Reporting FAQs

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This FAQ sheet is organized into six sections below. You can also view and bookmark a PDF version of the FAQs HERE, or by using the related downloads table on the left-hand side of the page.

  1. The Climate Registry’s (TCR) Voluntary Reporting Program
  2. Building your Organization’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory
  3. Quantifying and Reporting your Organization’s Emissions
  4. Sector-Specific Guidance
  5. Using TCR’s GHG Reporting Software, CRIS
  6. Verifying your Organization’s Emissions

1. The Climate Registry’s (TCR) Voluntary Reporting Program

My organization is new to TCR’s reporting program. What resources should I review first? How can I learn about the reporting policies, procedures and tools available to me?

As a first step, please review our Carbon Footprinting 101 recorded training and slide deck. This training helps new members understand our reporting policies and procedures, as well as the basics of greenhouse gas accounting.

Along with the Carbon Footprinting 101 training, we suggest downloading and familiarizing yourself with the General Reporting Protocol (GRP). The GRP describes how you will quantify your greenhouse gas emissions and set your geographic, organizational and operational boundaries. While the GRP is the “rule book” for TCR’s reporting program, many of the quantification methods outlined in the document are performed automatically for you in CRIS (The Climate Registry Information System).

You should also download and begin to complete an Inventory Management Plan, which will help you organize and refine your greenhouse gas reporting efforts over time.
When you are ready to begin reporting your organization’s emissions, you should view the CRIS training, “Reporting Your Organization’s Emissions in CRIS”, available in the Reporting Toolkit.

How can I orient my colleagues to the TCR reporting program and greenhouse gas reporting in general?

You can orient your colleagues to the benefits of reporting to TCR, help them get an idea of what might be asked of them as part of the process, and fill them in on basic GHG accounting concepts with our “Reporting GHG Emissions to The Climate scope: An Orientation for Member Organizations” training. TCR’s Webinar Library, also located in the Reporting Toolkit, is also an excellent place to find engaging content to share with colleagues.

What are the program deadlines for reporting and verification?
Reporting Deadline: Emissions data from the previous calendar year should be entered into CRIS by June 30th, on an annual basis. For example, emissions data from calendar year 2015 will be entered into CRIS by June 30th, 2016.
A complete submission to TCR includes the following:

  • A completed inventory in CRIS;
  • Scope 2 Disclosure Form;
  • Self-defined Boundary Form (completed in CRIS)*;
  • Exclusion of Miniscule Sources Form (completed in CRIS)*;
  • Sector-specific forms (e.g. Standard Inventory Report)*.
    *Please note that some of the above forms (those marked with an asterisk) may not be applicable to your inventory. However, a completed emissions inventory and a Scope 2 Disclosure Form are always required for both complete and transitional reporters.

Verification Deadline: Verification should be completed annually by December 15th.
Verification is considered complete when:

  • A signed verification statement has been uploaded into CRIS by the lead verifier;
  • The inventory status in CRIS is “Submit Positive Verification Finding.”
    To help you meet these deadlines, we recommend following the steps laid out in the 2016 Reporting and Verification Timeline.

2. Building Your Organization’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory

What are Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions? Why do I need to specify Scopes in my organization’s inventory?
The majority of your organization’s emissions will fall into a specific “Scope”. Scopes of emissions are used to distinguish between emissions that are directly emitted by your organization, and those that are indirectly emitted by your organization. Indirect emissions are GHGs that are emitted elsewhere by other parties on your organization’s behalf. Dividing emissions into Scopes helps to prevent double counting of any one emissions source.

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions that take place at facilities under your control (generally related to the combustion fossil fuels or leakage rates for man-made chemicals).
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, heat, cooling or steam. There is an emissions impact associated with these purchases; however, the emissions are produced outside of your organization’s direct control. Note: if electricity, heat, steam or cooling is generated within a facility under your organization’s control, these are categorized as Scope 1 emissions. Complete reporters must report two Scope 2 totals; one calculated using the market-based method and the other using the location-based method.
  • Scope 3 emissions include all other indirect emissions. Examples of Scope 3 emissions categories include employee commuting, business travel and supply chains. Reporting of Scope 3 emissions is optional in TCR’s reporting program.
  • Biogenic CO2: please note that direct and indirect CO2 emissions that result from the combustion of biomass or biofuel MUST be reported independently from the Scopes. Unlike the carbon that is released when combusting fossil fuels, the carbon in biological materials was recently stored in living organisms. Biogenic CO2 is therefore accounted for differently than carbon from fossil fuel combustion, and is reported separately from the Scopes.

