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How to: Local Greenhouse Gas Inventories

Recommended Inventory Protocols and Tools

Links with an * leave DEC's website

Greenhouse Gas Inventory Protocols and Tools

Gathering and compiling inventory data, then analyzing and reporting results, may take from a few days to a several months, and is likely to require a significant investment of time, especially in the first year. Good documentation and improvements in record keeping can greatly reduced the effort required in subsequent years.

There is no need to hire an expert to compile a local greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory. Some municipalities do retain consultants for this task; others assign paid staff. Some localities have been able to recruit volunteer inventory workers, such as student interns, climate action task force members or other citizen volunteers, but it is important to have involvement of at least one permanent staff person to preserve "institutional memory" of the inventory project.

Local governments do not have to invent a process for compiling GHG emission inventories. Several organizations of national or international scope provide tools for quantifying local GHG emissions. Links to further information about these tools are available on this page.

Elected officials or government managers should notify staff and municipal departments of the inventory, outlining the role of municipal staff in collecting inventory data. Expressed support from the chief executive officer can be critical to achieving an efficient and accurate inventory.

Greenhouse Gas Inventory Protocols and Tools

To be useful for setting policies and evaluating progress, GHG inventories must be comparable with other jurisdictions' inventories. That is, they should include the same types of entities, measure comparable quantities (such as fuel or electricity use), use standard conversion factors to calculate GHG emissions from energy use and report results in the same set of categories. A GHG inventory protocol sets out "rules" about these and other issues that promote comparability. Inventory tools are software products designed to assist in data collection and reporting. Inventory tools may range from relatively simple spreadsheets to complex interactive Web-based systems. Most tools are developed to support one or two inventory protocols.

Protocols are available for inventorying emissions from local government operations, single communities and regions of one or more counties. Currently, local governments can choose among inventory protocols and tools developed by three organizations of national or international scope: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA), Climate Registry (TCR), ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability USA, Inc. (ICLEI).. The Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program's recommended or preferred protocols and tools for local government GHG emission inventories are summarized in the list and table below (links access fuller descriptions).

Regional Greenhouse Gas Inventories

EPA is in the process of developing a regional greenhouse gas inventory guidance document to address needs of multi-county regions and metropolitan planning. Although EPA has not released a final document, the Draft Protocol for Regional Greenhouse Inventories is available at the link to the right.

Under the state's Climate Smart Communities, and Cleaner, Greener Communities programs, contractors will prepare regional GHG inventories for each of the state's ten economic development regions, applying EPA's draft regional protocol and ICLEI's U.S. Community Protocol (see below). These regional inventories will generally use 2010 activity data drawn from existing national and statewide sources and default emissions factors to provide a general view of the region's emissions, but more specific information will be included where it is available. Most of the ten regional inventories will allocate the region's emissions to the county level, while the inventories of the four regions with Climate Smart Community coordinators will be allocated to the municipal level. The regional inventories are nearing completion and to ensure consistency in future regional and community reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, a statewide unified framework is currently under development and is expected to be released in mid-2013. If you have any questions about this framework, please email the Office of Climate Change at climatechange@dec.ny.gov.

Climate Smart Community Recommendations for Local GHG Emissions Inventories

  • The Climate Smart Community program recommends that local governments use the Local Government Operations Protocol to inventory their operational emissions. This protocol is available free, and it is possible to conduct an inventory without purchasing software tools.
  • Local governments enrolled in ICLEI can take advantage of ClearPath which replaces Clean Air Climate Protection (CACP) and is an all-in-one suite of online tools to complete GHG inventories, forecasts, and climate action plans at the community-wide or government operations level.
  • For those communities that are ready to take a very close look at greenhouse gas emissions from their municipal operations, the Climate Smart Communities program has endorsed membership in the Climate Registry and use of the Local Government Operations Protocol to inventory and publicly report municipal emissions. Information on both these programs is available in the Climate Smart Communities Summary for Local Officials. Please note that the Climate Registry has recently modified its program to allow members to develop and report their annual greenhouse gas inventories without the requirement of third-party verification.

Summary of Local Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Protocols and Tools

(All links in this table leave DEC's Website.)

