Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Accounting Tools

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Disclaimer: The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is making this non-exhaustive compilation of greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting tools, methodologies, and reports available for informational purposes only. Reference herein to any specific tool, methodology, or report or its developers shall not constitute or imply its endorsement or recommendation by CEQ. Moreover, CEQ is not requiring Federal agencies to use or rely on any tool, methodology, or report identified in this compilation. Finally, CEQ is not responsible for the content of any of the websites found at the links provided.

Below is an inventory of available GHG accounting methods and tools that agencies can use in their NEPA reviews. To facilitate quick agency assessment of the applicability of the tools to their proposed actions, we categorized the tools, provided a brief description of the methodology of each tool, and explained how each tool can be employed. Additionally, we provided "specific use" examples which are sector-specific cases of application for each individual tool. Also provided is a stable hyperlink to the tool, a homepage that includes additional information and access to the tool, or a technical document with comprehensive information about the tool. Finally, we attempted to call out nuanced aspects of or caveats to working with individual tools, such as hardware requirements, limitations, or new updates to previous editions.

USDA Tools

Biomass Carbon Stock Changes-Section 3.5.1

Herbaceous biomass is estimated with an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Tier 2 method, using entity specific data as input into the IPCC equations. Woody plant growth and losses in agroforestry or perennial tree crops are estimated with an IPCC Tier 3 method, using a simulation model approach with entity input.

  • Specific use: Changes in the estimated biomass carbon stock for cropland and grazing land if there is a land‐use change or a change in the crop or forage species.
  • Category: Forests

Methane Uptake by Soils-Section 3.5.5

Methane uptake by soil is estimated with an equation that uses average values for methane oxidation values in natural vegetation-whether grassland, coniferous forest, or deciduous forest-attenuated by current land use practices. This approach is an IPCC Tier 3 method, which incorporates entity-specific annual data such as current management of the land parcel, cultivation for crop production, grazing activity, recently harvested forests or fertilized grasslands or forests.

  • Specific use: Soils and land-use change
  • Category: Forests

Non-CO2 Emissions from Biomass Burning-Section 3.5.8

Non-CO2 GHG emissions from biomass burning of grazing land vegetation or crop residues are estimated with the IPCC Tier 1 method. This model uses entity specific annual data as input into the IPCC equation.

  • Specific use: Area burned
  • Category: Forests

Biomass Carbon in Wetlands-Section 4.3.1

Methods for estimating forest vegetation and shrub and grassland vegetation biomass carbon stocks use a combination of the Forest Vegetation Simulator model (see below) and the biomass carbon stock changes method (see above). If there is a land‐use change, methods for cropland herbaceous biomass are suggested.

  • Specific use: Forested wetlands - same as those described for upland forests; shrub and grassland vegetation-same as those described for total biomass carbon stock changes.
  • Category: Wetlands and Forests

Forest Carbon-Section 6.2.1

Methods include: Forest Vegetation Simulator model (see below) with Fire and Fuels Extension module (FVS‐FFE) which use allometric equations and default lookup tables.

  • Specific use: FVS‐FFE models hundreds of management practices (thinning from below/above/evenly through a stand, thinning with species preference, conditional thinning/planting/regeneration, piling of surface fuels and prescribed fires, salvage operations, mastication treatments, insect/disease management, etc.)
  • Category: Forests

GHG Quantification Tools

COMET-Farm

COMET-Farm focuses primarily on crop and grazing land and livestock production practices. It has the functionality to incorporate the cumulative impact of several practices on soil C and emissions of CO2, CH4, and N2O. Producers enter information about their land and management-including location, land uses, tillage practices and nutrient management-into the online tool. The tool gathers information on soils and weather, and guides producers through describing their farm and ranch management practices including alternative future management scenarios. Once complete, a report is generated comparing the carbon changes and GHG emissions between current management practices and future scenarios. It uses NRCS web-served products such as the Web Soil Survey and PRISM weather data, as well as Federal data on energy use and models such as DAYCENT.

  • Specific Use: Cropland, pasture, rangeland, livestock operations; successor of COMET-VR, newest version incorporates NO2 emissions, agroforestry, and orchards and vineyards.
  • Category: Agriculture and Land-Use Change

Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS)

The Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) is a family of forest growth simulation models that can simulate a wide range of silvicultural treatments for most major forest tree species, forest types, and stand conditions. "Suppose" is the name of the graphical user interface for FVS. FVS is useful from a stand to a landscape level. The Fire & Fuels Extension (or FFE) includes down dead wood and forest floor biomass information, and can therefore help to build a more complete picture of how carbon stocks change over time and according to succession, disturbances, and management. FVS requires basic forest inventory and stand examination information. One can get started by only inputting data about tree species, diameter at breast height (DBH), and sampling design (to be able to accurately scale the data) but the more input data the user gives it, the more powerful and accurate the model can be.

