Proposed Elements of a Mandatory
Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade Registry
Accurate, consistent, and complete data collection on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is essential to the success of climate change policy in the U.S., according to the World Resources Institute (WRI) in its February 2008 Climate and Energy newsletter: http://pdf.wri.org/designing_a_us_ghg_emissions_registry.pdf/
A mandatory GHG emissions registry, or database for collecting, verifying, and tracking GHG emissions data from individual emitters, would provide the foundation for effective climate change policies. If a GHG cap-and-trade system is established in the U.S., a mandatory emissions registry, rather than a voluntary emissions registry, is essential.
President Bush signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2007, which directs the EPA to require mandatory reporting of GHG emissions from appropriate sources in all sectors of the U.S. economy. Such a mandatory registry must be well-designed, transparent, and consist of measurements that are compatible with existing voluntary registries and international standards.
The EPA currently compiles a national GHG inventory each year to identify broad trends within the economy as a whole, but that data is not associated with individual emitters and is not designed to be used within a GHG cap-and-trade system.
There are also several voluntary GHG registries currently in place in the U.S., including:
* The Acid Rain Program, which requires that electricity generators regulated under the SO2 cap-and-trade program also measure and report CO2 emissions to the EPA;
* State-level mandatory reporting for large facilities in Maine, New Jersey, and Connecticut (and in the development stage in California, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and others); and
* Voluntary corporate-wide registries, including the Climate Registry, the California Climate Action Registry, the Department of Energy’s 1605(b) Voluntary Reporting Program, and the Gold Standard Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VER) Registry.
A mandatory, national GHG registry would provide a more complete and consistent emissions reporting system than the current array of voluntary systems can provide.
As for timing, a mandatory registry should ideally begin operating several years before cap-and-trade programs start trading GHG offset credits. A trading program that begins in 2012 would benefit from emissions reporting beginning as early as 2009. Without high-quality emissions data, the basis of any trading program may be inaccurate from the start.
A mandatory national GHG registry will depend on a sound system for monitoring and verification. Monitoring guidelines have to be established in a way that ensures consistency. A “ton of emissions” must mean the same thing whether it is in Oregon, Florida, France, or Taiwan. Consistency is also important to make sure there is a smooth transition to the national registry from emerging state and regional trading programs, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The WRI report suggests that federal registry guidelines should build upon the work of the Climate Registry, a joint initiative of more than 40 U.S. states and tribes to measure and collect GHG data using a common standard and a unified emissions reporting system. The WRI report also states that consistency hinges on following a common international standard such as the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s “Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.”
Verification of emissions in a mandatory registry system could either be done by the regulatory agency staff, or by a third-party.
Finally, all emissions data in any mandatory national GHG registry should be made publicly available on the internet in a timely fashion, according to the WRI report.
-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications
-- Katie Starzec, CASMGS Communications, Kansas State University
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