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This page contains ongoing discussions on approaches and alternatives. The idea is to help to shape, test and articulate new ideas through discussion and debate.

Method: Propose a theme, articulate a point of view and formulate its practical implications. Then invite others to challenge, refine or elaborate.

Theme 1: Climate Accounting and SDG Accounting 


Accounting for greenhouse gas emissions is a special case of accounting for outcomes that have an impact on humanity as a whole (i.e. accounting for externalities). Arguably the most widely supported and comprehensive list of such outcomes is the United Nations' list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). Goal 13 of the SDGs is "Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts". 

Developing tools and procedures for greenhouse gas accounting within a generic framework for SDG accounting will enable better integration of results and will also enable the wider use of some of the tools developed in the context of GHG accounting. It may also address potential problems such as double counting / double crediting.

Basic structure of SDG accounting

The table below gives a high-level comparison of the components to the process of outcome accounting for two activities that target different SDGs. The table builds from the bottom up (from raw activity data to statements about impact on desired end states). 


GHG reduction through efficient cookstoves


Recycling electronics  

What is specific or generic about it?

1. Desired end state

Climate stability

Environment without toxic materials.

Fair and efficient use of limited resources (e.g. metals).

Both relate to goals articulated in the SDGs

2. SDG aligned to desired end state

SDG 13: combat climate change and its impactsSDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

3. Causal model related to the end state

"GHG emissions lead to climate change""If dumped in landfills, incinerated or incorrectly recycled, toxic materials from electronic device components are released into the environment. "

4. Target intermediate states and activities 

Limit GHG emissions

Target 12.5 "By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse"

5. Activity and state metrics

Express GHG emissions in terms of the global warming potential of 1 tonne of CO2 over 100 years

Mass of e-waste recycled

% of all e-waste recycled from a specific facility, area or agent

Generic: all state metrics have a unit of measure, an underlying rationale, and an argument for their credibility.

6. Agent responsibility model and entity demarcation

Households own and operate cookstovesCities and municipalities operate waste services within their jurisdiction The principles according to which agents are identified and entities and activities are demarcated are probably fairly generic. 

7. Scenario comparisons (counterfactual or real)

Households are assumed to optimise their utility but established patterns have a certain inertia. It is assumed that adoption of new stoves will take place if there are no barriers to such adoptions. 
Methods for establishing scenarios are also probably very generic

8. Data transformations

A specific methodology will typically prescribe the calculation procedures
All transformations have to be rational and repeatable

9. Data gathering

A specific methodology will typically prescribe the data collection procedures. 
Scientific methods of observation and measurement have wide application and acceptance 

The choice

     SDG goal

     The SDG goals are described as a set of targets under each SDG.

     Agent goal

     Business and organisations have their core business and operate subject to legal requirements and past underttakings.

    People derive utility from activities and to a certain extent follow common practice. 

An important quastion is if the activity is motivated by the SDG goal or wether it is part of the established personal / organisational goals or behaviour.


     Measured part

     Counterfactual part

Testing the framework with a practrical use case: personal climate footprint calculators


ParameterFootprint calculatorClimate Neutral Now
Owner /operatorGlobal Footprint NetworkUNFCCC
AgentIndividual or households Individual or households 

"Scope 2" activities

"Scope 3" activities

StatesGlobal atmospheric CO2 contentrationGlobal atmospheric CO2 contentration

Global atmospheric methane contentration


Theme 2: Ontology languages and editors

Does it make sense to formally encode the ontology and semiology to be used for standardising climate action and accounting in an ontology language?

If so, which one? 

Which editor is the best to use in peer programming calls?

Does the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative have a role to play?

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    Look closer at SEEA "As the international statistical standard for measuring the environment and its relationship with the economy, the SEEA is well positioned to support integrated policies based on a better understanding of the interactions and trade-offs between the environment and economy."

  2. One activity may be linked to multiple SDGs

    For example recycling E-Waste. If some form of compliance token or voluntary credit is produced, how does one account for all of these and is there a possibility of double counting (e.g. claiming a credit related to one SDG when the activity was carried out to meet a compliance target related to another SDG).