Frequently Asked Questions
- What tools will be available to support the Protocol, and can the CACP 2009 software be used for a protocol compliant inventory?
- How can I compare a previous baseline inventory to a new inventory conducted using the Community Protocol?
- Am I required to use the Community Protocol when conducting a community-wide GHG inventory?
- What emissions do I have to include in my inventory?
- How does the Community Protocol relate to the recently released Global Community Protocol?
- How do inventories conducted using the Community Protocol relate to entity-based emissions inventories?
- Why doesn't the Community Protocol divide up emissions by scopes?
- How does the community protocol account for renewable energy credits (RECs) and carbon offsets?
- How does the community protocol account for avoided life-cycle emissions as a result of recycling programs?
The Community Protocol is designed to inspire and guide U.S. local governments to account for and report on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the communities they represent. The Community Protocol is intended to enable local governments to estimate and report on GHG emissions associated with their communities using best practice methods, in order to measure progress towards GHG emission reduction goals. These assessments of GHG emissions associated with their communities will allow local governments and others in the community make more informed decisions about where and how to pursue GHG emissions reduction opportunities.
This Protocol was developed by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA (ICLEI USA) to respond to the expressed needs of local governments in the United States for a standardized methodology for accounting and reporting on GHG emissions associated with individual communities.
Protocol development decisions were made by ICLEI USA and a Steering Committee comprised of U.S. local government members and others with relevant expertise. These decisions were informed by six Technical Advisory Committees (TACs), also comprised of members of local governments and other technical experts. The TACs referenced what they determined to be the best existing emissions accounting methodologies from sources such as IPCC and EPA to provide the Protocol users with the accounting methodologies for the GHG emission activities and sources covered by this Protocol.
Practitioners who have completed community GHG emissions inventories in the past will find a number of innovations in this Protocol that may depart from how you have accounted for and reported on community GHG emissions in the past. Highlights include:
- distinctions drawn between GHG emission sources that may be located in a community and activities of the community that result in GHG emissions (section 1.3);
- five required Basic Emissions Generating Activities for all communities (section 2.2);
- multiple reporting frameworks to help you report on community GHG emissions in a manner that tells a story or stories suited to your audiences and purposes (section 2.3);
- a focus on a required process that helps communities achieve their emissions management goals in a variety of contexts;
- detailed accounting guidance to aid data collection and emission calculations (Chapter 3 and Appendices C – I under separate cover);
- reporting requirements that include activity data, emission factors, accounting methods, context data, and disclosure of emission sources and activities included and excluded (Chapter 4);
- emphasis on line item reporting of emissions numbers with guidance on aggregation where appropriate and how to avoid double counting (section 4.5);
- preference given to origin-destination (using a demand-based allocation model) of vehicle trips by community members, as opposed to emissions from vehicles driving inside your community boundary (Methods TR.1.A and TR.1.B, respectively in Appendix D);
- inclusion of life cycle accounting methods of upstream emissions from: electricity use (Method BE.5.2 in Appendix C), stationary fuel use (Method BE.5.1 in Appendix C), transportation fuels (Method TR.9 in Appendix D) and materials and services used in the community (Appendix H);
- inclusion of a separate accounting framework for consumption-based emissions (Appendix I).
What tools will be available to support the Protocol, and can the CACP 2009 software be used for a Protocol-compliant inventory?
ICLEI is developing a web-based inventory tool based on Protocol methods, which will be available during the first quarter of 2013.
If you plan to complete a community inventory before the new tool becomes available, the CACP 2009 software can be useful in doing a Protocol-compliant inventory but it does not provide a one-stop solution for doing a protocol-compliant inventory. Some calculations and allocations of emissions will need to be done outside of the CACP 2009 software. You will also want to look at the emissions factors in CACP 2009, and update any that do not match those in the protocol tables.