  • Specific use: Down dead wood and forest floor biomass, silvicultural treatments to various forest tree species and forest types
  • Category: Forestry, Land-Use Change

While FVS is outlined here, there are a suite of tools available from USFS that are specifically adapted to certain situations, such as iTree (for urban trees, which can estimate the benefit of energy savings resulting from shade and wind control), Carbon On-Line Estimator (COLE – which is more intuitive and user-friendly than modeling in FVS), and First Order Fire Effects Model (FOFEM - which focuses on the impacts of fire and tree mortality).

Fuel and Fire Tools (FFT)

FFT is a software application that integrates the Fuel Characteristics Classification System, Consume, FEPS, Pile Calculator, and Digital Photo Series into a single user interface. The Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS version 3.0) stores and classifies fuels data as fuelbeds and calculates fuel loadings, carbon and other summary fuel characteristics. It predicts surface fire behavior and a 0-9 index of surface, crown fire and available fuel potentials. The fuel Characteristics Classification System (FCCS) has been used to show a model carbon changes between alternatives in previous environmental impact statements.

  • Specific use: Smoke emissions
  • Category: Forest Management Plans

Other Tools

There are numerous other GHG emissions, carbon storage, and related tools at USDA (NRCS, ARS, USFS, and others). Many of them are specific to a given sector (i.e., dairy, or crop production) or excel at capturing the benefits of certain management strategies. Research and development are always ongoing to ensure that land managers and other stakeholders have access to current and relevant tools and technologies.

DOE Tools

Excel tool helps agencies estimate the greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation reduction from implementing energy efficiency measures across a portfolio of buildings. It is designed to be applied to groups of office buildings. For example, at a program level (regional or site) that can be summarized at the agency level.

While the default savings and cost estimates apply to office buildings, users can define their own efficiency measures, costs, and savings estimates for inclusion in the portfolio assessment. The output of this tool is a prioritized set of activities that can help the agency to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets most cost effectively.

  • Specific Use: Energy efficiency
  • Category: Buildings

Commute Mode Switching Impact Tool

Excel tool helps agencies project the impact that changes in employee commute modes would have on its employee commute emissions. The tool is designed to be used at the worksite level and summed up at the agency level. The output of this tool can help agencies establish appropriate greenhouse gas reduction targets for major worksites or clusters of worksites in common metropolitan areas.

  • Specific Use: Changes in commuting
  • Category: Transportation

Annual Greenhouse Gas and Sustainability Data Report

This Excel workbook (version 6-1) is a tool to use for comprehensive reporting of fiscal year 2015 for energy, costs, square footage, and associated operational data for calculating and reporting greenhouse gas data. This document is to be used by top-tier Federal departments and agencies.

This Data Report collects agency-aggregated data necessary for calculating scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the commonly used, native units of energy consumption and fugitive emissions, as well as activity data for estimating scope 3 indirect emissions. It provides users with the summation of their calculated emissions, as well as the performance results for other energy/sustainability goals.

  • Specific Use: Energy use
  • Category: Transportation

GREET

GREET was developed as a multidimensional spreadsheet model in Microsoft Excel to fully evaluate energy and emission impacts of advanced vehicle technologies and new transportation fuels. It includes the fuel cycle from wells to wheels and the vehicle cycle through material recovery and vehicle disposal. It allows researchers and analysts to evaluate various vehicle and fuel combinations on a full fuel-cycle/vehicle-cycle basis.

  • Specific Use: Fuel cycle and vehicle cycle
  • Category: Transportation

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Emissions Quantification Tool

This calculator estimates the impacts of specific smart grid infrastructure projects on load profile and criteria pollutant emissions (i.e. SO2, NOx, and CO2). Choose a common smart grid project type below to be guided through estimating the project's impact on energy usage and the resulting emissions.

  • Specific Use: Smart Grid
  • Category: Energy

EPA Tools

Facility Level Information on Greenhouse Gases Tool (FLIGHT)

FLIGHT is an interactive website that allows users to review information quickly and easily by filtering GHG data in a variety of ways including by facility, industry, location, or gas.