Please see Chapter 5 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on Scopes.

What are the differences between complete, transitional, basic and historical inventories?
Members reporting a complete inventory to TCR report all Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions of all seven internationally recognized GHGs as well as any direct or indirect emissions of CO2 from biomass combustion from their operations in Canada, Mexico and the United States (worldwide reporting is optional). Complete inventories also include two separate Scope 2 totals, which are measured according to the location-based and market- based methods. (Please see Chapter 14 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on Scope 2 reporting.) Members who report a complete inventory and undergo third-party verification earn Climate Registered™ status. Their TCR-approved inventory reports are then published to TCR’s public reports page.

Transitional reporting is intended to ease members into the GHG emissions reporting and verification process. Transitional inventories must still adhere to GRP quantification methods and may still be third-party verified, but they may not include all of the information required for complete reporting. Members reporting transitional inventories specify their own inventory boundaries. These boundaries are then made public via the Self-defined Boundary Form in CRIS alongside a verified transitional report on TCR’s public reports page. Members who report a transitional inventory and undergo third-party verification earn Climate Registered™ status, but are not eligible to apply for Climate Registered™ Gold or Platinum Awards.

Basic reporting is intended to be an introduction to TCR’s reporting program, and does not prescribe any requirements for reporting. Instead, members reporting basic inventories aim to report as much information as they can, while , also becoming familiar with entering data into CRIS. Basic inventories are not made available on the CRIS public reports page.

Historical inventories are GHG inventories or carbon footprints that were previously reported to another program (or self-reported) and third-party verified. The reports were not reported and verified through TCR’s program in accordance with TCR’s reporting and verification protocols. Entering historical data in CRIS allows members to centralize previously measured GHG inventories and to track emissions trends over time without requiring modification of previous reports or re-verification.

Please see Chapter 1.4, 2-5 and 8 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on complete, transitional, and basic inventories. Please see Chapter 9 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on historical inventories.

How do I know which types of emissions to include in my organization’s inventory?
Before you begin reporting your organization’s emissions, you will define three separate boundaries that determine the emissions sources that should be included in your organization’s inventory:

  1. Geographic: First, define where your organization’s emissions take place spatially. Are you going to report your organization’s worldwide emissions, or only its emissions that occur in North America, or the emissions within some other geographical boundary?
  2. Organizational: Second, define which operations, facilities, and sources should be included in your organization’s inventory by applying either an operational or financial control approach. An equity share approach can also be used in conjunction with an
    operational or financial control approach (see question 2d below for more information).
  3. Operational: Third, define which Scopes and greenhouse gases should be included in your organization’s inventory.

Based on those boundaries, you will determine for which facilities you will report (facilities can be stationary locations, like an office building, or a group of mobile sources, like a vehicle fleet). After you determine those facilities, you will determine what sources of emissions are present at each facility. Possible examples of emissions sources at a stationary facility include natural gas boilers or furnaces for manufacturing.

This process of determining the emissions to include in your organization’s inventory is explained in greater detail in the Carbon Footprinting 101 training, as well as in Chapters 2-5 of the General Reporting Protocol.

What is the difference between operational and financial control?
To draw an organizational boundary around your organization’s emissions inventory, you will choose a control approach and report 100% of the emissions that fall under your organization’s control based on that approach (if you are a complete reporter). There are two control types from which to choose:

Operational Control Approach – This approach will include all facilities, assets, and resources for which your organization has full authority to introduce and implement operating policies (e.g. you hold an operating license or determine EHS policies).

Financial Control Approach – This approach will include all facilities, assets, and resources for which your organization has the ability to direct the financial policies of the operations with an interest in gaining economic benefits from its activities.

You should select the control approach that best fits your organization’s structure and goals for reporting. However, most TCR members choose to report using the operational control approach.

If you choose to do so, you may also report using the equity share consolidation approach. This approach includes emissions data from facilities or business units that your organization holds equity in, in addition to the control approach that you choose.
Please see Chapter 4.1-4.3 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on operational and financial control.

Can I switch from one organizational boundary approach to another?
Your reporting methodology (operational, financial, or equity share) should only be changed if it will make your emissions report more complete. For instance, you may choose to report under operational control, and in a following year report under operational control and also apply the equity share consolidation approach as well. This change in boundaries would include more information in your emissions inventory, rather than less.

If you feel that you need to change your organizational boundaries after your first year of reporting and have questions, please contact the help desk team at help@theclimateregistry.org.

