIs protocol gives local governments the assurance
that they are following a thoroughly reviewed and
nationally accepted standard.This is the first and only protocol
designed specifically for a governments own internal
operations, and it is scalable from the local and state levels
to the federal level. ICLEI is also developing the Local
Community Protocols, a tool for local government to
help them baseline measure and track emissions from their
communities as a whole.
To avoid confusion,federal agencies will absolutely need
a vetted and approved protocol in placewhether ICLEIs
or anotherbefore they begin their inventories.Whatever
protocol federal agencies choose, it should parallel the
overarching principles stated in ICLEIs protocol: relevance,
completeness, consistency, transparency, and accuracy.
With all local governments adhering to the same reporting
and accounting methods, its tempting to believe
that cities carbon footprints can now be compared with
Thats not the point of greenhouse gas inventories,
saysAlex Ramel,energy and policy manager for Sustainable
Connections in Bellingham,Washington (and a former
ICLEI senior program officer as well as the former consultant
who helped produce NewYork Citys inventory).
In short, he says, inventories are too complex for city-tocity
comparisons. Even if two cities have similar populations,
for example, one could own its own municipal
utility or landfill, greatly increasing the emissions it is
to report. In the same way, comparing federal agencies
emissions to one another would be misleading and
pointless.The only comparison for a government entity
is with itself over time, to track its goals,explains Ramel.
For ICLEI members, an emissions inventory is always
tied to climate action planning.When local governments
join ICLEI, they commit to undertake its five milestones
for climate protection:
1. Conduct a baseline emissions inventory and forecast.
2. Adopt an emissions reduction target.
3. Develop a local climate action plan.
4. Implement policies and measure.
5. Monitor and verify results (with a follow-up
A thorough inventory, for example,helped NewYork
City tailor its PlaNYC,now considered the gold standard
of large-city climate and sustainability plans.The inventory
of fiscal years 1995,2001, and 2006 government emissions
and 1995,2000, and 2005 citywide emissions helped
city planners identify trends and target the largest sources
of GHGs.Accurate forecasting (from high-quality data)
enabled NewYork City to set an aggressive goal: to cut
citywide carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels
by 2030 and reduce city governments carbon emissions
by 30 percent below fiscal year 2006 levels by 2017.
Tailoring an Inventory
The results of an inventory shape an action plan, but
the reverse is also true: specific goals and needs also de
termine the scope of the inventory.Before beginning an
inventory, a public manager should understand the end
goals. Questions to ask include the following:What are
these data going to be used for? Over time, do we want
to track energy consumption for each building individually
or track it by department?
New York Citys inventory planners understand
firsthand the value of these questions.The city has more
than fifty mayoral agencies, and planners initially reported
agency-specific inventories for only the ten largest energy
consumers.The other agencies were grouped together
under an other heading, but afterward, when smaller
agencies wanted to know their contribution,planners didnt
have that information readily available. If they had
known there would be this interest, they might have reported
the data differently.The lesson is that its important
to anticipate these issues and ask the higher-level entity
that is advancing the inventory the right questions.
Many local governments opt to aggregate their data
for buildings,but may separate out key facilities whose performance
they wish to track individually, such as large energy
consumers like hospitals or facilities slated to receive
Other local governments may choose to include optional
categories in their inventory, such as emissions from
employee commutes,waste generation, and other areas targeted
in their action plan.By measuring employee commute
emissions, they can track the efficacy of carpooling
and car-sharing programs or free-bus-pass programs. By
measuring waste generation, they can track the success of
a recycling program.Aggressive action plans may even call
for measuring emissions from employee business travel or
the embodied energy in products consumed (for example,
the emissions generated from manufacturing office
Overall, pragmatism is the rule in designing inventories
at any level.The goals determine the detail of your
inventory, as do your budget and staffing constraints.
The process of inventory data collection consumes
the most time by far and can cause the most frustration.
ICLEIs protocol specifies all the direct and indirect sources
of emissions that local governments must report to comply
with the protocol,but simply knowing that they must
report vehicle fleet emissions is the tip of the iceberg.A
careful list must include all vehicles, and on the first pass,
city managers commonly include everything from passenger
cars to dump trucks, but forget about police helicopters
or the vehicles of city contractors.
The next step for a staffer is to locate and list the keepers
of all the records theyll need to collect, from building
utility bills to fuel-consumption logs.Completing an
accurate list can be tricky.The police department may
maintain its vehicle fleet separately from the general fleet
and purchase its fuel from a different source, which will
require contacting two separate fleet managers.
A full list of contacts makes clear that an emissions
inventory isnt an environmental initiative. Its an operational
one that requires the participation of all local government
departments,despite their compartmentalized bureaucracy
and independent accounting procedures,not to
mention occasional unwillingness to help.A directive from
a strong mayor or executive body is essential.
Countless local government managers have found that
a kickoff meeting increases their chances of success.To get
buy-in, it helps to call managers and staff together and explain
to them what the inventory is,why youre doing it,
and what youre going to need from them. If people dont
understand why the inventory is taking place, theyre less
likely to go the extramile to supply data at the level of
you need.Another tip at this stage: create standardized
data-collection forms to be e-mailed to all participants.
Data Detective Work
A close inspection of records from a dozen different
departments will often reveal poor or inconsistent
record-keeping processes.Accounting systems may vary,
or may have changed within a department several years
back. Old databases are no longer available. Major expenditures
are tracked by one department and not another.
Other information is completely unavailable and must be
estimated, or data deemed accurate and based on billing
records turn out to be an estimate.Also,fiscal-year records
need to be converted to calendar-year entries, the standard
format for all GHG protocols.
Again,NewYork City offers a great case study.While
completing its inventory update,planners realized that they
didnt have accurate, centralized data for the consumption
of liquid fuels like gasoline,diesel,or heating oil.Their initial
inventory had relied on consumption estimates prepared
for budgeting purposes. After additional audits of
these data, planners realized there were some gaps and
in these centralized records.To correct this,
they sent out detailed surveys to each agency, asking for
the information from the past fiscal year.
After Data Collection
When the odyssey of data collection is over and every
record is entered into the inventory software, line by line,
a local governments intern or staff person can finally take
a deep breath.The software calculates the numbers,which
can then be divided,distributed, formatted, and categorized
into charts and graphs.You have an emissions inventory.
At the end of this process you have pie charts that
show the sources of emissions for all government operations,
or for a given department, and these visuals prove
to be extraordinarily valuable, says Ramel.He continues:
Ive witnessed department heads view the pie charts,
and in that moment they get it.They realize the impact
their individual department is having on the climate
[through its emissions].And the pie-chart visual gets them
thinking about all the ways they can cut electricity consumption
by turning off computers and lights and doing
all the small things that, if everyone does them, add up to
Figures 1, 2, and 3 show pie charts from NewYork