  • Specific Use: Power plants, oil and natural gas systems, refineries, chemicals, waste
  • Category: Comparison, Energy, Entity-Scale Management

Inventory of U.S. GHG Emissions and Sinks

Annual report that tracks total annual U.S. emissions and removals by source, economic sector, and gas going back to 1990. EPA uses national energy data, data on national agricultural activities, and other national statistics to provide a comprehensive accounting of total GHG emissions for all man-made sources in the United States. EPA also collects GHG emissions data from individual facilities and suppliers of certain fossil fuels and industrial gases through the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

  • Specific Use: Energy, industrial processes, agriculture, waste and land use sectors
  • Category: Agriculture, Energy, Land-Use Change

EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership

The Center for Corporate Climate Leadership serves as a resource center for organizations looking to expand their work in the area of GHG measurement and management. It aims to establish norms of climate leadership by encouraging organizations with emerging climate objectives to identify and achieve cost-effective GHG emission reductions, while helping more advanced organizations drive innovations in reducing their GHG impacts in their supply chains and beyond.

  • Specific Use: Cost-effective GHG reduction strategies
  • Category: Entity-Scale Management

Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator

This tool converts emissions (CO2, CO2e, CH4, N2O, HFCs, CF4, and SF6) or energy (gallons of gasoline, kilowatt-hours of electricity, therms of natural gas, or number of passenger vehicles) data into annual GHG emissions from a variety of sources. These equivalency results are displayed in: annual GHG emissions from passenger vehicles; tons of waste sent to a landfill; gallons of gasoline consumed; pounds of coal burned; wind turbines installed; home energy use for one year; barrels of oil consumed; and other metrics. Also displayed as a result of this tool is the equivalent amount of carbon that is sequestered by; tree seedlings grown for ten years; acres of U.S. forests in one year; or acres of U.S. forests preserved from conversion to cropland in one year.

  • Specific Use: Energy metric conversion, analysis of emissions data for comparison of alternatives
  • Category: Energy, Entity-Scale Management, Transportation

Waste Reduction Model (WARM)

These tools and resources assist solid waste planners with tracking and reporting GHG emissions reductions from various waste management practices. They also help organizations, companies, and individuals estimate life-cycle GHG emissions and energy impacts from purchasing and/or manufacturing materials with varying degrees of post-consumer recycled content. The Saving Money and Reducing Trash Benefit Evaluation Tool (SMART BET) helps waste managers decide whether a Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) program is the right model for waste management in communities in their state.

  • Specific Use: Waste reduction and life-cycle GHG emissions estimates
  • Category: Waste, Entity-Scale Management

NONROAD

This tool is primarily used to estimate air pollution inventories by professional mobile source modelers, such as state air quality officials and consultants. The NONROAD model estimates emissions for six exhaust pollutants: hydrocarbons, NOX, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides, and PM. The NONROAD model can estimate current year emissions for a specified geographic area as well as backcast past year emissions and forecast future year emissions for calendar years 1970 through 2050.

  • Specific use: All nonroad equipment categories with the exception of commercial marine, locomotive, and aircraft emissions. These equipment types include: recreational vehicles, such as all-terrain vehicles and off-road motorcycles; logging equipment, such as chainsaws; agricultural equipment, such as tractors; construction equipment, such as graders and back hoes; industrial equipment, such as forklifts and sweepers; residential and commercial lawn and garden equipment, such as leaf and snow blowers; recreational and commercial marine vessels, such as power boats and oil tankers; locomotive equipment, such as train engines; and aircraft, such as jets and prop planes.
  • Category: Transportation

Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES)

MOVES is a model for estimating emissions from all on-road vehicles including cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buses. MOVES is based on analysis of millions of emission test results and considerable advances in EPA's understanding of vehicle emissions. MOVES can estimate exhaust and evaporative emissions as well as brake and tire wear emissions from all types of on-road vehicles for any part of the country, except California.

  • Specific Use: On-road motor vehicle emissions (upstream project emissions)
  • Category: Transportation

Travel Efficiency Assessment Method (TEAM)

EPA developed TEAM to assess the potential of travel efficiency strategies (such as commuter programs, land-use changes, transit improvements, increased parking charges, road pricing, etc.) to reduce criteria pollution and GHG emissions. TEAM uses regionally derived travel model data and other travel activity information, sketch-planning analysis and MOVES (discussed above) to estimate emission reductions in a less resource intensive manner than approaches that rely on traditional travel demand forecasting models.

