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Pledge Element 2 - Local Greenhouse Gas Inventories

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Local governments can inventory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their own operations only, or can seek to account for all GHG emissions within their boundaries.

  • Government operations inventories represent an accounting of the GHG emissions associated with municipal operations, such as fuel consumption in vehicle fleets and energy usage by government buildings and streetlights.
  • Community inventories count both municipal government emissions and emissions from other sources within the municipal borders. Typically counted in a community inventory are energy usage by non-municipal buildings, transportation fuels consumed by vehicles, and emissions associated with wastes generated by community residents.

GHG inventories provide the basis for measuring emissions reductions. With an inventory, a community can set a target for reducing emissions, identify its options and craft an effective local climate action plan for improvements that can also save energy and taxpayer dollars. Inventory updates demonstrate the community's progress in reducing GHG emissions, and reveal any mid-course correction needed to stay on target. Many communities find annual updates to their municipal operations inventories useful, while community inventories can be updated less frequently, e.g., every three to five years.

Start with Local Government Operations

After adopting the pledge, most Climate Smart Communities begin by conducting an inventory of the emissions of greenhouse gases from their own government operations. The How-to page recommends tools for conducting GHG inventories. For general guidance on conducting a government operations GHG inventory, please see the CSC Guide - Developing a Local Government Operations Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (link at right). This guide outlines the steps involved in a GHG inventory of emissions from government operations, and also provides tips and helpful resources designed to keep the process organized and efficient. NYSERDA produced a 25-minute presentation* with audio that provides an overview of best practices and tools for conducting local government operations GHG inventories.

An important first step is to contact your regional Climate Smart Community Coordinator. There are four regional coordinators available to provide direct assistance to CSCs within their region as they conduct their greenhouse gas inventories. Each coordinator has also developed a regional greenhouse gas inventory for the entire region it serves (see each CSC coordinator's regional webpage). A fifth CSC coordinator is available to provide assistance to communities outside the pilot CSC regions.

Gathering and compiling data for the GHG inventory, then analyzing and reporting the results, may take 6 months or more, depending on the scale and complexity of the government's operations. Collecting and organizing the data tends to be the most time-consuming phase of this work. Good documentation and improved record keeping can greatly reduce the effort required in subsequent years when the inventory is updated.

While hiring an expert is not required to conduct a local GHG emissions inventory, some municipalities retain consultants for this task; others assign paid staff. Some localities recruit volunteer workers, such as student interns, climate action task force members or other citizen volunteers. It is important to have involvement of at least one permanent staff person to preserve "institutional memory" of the GHG inventory project.

Regional GHG Inventories in New York State

Under the Cleaner, Greener Communities program, contractors prepared regional GHG inventories for each of the state's ten economic development regions. The ten regional inventories allocated each region's emissions down to the county level. In other words, a GHG inventory was completed for every county in New York State. If you're curious about the emissions relevant for your community, check out the regional and county-level GHG inventories developed as part of these Regional Sustainability Plans.

Through the Climate Smart Communities program, the GHG inventories for the four pilot regions were further allocated down to the municipal level. A community-level GHG inventory was completed for every municipality and county in the four Climate Smart Community pilot regions: Capital District, Central New York, Long Island, and Mid-Hudson.

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