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You are in a new role and are handed some spreadsheets. You’re given the task of calculating the carbon footprint of your entire company. Would you know where to start, or what the final product should look like? We speak to the founder of The Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (GHGMI), Michael Gillenwater, about the benefits of understanding carbon accounting within your business. And there’s a course discount code at the end of this Q&A.
Melissa Vernon (MV): A couple of years ago we spoke about the mission of GHGMI and the global need for carbon accounting professionalization and standardization in our Q&A , but can you give a quick summary for new readers?
Michael Gillenwater (MG): My favourite thing about GHGMI is the community of people around the world who are doing the increasingly important work of understanding and finding creative ways to reduce emissions.
GHGMI was created almost 15 years ago to build a global community of greenhouse gas management professionals. We started by training national inventory experts for the United Nations, including the compliance inspectors for the Kyoto Protocol. But, we soon after launched the first global training with the GHG Protocol program on corporate carbon and offset accounting. We now have over 6,000 alumni world-wide - roughly 25-30% are from government or public agencies and 70-75% are from the private sector, NGOs or another sector. We offer numerous technical training courses and provide free guides.
MV: What trends have you seen in the GHG education space over time?
MG: The recognition of the term MRV (Monitoring, Reporting, Verification) has been a major development. It used to be seen as a technical thing that a few geeky carbon people dealt with (“but it’s not real policy”), and now it’s seen as the fundamental core of the entire climate policy framework, carbon markets, everything. GHGMI was one of the first to establish this way of thinking and language across national, corporate, and offset spaces.
We’re seeing a new generation of staffers in companies that have been handed the task of GHG accounting for the business. They get given a bunch of undocumented spreadsheets on energy use, travel and waste, but are struggling to make informed decisions on what to do next. We offer rigorous training that both provides a deep understanding of GHG accounting necessary to make your own judgments, as well as practical technical skills for preparing fully comprehensive and useful emission estimates, reports, verifications, and offsetting emissions.
Another dominant, and unfortunate trend, has been the impact of ‘roller coaster politics’ on climate policy. But this is changing - more leaders are taking greenhouse gas management, MRV and education seriously now.
MV: What do you think business needs in terms of GHG education – what skills do you think they should be building for the future?
MG: Many companies use consultants to calculate their emissions, but there are benefits to internalizing the understanding of your emissions. When you’re closer to the data, you can better spot patterns and apply innovative approaches. A challenge for companies is that a corporation is a social construct, and therefore its boundaries can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways. Many of the questions we see from the corporate sustainability professionals relates to questions about how to set boundaries, targets, and then measure progress. For example, there is enormous confusion and faulty guidance in use about how to do GHG accounting for green power claims. It would be convenient if GHG accounting was as simple as just typing numbers in a spreadsheet, but like any meaningful technical analysis, the work demands thoughtful expert judgements if you are to take the work and your results seriously.
MV: Finally, can you tell us a bit about the courses themselves?
MG: We have courses on the basics – like how do you set boundaries, how do you collect data, how do you do quality assurance. And we have more in-depth courses on specific topics like carbon accounting for land-use change and energy efficient project monitoring and evaluation. The best thing to do is to go to ghginstitute.org.
The courses are intended for technical professionals – Environmental and Sustainability Managers and the like. They are most likely to be interested in the following courses:
- 201 Basics of Organizational GHG Accounting (i.e. carbon footprinting of company emissions)
- 202 Basics of Project-Level GHG Accounting (i.e. carbon offsetting or emission reduction/removal projects)
- 401 Verification of GHG Inventories and Projects
All courses are available online. Even the basic courses range from 20-40 instructional hours, so they are technically rigorous, but we keep them interactive, and feedback shows people enjoy them!
Readers can use the code nat-cap to receive a 10% discount on course purchases until 31st October. Visit ghginstitute.org/courses to select a course that suits you.
GHGMI is a non-profit focusing on professional development and international capacity building for those working at a technical level on carbon management. From greenhouse gas emissions accounting to mitigation and everything related to trying to control and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Natural Capital Partners’ Carbon Footprint Manager, Kari Shafer, commented: “I have completed two classes, ‘Organizational GHG Accounting’ and ‘GHG Information Management Systems’. I found these self-led classes to be both rigorous and comprehensive, and useful overall for staying up to date in MRV best practices. I’m happy to now be considered an alumni of the GHG Management Institute.”
About Michael Gillenwater
Michael Gillenwater is the Executive Director and Dean of the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, a non-profit organisation which he co-founded to train and develop experts in measuring, accounting, auditing, and managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Michael has worked on GHG emissions and climate change policy since 1995, and is the lead author of several Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, whose work was recognised with the Nobel Peace Prize, and is on several United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) expert rosters. He supports both the Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board, and the Joint Implementation Steering Committee as a methodology expert, and is also a core advisor to World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) on the revised edition of the GHG Protocol. Michael has taught courses on GHG management at Princeton and the Harvard University Extension School.