Inventory Type Preferred Protocol Recommended Tools Alternative Tools

Municipal Operations

Local Government
Operations Protocol (LGOP)
Climate Registry Information
System (CRIS)

GHG Emissions
U.S. Community Protocol
for Accounting and
Reporting of
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
ClearPath* ClearPath*

US EPA's website offers a detailed discussion of local greenhouse gas inventories*.

Community-wide Greenhouse Gas Inventories

In October, 2012, ICLEI released the U.S. Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accounting and Reporting Protocol (Community Protocol). The Community Protocol is the first U.S. national standard for measurement and reporting of community GHG emissions. As discussed above, the Community Protocol methodologies are being incorporated into the regional 2010 GHG inventories. The data sets and methodologies selected through the regional inventory work will facilitate development of community-level inventories and consistency among community inventories within New York State.

It is also anticipated that the regional inventory report will include the New York State specific framework for conducting both regional and community GHG inventories.

So that Climate Smart Communities can make best use of their inventory resources, we recommend that they focus their immediate efforts on collecting data for, and completing, inventories of emissions associated with their municipal government operations. They can then take advantage of the completed regional inventories in development of their community inventories. As resources allow, Climate Smart Communities may also receive direct or indirect inventory assistance from a regional CSC coordinator or from the statewide GHG inventory coordinator.

Additional Information about Tools and Protocols

Local Government Operations Protocol (LGOP)

The Local Government Operations Protocol (LGOP)] is an inventory protocol for local government operations developed by ICLEI and TCR in collaboration with the California Climate Action Registry and the California Air Resources Board. LGOP details the policy framework, calculation methodologies, and reporting guidance for quantifying GHG emissions from local government operations.

LGOP is the required protocol for reporting local government GHG emissions inventories to the Climate Registry. ICLEI's reporting requirements are aligned with the LGOP, although ICLEI accepts reports based on inventories that do not meet all of the LGOP requirements. The LGOP may be downloaded free from either The Climate Registry * or ICLEI*. Note, however, that these free downloads include only the written description of the protocol, and not software tools for collecting and processing inventory data. Climate Registry and ICLEI members receive access to software that supports GHG inventories.

Climate Registry Information System (CRIS)

The Climate Registry (TCR)* is a membership organization whose goal is setting consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify and publicly report GHG emissions into a single registry. TCR members have access to TCR's online inventory tool, the Climate Registry Information System (CRIS). TCR accepts inventory reports only for municipal operations, not for community-wide emissions, and requires local government members to use the LGOP to inventory and report their emissions. TCR specifies certain reporting requirements for the LGOP; in particular, TCR requires the most rigorous calculation methodologies, and has the highest standards for data quality.

TCR offers two forms of membership: Reporting member and Climate Registered™ member. Reporting members are not required to have their inventories verified by third parties. Verification is required to achieve the Climate Registered™ designation and is performed at the Climate Registered™ member's expense. TCR makes all verified inventories of Climate Registered™ members public. TCR does not make unverified reports (i.e., those of reporting members) public. Reporting members may, however, download inventory reports produced by CRIS and make them public. Climate Registered™ members may apply for three higher Climate Registered™ levels after achieving specific emissions-reduction criteria. TCR membership fees for governments range from $450 to $5000.

An inventory that meets TCR's LGOP reporting requirements would also meet ICLEI's comprehensive report requirements for a municipal operations inventory, except that the ICLEI comprehensive report requires inclusion of Scope 3 employee-commute emissions (which are not required by TCR).

ICLEIs ClearPath

ClearPath is the next generation of ICLEI's online software for local governments, replacing the CACP tool that you may be familiar with. ClearPath offers a powerful and integrated cloud-based platform that allows the user to visualize current and future emissions, and easily carry out sophisticated analysis to determine the right mix of policies to meet emissions reduction goals. ClearPath* is available to ICLEI* members, universities, consultants, as well as non-member local governments in the United States on a trial basis.

Climate and Air Pollution Planning Assistant (CAPPA)

The Climate and Air Pollution Planning Assistant (CAPPA)* is a tool developed by ICLEI to help local entities prioritize measures for reducing GHG emissions. Developed with funding from EPA, CAPPA is freely available to the public. Users must register with ICLEI (but need not join the organization) to receive the free download. CAPPA is designed to complement CACP 2009, using the CACP 2009 inventory results as a baseline for building an action plan and weighing options, but the software can also accept results from other inventory programs.