  • Specific Use: On-road motor vehicle emissions, on an area-wide basis
  • Category: Transportation

GSA Tools

Carbon Footprint Tool

Uses a bottom-up calculation approach to collect building-level data on direct fuel consumption, purchased electricity, business travel, commuting and other direct and indirect energy-use activities. Designed to help agencies collect data on GHG emissions, fulfill Executive Order 13514 emissions reporting requirements, prioritize investment decisions, and measure annual progress toward GHG emissions reduction goals.

  • Specific Use: Agency enterprise-level approach to GHG emissions and reduction strategies
  • Category: Entity-Scale Management

Smart Location Calculator

Where people work has an enormous impact on their daily commute. Workplaces that are centrally located in walkable neighborhoods with great transit service and a variety of nearby destinations enable employees to rely less on their personal vehicles for commute and daytime trips. This can result in less driving and less greenhouse gas emissions.

The Smart Location Calculator is a simple tool for exploring how workplace location affects worker commute travel. Indicators include worker commute greenhouse gas emissions, mode-share, vehicle miles traveled, and workplace accessibility via transit.

The data and research behind this tool, as well as a user guide, are available in the Resources section at the bottom of the page.

The Calculator provides a Smart Location Index (SLI), which ranges in value from 0-100, where 0 indicates the least location efficient site in the region, and 100 indicates the most location efficient site. These scores are relative to the region, and should not be compared across regions.

  • Specific Use: Commuting
  • Category: Transportation

DOT Tools

Transportation Climate Change Sensitivity Matrix

The Sensitivity Matrix Tool documents the sensitivity of transportation modes and sub-modes to 11 climate impacts: storm surge, wind, sea level rise/extreme high tides/coastal flooding, inland flooding, drought, increased temperatures and extreme heat, wildfires, dust storms, permafrost thaw, changes in freeze/thaw, and winter storms. Users may select a specific mode (e.g., bridges) and explore its sensitivity to a range of impacts, or they may select a specific impact (e.g., wind) and explore the sensitivity of different modes to that impact.

  • Specific Use: Review of pilot cases for development of new initiatives
  • Category: Transportation

Infrastructure Carbon Estimator (ICE)

ICE was designed with the specific intent of helping practitioners evaluate various GHG impacts associated with roadway projects, including roadway materials, operation of construction equipment, roadway maintenance, and (with user input) changes in tailpipe emissions associated with construction delay and changes in tailpipe emissions resulting from improved pavement smoothness.

  • Specific Use: Roadway emissions
  • Category: Transportation

Private Sector Tools

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol

The GHG Protocol is the most widely used international accounting tool for government and business leaders to understand, quantify, and manage GHG emissions. A partnership between the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the GHG Protocol is working with businesses, governments, and environmental groups around the world to build a new generation of credible and effective programs for tackling climate change.

  • Specific Uses: Sector-specific tools include ammonia, iron and steel, lime, paper mills, aluminum production, HFCs, cement, and more
  • Category: Industry (sector specific)

The International Blue Carbon Initiative's Manual for Measuring, Assessing, and Analyzing Coastal Blue Carbon

According to NOAA, coastal blue carbon is the carbon captured by living coastal and marine organisms and stored in coastal ecosystems. Because of carbon storage and sequestration, healthy coastal ecosystems can play an important role in reducing climate change. In this manual, the International Blue Carbon Initiative offers standardized methods and protocols for sampling, measuring, and analyzing coastal blue carbon stocks so that natural resource professionals and decisionmakers will be better informed when developing coastal management policies or climate change mitigation measures.

  • Specific Use: Estimating carbon density in mangroves, tidal salt marshes, and seagrasses
  • Category: Oceans and Coasts

General Use Tools

IPCC Guidelines

The 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (2006 IPCC Guidelines) provide methodologies for estimating national inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases. The 2006 IPCC Guidelines were prepared in response to an invitation by the Parties to the UNFCCC. They may assist Parties in fulfilling their commitments under the UNFCCC on reporting on inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, as agreed by the Parties.

The 2006 IPCC Guidelines are in five volumes. Volume 1 describes the basic steps in inventory development and offers the general guidance in greenhouse gas emissions and removals estimates based on the authors' understanding of accumulated experiences of countries over the period since the late 1980s, when national greenhouse gas inventories started to appear in significant numbers. Volumes 2 to 5 offer the guidance for estimates in different sectors of economy.

  • Specific Uses: General
  • Category: All
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