Important standard-setting and reporting initiatives exist or are underway, most prominently through the GHG Protocol and supplemental standards and resources (e.g., CDP, TCFD, PCAF, and others) that continually improve the reliability of corporate GHG accounting and emissions estimates. The GHG Protocol was created through a partnership between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which agreed in 1997 to collaborate with businesses and NGOs to create a standardized GHG accounting methodology. The GHG Protocol has been updated periodically since its original publication and has been broadly incorporated into sustainability reporting frameworks, including the TCFD, Value Reporting Foundation, GRI, CDP, CDSB, and the IFRS Foundation’s Prototype

However, challenges related to data quality, data comparability, data reporting and measurement semantics, siloed GHG accounting software platforms, and digital infrastructure need to be overcome. Without new advances, it is difficult for companies to combine and share reliable data.

The Carbon Call seeks to complement current standards, protocols, and GHG registries by agreeing to consensus-based ways forward to address key constraints to interoperability and by providing guidelines based on best practices in technology, data management, and finance for companies to follow. Consequently, the initiative should be viewed as a supplement to existing transparency initiatives and GHG accounting methods and standards, including the GHG Protocol, relevant ISO standards, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Partnership for Carbon Transparency (including its frameworks and guidelines seeking to standardize emissions accounting and data exchange).

What is the Carbon Call roadmap? 

The Carbon Call’s Roadmap to more interoperable greenhouse gas emissions accounting outlines findings and opportunities to drive more interoperable GHG accounting and reporting. The roadmap results from five months of collective problem-solving and is backed by case studies from the Carbon Call’s expert advisory group. The expert advisory group is a group of senior experts nominated by member organizations to the Carbon Call. The expert advisory group contributed to the evolution of the roadmap to incorporate diverse expertise regarding description of the constraints, impacts, and potential solutions that the Carbon Call recommends be addressed as a priority by the GHG management community.

The roadmap is a living document that will be updated in line with new developments and consensus.

Is there a membership fee?

No. The Carbon Call is an initiative that comprises interested and committed parties seeking to assess alternatives and to make recommendations to strengthen GHG accounting, making it more reliable and interoperable for the planet. Member organizations volunteer expert time to deliver on the mission as outlined in the Carbon Call roadmap.

Are you building a central GHG reporting or accounting registry ?

No. Multiple GHG reporting registries  are in place through platforms such as CDP for corporate disclosure and other non-state actors, through the UNFCCC for national reporting and other international cooperative initiatives. The Carbon Call works to better discover, understand and share GHG emissions data which would strengthen existing registries and evolving regulatory mandates. 

You use the terms “carbon accounting” and “GHG accounting”, how are they different? How are they related?

Climate change is caused by the accumulation of different gases that trap heat in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and others.  Collectively these are known as greenhouse gases or GHG for short.  Because carbon dioxide and methane both contain carbon and are the two main GHGs, it has become customary in some sectors to use “carbon” as a stand-in for GHG.  Here we use carbon accounting and GHG accounting as synonymous.

What is meant by reliability?

The availability, accuracy, and consistency of the data used to prepare, and the outputs of, GHG accounting. For example, uncertainties regarding GHG emissions and removal data and their interpretation may lead to misrepresentation of reported emissions, making it difficult to assess the speed with which GHG emissions are being reduced and the true effectiveness of decarbonization actions. With better incorporation of data collection procedures and evolving standards and protocols, the process and methodologies for emissions measurement, verification, and accounting can be further improved and can over time help close the gaps in comprehensive reporting of emissions.

What is meant by interoperability?

The ability to compare, share, and use information across GHG accounting and the supporting digital data ecosystem. In the context of the Carbon Call, interoperability means the extent to which results generated by different implementations of GHG accounting principles and processes can be compared, leveraged, or both. Many corporate GHG reports use different interpretations and data, even when following similar standards and protocols. There is now considerable momentum to drive comparability and alignment. We will never achieve perfect uniformity, and we do not need to. Interoperability does not require uniformity but rather requires design for the comparison and translation of digital information by different systems.

What is the difference between participating organizations and signatories?

At the start of 2023, the Carbon Call redefined the distinction between participating organizations and signatories. Through expert subgroups, we aim to convene the relevant topical and technical experts to address the opportunities identified in the Carbon Call roadmap, and thus we aim to tap into the expertise that exists within all the organizations and companies that champion the Carbon Call. To this end, the Carbon Call decided to combine signatories and participating organizations into one single category: “member organizations”.

Why do we need a more reliable and interoperable global system of GHG accounting?

Historically, GHG accounting at the corporate level has been neither designed for comparability nor aimed at facilitating data access and sharing. At the national level, however, GHG accounting is supposed to facilitate both comparability (i.e., the global stocktake and the enhanced transparency framework of the Paris Agreement) and data access and sharing. The Paris Agreement mandates that parties follow specific methodologies (i.e., UNFCCC reporting guidelines1 and IPCC guidelines2), using a tabular format (Common Reporting Format) that facilitates comparable and consistent reporting by all parties. Although corporate GHG accounting has typically been voluntary, some countries are set to regulate large companies to report their emissions with a rigor similar to that of financial disclosures.

Interoperability is critical for data accessibility, transparency, and reliability (across corporate value chains). Strengthening our GHG accounting and reporting system is urgently needed if we are to take effective action to reduce GHG emissions drastically and quickly. We cannot make decisions about products and services or companies on the basis of a GHG report, inventory, or carbon footprint if we cannot understand, verify, or use the data in a timely manner.

If I have already signed on to a similar pledge or initiative or report for example, through CDP or the Race to Zero, is that enough?

We view the Carbon Call as complementary to existing pledges. The Carbon Call is seeking to strengthen GHG accounting, making it more reliable and interoperable for the planet, and create renewed impetus for more comprehensive, annual, and transparent measurement and reporting. Recognizing that there are multiple transparency initiatives, platforms, and registries, the Carbon Call invites signatories to use those existing efforts to fulfill the Carbon Call commitment. We need more climate action, fast.

Working collaboratively with others in the data science, accounting and technological communities allows opportunities to share experiences and issues with reporting on GHG emission pledges and identifying barriers and common challenges to facilitate more reliable and interoperable GHG accounting. Collaboration is key as we work toward this important goal.

How will the Carbon Call work with governments? Are governments allowed to join the Carbon Call?

The initial focus of the Carbon Call is to strengthen GHG accounting, making it more reliable and interoperable for the planet. As the Carbon Call advances, government input and engagement will be critical whether through expert consultations or more direct participation.

Is the Carbon Call a profit-making consortium or ecosystem?

No. The Carbon Call is an initiative that comprises interested and committed parties seeking to assess alternatives and to make recommendations to strengthen GHG accounting, making it more reliable and interoperable for the planet. It is not a commercial enterprise or undertaking.

Who is funding the Carbon Call?

Initial funding for the Carbon Call was provided by Microsoft Philanthropies and ClimateWorks Foundation.

You mention carbon removals, land sector, methane, and indirect emissions as four “weak links” in carbon accounting systems. Why?

These four sectors are characterized by more limited data, scientific uncertainties, and less specificity in currently established standards. For example, the land sector is challenged in carbon accounting because land is both a source and a sink for carbon emissions and because natural and human emissions are difficult to separate out. Although new data and science are improving, it is often still difficult to measure the net emissions, removal, and changes in carbon stock from the land sector at the spatial and temporal resolution needed for accurate accounting.