Should my organization be a complete reporter for our first year as a TCR member? If my organization decides to report on a transitional basis for our first year, do I need to report a complete inventory in the future?
TCR’s reporting program has a flexible structure with reporting options designed to give organizations the tools they need to meet their sustainability goals. While we encourage organizations to report complete inventories, your organization is not required to report a complete inventory in the first year of membership. TCR members commonly begin by reporting several basic or transitional inventories before submitting a complete report for the first time.

TCR also recognizes that it can take a significant amount of time to gather documentation and establish the appropriate data management practices necessary to report a complete GHG inventory. We allow up to five years of transitional reporting before your organization submits a complete inventory. If you need additional time you can request a waiver from The Climate Registry’s help desk by contacting help@theclimateregistry.org.
Please see Chapter 8 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on a transitional inventory.

Can I report my organization’s emissions on a fiscal year basis?
In order to provide consistency and comparability across the emissions inventories reported to us, TCR does not allow fiscal year reporting. All reporting should be done on an annual, calendar year basis (Jan 1 – Dec 31). Each emissions year must correspond with one calendar year of data.

In practicality, many utility bills will not adhere perfectly to this time schedule. TCR requires that these utility bills be prorated, and provides a pro-rating tool to members to accommodate that process, which is located in the Reporting Toolkit on our website.

Can I aggregate emissions from separate facilities when reporting to TCR? What types of facilities can be aggregated?
If you would like to report your organization’s emissions at the entity level, you may aggregate all of your emissions into a single facility in CRIS (reported by activity type and in terms of metric tons of GHG). In order to report at the entity level, you must first do two things:
1. Get in touch with the help desk for approval, and
2. Mark your inventory as an entity-level report in CRIS on the Manage Entity page (further instructions can be found in the CRIS user guide).

Most of our members choose to report at the facility-level instead, and we highly encourage the tracking of emissions at this disaggregated level. To streamline the reporting process for
members reporting at the facility-level, TCR allows for the aggregation of emissions from like facilities into one facility for the purposes of reporting in CRIS. Please note that only the following facility categories may be aggregated:

  1. Commercial Buildings in a single state, province or territory (see question X below for more information on what is considered a commercial building);
  2. Mobile sources (vehicles, marine vessels and aircraft) may be aggregated within a state/province/territory. If they travel across state boundaries, they may be aggregated at the national level;
  3. Other Special Facilities like oil and gas wells, pipelines, parking lots, transit systems, traffic lights, distribution (T&D) systems;
  4. Emissions that your organization estimates using simplified estimation methods (SEMs, see question 3b below for more information) can also be defined as a single facility for the purposes of reporting. This SEMs facility may include any variety of sources.

Emissions from all other types of facilities must be reported separately. Please see Chapter 6.4 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on aggregating emissions.

What types of facilities are considered “commercial buildings”?
A commercial building is defined as an office-based or retail facility that does not conduct industrial operations. The emission sources found at this type of facility are limited to:

  • Purchased electricity, heating or cooling;
  • Stationary combustion of fuel for building heating;
  • Refrigerants for building air conditioning;
  • Standard fire extinguishers (as opposed to more complex PFC systems);
  • Non-commercial refrigeration;
  • Commercial refrigeration operations when an organization centrally manages refrigerant stocks;
  • Emergency generators; and,
  • Off-road equipment limited to building and landscape maintenance.

Please see Chapter 6.4 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on emission sources of commercial buildings.

My organization would like to report non-North American emissions. What emission factors should I use to quantify emissions that occur in other countries?
If you are quantifying emissions that occurred outside North America, you will need to apply country-specific emission factors developed for the location where your emissions occurred. This might include public and peer-reviewed emission factors from government agencies, academic institutions or non-governmental organizations specific to a country or region. Other sources for country-specific emission factors might be the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), or the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. If country-specific emission factors are not available, it is permissible to use IPCC international default emission factors.

Note: International electricity emission factors were provided by TCR and are available in CRIS up until EY 2011. If your organization is reporting non-North American emissions for an emissions year after EY 2011, you should use other country-specific emission factors that may be obtained from the resources linked above.

3. Quantifying and Reporting Your Organization’s Emissions

I want my organization to be a complete reporter, but I am having trouble gathering data for a number of small emissions sources. Are there any emissions that I can exclude from our inventory?
TCR does allow for the exclusion of some minuscule sources from your inventory. Miniscule sources are insignificant sources of emissions that present a high reporting burden (for instance, refrigerants in office water coolers). Instead of measuring and reporting these emissions, you may simply identify and disclose them through TCR’s Miniscule Sources Form in CRIS. The form contains a set of pre-defined minuscule sources that are eligible for exclusion.