For electricity use by the community and use of fuels in residential and commercial stationary combustion equipment, data can be entered into the residential, commercial, and if applicable, industrial tabs in CACP 2009. For on-road passenger and freight motor vehicle travel, if you are using the recommended method for passenger vehicles, you will have to do this outside of CACP 2009. If you are using the alternate method for passenger vehicles, you will use the transport tab in CACP 2009. For use of energy in potable water and wastewater treatment and distribution, you should perform calculations outside of CACP 2009.
How can I compare a previous baseline inventory to a new inventory conducted using the Community Protocol?
The general outlines of an inventory conducted using the Community Protocol will be same as established community inventory practice. However, you should be cautious in comparing emissions from a previously conducted inventory with those from an inventory conducted using the protocol.
To start, the reporting tool can help you compare which sources and activities are included in each inventory, and whether the methods used are the same. Where possible, we recommend re-doing the previous inventory using protocol methods. In some cases data will not allow this; another option is to try to back-cast emissions for each source or activity from your new inventory to your existing baseline year.
As of October 2012, all emissions accounting and reporting in compliance with this Protocol is done on a voluntary basis. All references to requirements within the Community Protocol refer to requirements that local governments must meet in order to claim that their reporting of community GHG emissions is Protocol-compliant. Individual regulatory agencies, voluntary agreement partners, and emission markets may choose to align accounting and reporting requirements with the Protocol in the future. Local governments should be aware of any locally applicable requirements.
Compared to past protocols, the Community Protocol places more responsibility on the user to determine the most relevant emissions sources and activities to include in their inventory. You are required to include at a minimum five Basic Emissions Generating Activities, listed in Protocol section 2.2. However, you are strongly encouraged to include additional activities and/or sources. The process of scoping out which sources to include is described in Protocol Chapter 2.
The process of conducting an inventory compliant with the U.S. Community Protocol will help you create an inventory compliant with global protocol. This U.S. Protocol has been developed to meet the specific needs of U.S. local governments. For example, this Protocol includes GHG accounting methods based on U.S. best practices that may not be in use outside the U.S. and/or where data needed for quantification is unavailable. For this reason, some of the requirements and optional guidance contained in this Protocol may differ from that included in the GPC.
How do inventories conducted using the community protocol relate to entity-based emissions inventories?
Although the Community Protocol gives guidance on reporting some of the same GHG emissions that other protocols may address, the purpose of a community inventory is different from an organizational inventory or project inventory. A community inventory is not meant to be exclusive of, nor necessarily inclusive of all the emissions that will be reported in an organizational or project inventory. A community inventory attempts to provide as complete a picture of community emissions as possible. Nevertheless, no inventory is comprehensive as some emission generating sources and activities cannot be estimated due to a lack of valid estimation methods, a lack of emissions data, or for other reasons.
Scopes were developed as a way to avoid double counting within and between entity-based inventories (such as for a business or local government operations). While scopes have been applied to community-wide inventories in the past, they have not always been applied consistently. To avoid confusion, the community protocol does not use the concept of scopes.
The purpose of the protocol is to calculate gross emissions associated with a community. Therefore it does not contain guidance on accounting for emissions reductions such as RECs, sinks, or offsets. Local governments are welcome to account for these separately and include them in their inventory reports as information items, however they should never report just a net number for emissions. The gross number before any credits or offsets must be reported first.
How does the community protocol account for avoided life-cycle emissions as a result of recycling programs?
Consistent with the goal to calculate gross emissions, the Community Protocol only accounts for downstream waste-related emissions from a landfill or incinerator. The emissions benefits associated with recycling and or source reduction programs happen largely outside the traditional geographic inventory boundary in the production supply chains of products. This fact has presented difficulties with how to count the benefits of recycling against emissions that were not included in the emissions inventory.
With the release of the Community Protocol, options now exist for accounting for the life-cycle emissions associated with the production of products purchased by a community, through consumption based methods. As communities move to account for those emissions in their inventories, the benefits of actions taken to reduce them can be applied to reducing their emissions profile. ICLEI recognizes that recycling can lead to significant avoided emissions by displacing raw materials that have high energy costs to extract and refine. For this reason, ICLEI will release supplemental guidance shortly on accounting for upstream emissions avoided by recycling.