What is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol?
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) is a comprehensive global standardised framework for accounting and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In this field, the GHG Protocol establishes the most widely used standards in the world. It is used by a wide array of organisations, including governments, businesses, and NGOs.
The GHG Protocol is the result of a partnership between the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The first edition of the corporate standard was published in 2001. New standards and guidelines are developed through a process that includes stakeholder outreach and consultation.
GHG Protocol: scopes 1, 2, and 3
The GHG Protocol is notable for its categorisation of GHG emissions into three scopes:
- Scope 1 – accounts for a company’s direct GHG emissions. These are emissions that occur from sources that are owned or controlled by the company in question.
- Scope 2 – refers to emissions associated with the production of electricity, heat, steam, and cooling purchased and used by a company.
- Scope 3 – encompasses all indirect GHG emissions from a company’s activities, occurring from sources it does not own or control (both upstream and downstream).
Thus, these categories cover not only the GHG emissions attributable to a specific organisation, but also throughout its entire value chain.
GHG Protocol standards
The GHG Protocol provides standards for specific purposes, namely:
- Corporate Standard
- GHG Protocol for Cities
- Project Protocol
- Mitigation Goal Standard
- Product Standard
- Policy and Action Standard
- Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard
These standards provide a framework for organisations and entities to measure and report their GHG emissions, with the goal of facilitating wider sustainability goals. Additionally, the GHG Protocol provides guidelines on how to apply these standards in particular sectors. This includes the following documents:
- Scope 2 Guidance
- Scope 3 Calculation Guidance
- Agriculture Guidance
- The Global GHG Accounting and Reporting Standard for the Financial Industry
- US Public Sector Protocol
The GHG Protocol also offers a range of optional calculation tools to further ease GHG accounting efforts in cross-sectoral, country-specific, and sector-specific contexts.
GHG Protocol guidelines
The following principles are key elements of the GHG Protocol:
- Relevance - dictates that the carbon footprint adequately reflects the GHG emissions of the subject and allows users to make informed decisions.
- Completeness - requires that the GHG inventory quantifier accounts for and reports all GHG emissions activities and sources for the defined inventory boundary. The inventory quantifier should document, disclose, and justify any specific exclusions.
- Consistency – entails implementing comparable methodologies so that emissions can be tracked over time. Potential changes in data, system boundaries, and methods must be transparently documented.
- Transparency - ensures all relevant aspects are addressed and documented in a factual, coherent, and clear manner.
- Accuracy – minimises uncertainties in the calculation of GHG emissions and prevents such calculations from deviating too high or too low. The information provided is accurate enough to allow users to make informed decisions.
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