These sources are sorted by industry sector, and you may only exclude sources that are eligible for your sector. If you feel that a source in your inventory merits consideration for exclusion but has not been previously approved, please complete the Request for Excluding a New Miniscule Source Form found in the Reporting Toolkit. Please see Chapter 5.6 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on excluding miniscule sources.

What are Simplified Estimation Methods (SEMs)?
You may use rough, upper-bound estimations, otherwise known as Simplified Estimation Methods (SEMs), to report up to 5% of your total emissions inventory. SEMs are intended to streamline reporting process for small sources where data is either unavailable or unobtainable. You must indicate that emissions have been quantified with a Simplified Estimation Method in CRIS.
Note: the 5% SEMs threshold must be evaluated separately against entity totals for both Scope 2 calculation methods (location-based and market-based). SEMs must not exceed 5% of the inventory for either entity-wide total. Please see Chapter 11 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on SEMs.

My organization leases space in a building. How should I report emissions from purchased heating?
How you will report for Scope 2 heating emissions largely depends on:

  • Your operational and organizational boundaries;
  • How you are billed for utilities (directly or through the landlord).

If your organization is a complete reporter and leases space within its organizational boundary, you are required to report all Scope 1 and/or Scope 2 emissions associated with that space.

If your organization contracts directly for heating with a utility (your organization pays the bill directly to the utility, rather than to a landlord), you should report emissions from these purchases as Scope 1. You should also report your organization’s heating emissions as Scope 1 if there are heating units (e.g. natural gas boilers) located on the physical premise of the leased space.

If your organization does not contract directly with a utility (you aren’t separately metered), and your organization does not have heating units within its organizational or operational boundary, emissions associated with heating must be reported as Scope 2 purchased heating using the area method (see GRP Chapter 14).

Note: this reporting requirement is new for the 2016 reporting season, and was included in the updated GRP v. 2.1. Previously, members could opt to report these emissions as Scope 2 optional. Please see GRP Chapter 5.3 (page 34) and GRP Chapter 15.2 (page 119) for more information.

In some cases, organizations reporting under the operational control approach may not actually have operational control over the heating and cooling within their leased space, regardless of separate metering or the billing scenarios outlined above. If this is the case, you should exclude these emissions from your organization’s inventory.

My organization plans to report for the Scope 2 emissions from purchased heating associated with leased space. However, the landlord is unable to give me the building’s energy consumption information. How can I report for these emissions?
If you do not have overall consumption data for the building in which your organization leases space, you should calculate the Scope 2 purchased heating emissions using the Alternative Average Intensity Method (see GRP Chapter 14). If you are reporting for emissions taking place in the United States, use intensity factors from the U.S. Energy Information Administration Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (known as CBECS). For Canadian emissions, use intensity factors from the Natural Resources Canada Commercial and Institutional Building Energy Use Survey.

When should the emissions associated with my organization’s fire suppression systems be reported?
Fugitive emissions (CO2, HFCs, and PFCs) from fire suppression equipment should be reported only if the fire protection equipment has been tested or deployed during the year. If equipment was deployed or tested, you should quantify emissions according to Chapter 16 of the General Reporting Protocol.

I’d like to quantify and report my organization’s Scope 3 emissions. Where can I find resources to help me do so?
Reporting Scope 3 emissions is optional in TCR’s reporting program. Thus, TCR does not provide approved calculation methodologies or tools for the calculation of Scope 3 emissions. Members interested in quantifying their Scope 3 emissions are encouraged to consult resources published by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, including the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard and the Scope 3 Evaluator tool.

4. Sector-Specific Guidance

What types of sector-specific guidance are available under TCR’s program?
TCR offers the following sector-specific protocols that members should use when applicable. Applicability details are provided in the early chapters of each sector-specific protocol:

Is my organization required to use the Electric Power Sector (EPS) Protocol to quantify and report our emissions? If so, what are the benefits?

You must use the EPS Protocol if your organization owns or controls:

  • Electric power generating facilities;
  • Transmission systems that convey electricity from a generation facility to a distribution system;
  • Distribution systems that convey electric power received from a generation facility or a transmission system to the final consumer.

In practice, utilities are the most common organizations that use the EPS Protocol.
Using the EPS Protocol and completing the “optional deliveries metric” will allow you to derive a verifiable utility-specific emission factor, which you can then share with your customers. Your customers can use this factor to more accurately reflect their emissions from purchased electricity under the market-based method for measuring Scope 2 emissions.

