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Working with Local Governments to Reduce GHGs?

Selling green solutions to local governments and their suppliers means that you need to speak their language, especially when it comes to Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Here are a few straight-talk insights...

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Greenhouse gas reduction is a major problem for local communities. They face criticism from citizens. Regional air quality requirements. State regulations. And federal mandates... or lose vital funding. They need knowledgeable, innovative help from their supply chain -- green businesses. But working with local governments seems to be a world unto itself -- and small business people need to make a concerted effort to understand local government constraints and compliance issues so you can deliver the greatest perceived value from your green solutions. Here are a few insights and resources to help you work with local governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

GHGs to be Assessed by Local Governments

Local governments should assess emissions of all six internationally-recognized greenhouse gases regulated under the Kyoto Protocol:
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2);
  • Methane (CH4);
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O);
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and
  • Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

Converting emissions of non-CO2 gases to units of CO2e allows GHGs to be compared on a common basis -- for example, on the ability of each GHG to trap heat in the atmosphere).

Non-CO2 gases are converted to CO2e using internationally recognized GWP factors. GWPs were developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to represent the heat-trapping ability of each GHG relative to that of CO2. For example, the GWP of methane is 21 because one metric ton of methane has 21 times more ability to trap heat in the atmosphere than one metric ton of carbon dioxide.

Tracking GHG Separately

Tracking each gas separately will allow your local government to see the relative impact from different sources of GHG emissions, and may help you prioritize the most efficient and effective way to reduce your overall GHG emissions. It will also make your inventory more transparent, and may simplify updates to your inventory, as the internationally recognized GWP values are expected to change over time as science improves.

To separately account for direct and indirect emissions, to improve transparency, and to provide utility for different types of climate policies and goals, follow the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol Corporate Standard in categorizing direct and indirect emissions into “scopes” as follows:

Common Local Government Buildings and Facilities

  • Owned and leased office space
  • Police and fire stations
  • Recreation centers and facilities, including: - Auditoriums
    - Museums
    - Zoos
    - Other cultural facilities
  • Warehouse, fleet and equipment yards, service facilities
  • Transportation facilities
  • Port and airport facilities
  • Hospitals and schools
  • Courts
  • Prisons
  • Housing
  • Water pump/lift stations
  • Water treatment plants
  • Wastewater treatment plants

Direct and Indirect GHG Emissions

Scope 1: All direct GHG emissions (with the exception of direct CO2 emissions from biogenic sources). This includes stationary combustion, mobile combustion of fuels in fleets, process emissions from physical or chemical processing, and fugitive emissions that result from releases.

Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions associated with the consumption of purchased or acquired electricity, steam, heating, or cooling. These occur at sources owned or controlled by another entity.

Scope 2 emissions typically represent one of the largest sources of emissions for local governments; therefore, they embody a significant opportunity for GHG management and reduction. Local governments can reduce their use of electricity by investing in energy efficient technologies and energy conservation. A local government could also install an efficient on site co-generation plant, particularly if it replaces the purchase of more GHG intensive electricity from the grid or electricity supplier. Reporting of Scope 2 emissions enables transparent accounting and reporting of emissions and reductions associated with such opportunities.

Potential Sources for Facility Fuel Use Activity Data

  • Accounts payable
  • Departmental records
  • Engineering department
  • Facility engineer
  • Fuel vendors/suppliers
  • Insurance company
  • Real estate department
  • Utility provider
Scope 3: All other indirect emissions not covered in Scope 2, such as emissions resulting from the extraction and production of purchased materials and fuels, transport-related activities in vehicles not owned or controlled by the reporting entity (e.g., employee commuting and business travel), outsourced activities, waste disposal, etc.

While reporting of Scope 3 emissions is considered optional, doing so provides an opportunity for innovation in GHG management. Local governments may want to focus on accounting for and reporting those activities that are relevant to their GHG programs and goals, and for which they have reliable information.

Scope 3 sources that are particularly relevant for local governments and that many local governments have been estimating to date include:

  • Emissions from waste generated by government operations, but disposed of outside its organizational boundary;
  • Emissions from employee commuting; and
  • Emissions from employee business travel.

Together the three scopes provide a comprehensive accounting framework for managing and reducing direct and indirect emissions.

Local Government Sectors

Emissions are categorized into local government sectors:

  • Buildings and other facilities
  • Streetlights and traffic signals
  • Water delivery facilities
  • Port facilities
  • Airport facilities
  • Vehicle fleet
  • Transit fleet
  • Power generation facilities
  • Solid waste facilities
  • Wastewater facilities
  • Other process and fugitive emissions

By categorizing your GHG inventory according to these sectors, you may be able to more easily communicate your inventory results to procurement agents in government agencies, and help them communicate with their publics. Good communication also helps identify opportunities for reductions. Because these sectors are familiar to local governments, quantification is structured according Standard Inventory Reports.

California Local Governments and AB 32

The State of California has begun to develop rules and regulations to drive GHG reductions across sectors in order to meet the state’s GHG reduction target. One of these regulations is a mandatory reporting regulation for the state’s largest sources of GHG emissions, which requires facility-level reporting and third-party verification.

These sources include:

  • electricity generating facilities,
  • electricity retail providers
  • electricity marketers
  • petroleum refineries
  • hydrogen plants
  • cement plants
  • cogeneration facilities
  • other facilities that emit over 25,000 metric tons of CO2 per year

If a local government operates any facilities in California that may bring them under ARB’s mandatory reporting regulation, they are expected to follow the quantification guidance provided in the mandatory reporting regulation. The regulation has additional reporting requirements beyond what is described in this Protocol. For more information, see CARBs mandatory reporting requirements.

GHGs Required to be Reported

There are many compliance guidelines for reporting emissions. And it is important for suppliers to local governments to understand some of the constraints local governments must meet. For instance, for the first three years after joining the California Registry, participants must report at a minimum their CO2 emissions. Starting with the fourth year, participants must report all Kyoto GHGs (CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, SF6).

Download the complete report entitled "", from the website.

You can contact California Registry staff if you have questions or problems at:

  • 213-891-1444 and ask for Member Services

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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