Institutionalising your GHG inventory and climate reporting system

Institutionalising your GHG inventory and climate reporting system
11 March 2021

Institutionalising your GHG inventory and climate reporting system

Why is institutionalising your greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory and climate reporting system so important?

This is an important question. After all, isn’t all the effort a country invests in developing its inventory and systems enough? You’ve now got an inventory and a ‘system’ and it works quite well. It has helped you understand your historical GHG emissions and maybe even your future emission pathways. It might also show you how a net zero pathway can be achieved. What more is needed?

To answer the question about the importance of institutionalisation, we first need to ask a question.

How can all the effort that has been invested to develop and promote your inventory and system be maximised – how can the investment have an enduring effect?

Perhaps one of the most effective ways of doing this is to ‘institutionalise’ the knowledge and insights gained during the development work. Institutionalisation is a word that is frequently used in capacity building, but what exactly does it mean and how do you do it?

Put simply, institutionalisation can be thought of as the action of establishing something as a convention or norm in an organisation, system or perhaps culture. Thinking about this slightly differently in the context of inventories and systems, the essence of institutionalisation is about embedding the inventory in a country’s GHG mitigation thinking and planning, and putting it at the heart of the development of pathways to net zero.

To highlight just how important institutionalisation of the inventory and system should be, Ricardo’s Climate Action Planning Team looked back at the lessons of the past that helped shape the GHG inventories of today. One of the ‘big’ lessons of flawed projects we see is they often fail when key people or teams of people leave.

Institutionalisation is the key to help prevent failure when people leave and preserve the ‘memory’ of the inventory for the future.

But, how exactly should you institutionalise your GHG inventory and climate reporting system? Who should be involved? How should it be promoted? How long might it take? And, are there any co-benefits to consider?

In the diagram below are our thoughts on institutionalisation. A legal framework could encompass the whole system to ensure compliance with defined requirements. Or, perhaps, only the data supply agreements would have a legal basis. Every country is likely to have an implementation process that suits its unique circumstances, but with some features common to all countries, such as quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC).

[Click diagram to view full size image]
Institutionalising your GHG inventory and climate reporting systems diagram

How should it be done? Who should be involved?
Where possible, institutional arrangements should build on existing national arrangements or be restructured to promote effectiveness. The GHG inventory and climate reporting system should have ‘an institutional home’ – perhaps a ministry, department or agency (MDA) that is responsible for it, and it should have an ‘owner’. For most countries, there is most likely an MDA that is leading on climate issues. Could this be ‘the home’?

The ‘owner’ of the inventory should be a person, not a team, and the owner should have overall responsibility for the GHG inventory. The owner should know who built it and where the records describing how it works are kept. If the owner leaves, a new owner should be appointed, and the inventory and associated reporting system ‘handed over’.

The institutional arrangements should ensure that all the data for the current and future inventories are understood, recorded, made accessible and backed up. The owner should facilitate important data flows and make sure skilled personnel, with adequate resources, are available to work with stakeholders. Some countries find having a legal framework is useful – to make the regular update of the inventory mandatory and to secure the data needed for it through data supply agreements.

How should it be promoted?
The owner and MDA should promote the GHG inventory and climate reporting system. Understanding and communicating the objectives of the institutional arrangements and clearly presenting the related organisational structures is critical. The owner should facilitate the use of the inventory, ensuring it is recognised at all levels of government and embedded in policy thinking.

How long might it take?
Less time that you might think. If you have already developed a GHG inventory, the key additional aspects will be time needed to document all systems and procedures, and how to maintain them. Or, perhaps, to improve the existing documentation, making it easy for the next ‘inventory generation’ to continue the good work.

Are there other co-benefits?
Yes, there are other important co-benefits to institutionalising your inventory. Thinking of the climate reporting obligations that all countries have under the UNFCCC, the inventory is likely to support your efforts to develop and enhance your measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) and transparency systems. It provides clear evidence that your country is compiling a GHG emission evidence base as part of its ambitious plans to tackle the current climate emergency. Additionally, the inventory and the work the inventory supports can be presented in your reporting under the Enhanced Transparency Framework. As well as providing insight into GHG emissions, the inventory can help to understand the sources of emissions that adversely affect air quality and provide insights into mitigation options.

Where can you get help for institutionalising your system?
There are several possibilities. Thinking about GHG inventories and climate reporting systems, the UK Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (UK PACT) programme might be an avenue to explore. Ricardo has several staff on the programmes roster of experts. Eligible countries can request support on GHG inventories via the British Embassy or High Commission in their country, as described at Skill-Shares and Secondments (

Taking another example, the BEIS UK-funded 2050 Calculator programme, which Ricardo helps to deliver, supports the creation of country-level carbon pathway calculators and provides ongoing support to existing calculator teams. This could include support for institutionalising 2050 calculators.

Over to you now…
So that’s it – institutionalise your GHG inventory and climate reporting systems. Create a plan to do it, and, check progress.

And the downsides to institutionalisation?

We believe, none.

Further support
For more ideas on institutionalisation, take a look at the Handbook on institutional arrangements to support MRV/transparency of climate action and support. Consultative Group of Experts. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat. June 2020.

For further information, please contact Dr John Watterson or Glen Thistletwaite, Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory Knowledge Leaders, at Ricardo.