Many states and local governments periodically inventory their greenhouse gas emissions in order to inform program/policy responses, communicate to policymakers and the public, and track change over time. Traditionally, inventories estimate the emissions physically originating with the jurisdiction’s borders, sometimes adjusting to include imported electricity. Oregon’s Consumption-Based GHG Emissions Inventory (CBEI) expands on this approach by estimating the worldwide emissions associated with satisfying consumption (economic final demand) by Oregonians. This initiative resides in DEQ’s Materials Management Program because most of the novelty of this approach (emissions that are not otherwise already included in the traditional “sector-based” inventory) are related to the life cycle of materials (imports). Today, Oregon DEQ publishes two inventories that work in parallel, each complementing the other: the traditional “sector-based” inventory and CBEI. In addition to periodically updating the state CBEI, DEQ also provides regional/local CBEIs upon request and as resources allow, for example for cities and the Metro regional government.
How was the Project Started?
During much of the previous decade, DEQ’s Materials Management Program was becoming aware of the significant climate impact of materials – and by extension, opportunities to reduce them. However, efforts to gain traction within “mainstream” climate programs (e.g., energy professionals, air emissions programs, etc.) were often stymied because much of the emissions reduction potential related to materials (prevention, recycling, etc.) was “not on the books” (not in the traditional inventory) and therefore “didn’t count”. Worse, some were using the traditional inventory – often expressed as a pie chart, indicating a whole – to express these in-state emissions as “total” or “all of” Oregon’s contribution to emissions, thus misleading the public and foreclosing opportunities to reduce emissions through state, local, business or individual policy or program responses. In response, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission directed DEQ to 1) urge climate programs to acknowledge the limitations of the incomplete traditional sector-based inventory; 2) develop an accounting solution that would tell a more comprehensive story; and 3) encourage other jurisdictions and programs to follow this example.
When was the Project Started?
We began work on our first CBEI around 2009. It was published in 2011 (for calendar year 2005 emissions) as the first such sub-national inventory in the US. In 2014 we published an update for calendar year 2010 and in 2018 will publish an update for CY 2015.
When was the Project Completed, or is it Ongoing?
Ongoing and continuing to evolve.
What are the Results to Date?
Consumption-based emissions are increasingly being recognized and acknowledged as a valid field of both accounting and policy/program development. To date, consumption-based GHG inventories have been developed for more than 200 communities around the world. (Oregon was the first in North America.) In Oregon, our CBEI is used to communicate how Oregonians contribute to emissions, and also to identify materials that have high carbon footprints (such as food and concrete) and/or high emissions intensities (emissions per dollar) as part of program planning and prioritization. Results also show some important trends: even as Oregon’s sector-based (traditional accounting) GHG emissions fell between 2005 – 2015, the global emissions from our consumption rose. Separately, we have used the CBEI to build a “purchasing tool” that allows institutional purchasers to conduct a screening-level assessment of the carbon footprint of their purchases. And local governments have used their DEQ-provided CBEIs to inform their climate action plans.
What are the Resources Needed, including Time, Cost, Etc.?
The original CBEI (first of its kind in N. America) required a significant portion of my time (perhaps 0.4 FTE) over about a 24-month period, plus about $80,000 in contractor time. Now, major updates (complete update of the model) requires approximately 200 – 300 hours and about $2,200 in data purchases. Once the statewide CBEI is developed for a given year, customizing it for a local government typically requires around 30 – 40 hours of staff time here (not including local partner time for data gathering).
Partially informed by this effort, DEQ has begun work on a Sustainable Consumption Strategy, consistent with the expanded focus of Oregon’s 2050 Vision for Materials Management. We are currently in the early stages of this project.
- David Allaway
- Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality
- Sr. Policy and Program Analyst