My organization is a local government. When do we use the Local Government Operations (LGO) Protocol to report our emissions? What are the benefits of using the Local Government Operations protocol?
Local governments at the city or county level must calculate and report their GHG emissions according to the Local Government Operations (LGO) Protocol, with special attention to the requirements that are intended for TCR’s members found in Appendix D. The LGO Protocol should be used in addition to the General Reporting Protocol (GRP). The LGO Protocol provides important supplemental reporting guidance and sector specific calculations for local governments (e.g. wastewater, solid waste, etc.) to assist them in reporting emissions from their operations (note that the LGO Protocol does not provide guidance on reporting a community-wide inventory).

The LGO Protocol facilitates the standardized and rigorous inventorying of GHG emissions for local governments, which can help track emissions reduction progress over time. The LGO Protocol divides reporting totals into sectors (such as port facilities, transit fleets or water delivery facilities), which is meant to create a framework that is more policy relevant and comparable for local governments. By categorizing an inventory according to these sectors, local governments may be able to more easily communicate inventory results to the public and identify opportunities for reductions. Local governments that report to the LGOP must upload a Standard Inventory Report alongside their inventory in CRIS.
Please see Chapter 4.5 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on government agency reporting.

5. Using TCR’s GHG Reporting Software, CRIS

What is CRIS? Where can I learn how to use it?
CRIS, or Climate Registry Information System, is the online reporting tool that we provide to our members to assist them in quantifying and reporting credible GHG emissions inventories. CRIS can be accessed using this website: https://www.cris4.org.
There are two ways for members to enter data into CRIS: at the source level or at the facility level. If you choose to report your organization’s data at the source level, you may rely on CRIS’ built-in calculator to quantify your emissions. If you would prefer to calculate your emissions, for each facility separately offline, you may opt to input pre-calculated emissions data at the facility level instead.

Members submit their GHG inventories to their verification body through CRIS. After a successful verification, TCR-approved inventories are published to the Public Reports section of CRIS.

As a TCR member, you receive CRIS login information when you join TCR. If you do not have a CRIS login or do not have access to your organization’s entity in CRIS, please contact the help desk at help@theclimateregistry.org.

To get started working in CRIS, watch the CRIS Training Webinar. We also suggest that you read and bookmark the CRIS User Guide, which will walk you through how to set up your inventory and report emissions in CRIS with step-by-step instructions and screen shots.

Do I need to submit supporting documentation such as utility bills, fuel purchase records, or calculation spreadsheets in CRIS?
Depending on the type of inventory you are reporting (complete, transitional, etc.) and organizational sector, you may be required to upload additional forms or documents into CRIS alongside your emissions report (for example, the miniscule sources form discussed above or the Scope 2 disclosure form). However, you are not required to upload supporting documentation like utility bills, fuel records or calculation spreadsheets. Rather, these records should be filed or saved offline with your Inventory Management Plan, as it may be required for verification purposes.

6. Verifying Your Organization’s GHG Inventory

What is verification? Is it required?
Verification is a third-party audit of your organization’s greenhouse gas inventory by a TCR-approved verification body. It ensures that your inventory is free from misstatements and conforms to TCR’s protocols. Verification is not required for members of The Climate Registry. However, only verified inventories are made publicly available on our website and the CRIS public reports page to ensure that only credible, high quality data is put into the public domain. Publishing your organization’s GHG inventory can help to improve your credibility with internal and external stakeholders by instilling confidence that your organization’s inventory is accurate. Stakeholders can then make informed decisions based on the data that you report. Internally, verification can improve your data management and other processes, helping your organization to operate more efficiently and competitively.

Find a list of TCR-approved verification bodies, as well as more information on the verification process, on the Verification section of the website. Please see Chapter 19 of the General Reporting Protocol for more information on third-party verification.

How much does verification cost?
The cost of verification is not included in your organization’s TCR membership fee. Verification is an additional cost. Due to the variability of factors behind verification costs, TCR cannot provide estimates for the cost of verification. We recommend you consult directly with a TCR-approved verification body for estimates and reference the Verification Forms and Resources page of our website for factors that affect the cost of verification (reference the document titled “Factors that Affect Verification Cost”).

I have a small organization with a small budget for verification. How can I reduce verification costs?
TCR offers a standardized, streamlined and low-cost verification option for small organizations that emit less than 1000 metric tons of CO2e annually. This verification option is known as Batch Verification. Please find eligibility criteria and more information on the Batch Verification page of our website.