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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 

Generic formulation 

An agent deliberately engages in an activity.

The activity impacts some state about which there is broad consensus.

The agent presents a claim about the outcome of the activity they undertook and the nature and magnitude if the impact that it had/s on the state.

Standards determine the content and structure of such a claim and allow a third party to assess the veracity of thereof.

 Ontology, epistemology and semiology


(What are the 'things' that the system should know about?   

What are the defining properties or characteristics of each 'thing'?)

Epistemology (How will the system get information about these things and their attributes?)Semiology (How will each of the things be represented in the system?)


  • unique identifier (identity)
  • type (individual or group; if group, what type of group, e.g. organisation, company or movement; auditor)

An agent asserts their identity

Digital signature

Demonstration of control (challenge-response)


  • activity class (e.g. IPCC categories)
  • activity description 
  • location
  • start time
  • end time (possibly)
  • agent
  • input(s) (e.g. materials and energy; consumables and non-consumables)
  • output(s) product + waste
  • process(es)
  • objective (experience, create, reduce, destroy, avoid, verify) (optional / not required in all instances)

* An audit is a special type of activity where the input is a claim and the output is an evaluation of that claim.

Ex ante: An agent asserts their intentions to act in a Projet Design Document (PDD) 

Ex post: An agent describe their actions in a Projet Design Document (PDD) 

The activity and its results and impacts are documented  by the agent at intervals in a monitoring report (MR)

  • unique identifier


  • state definition
  • location and extent
  • point in time
  • metrics
  • type (actual [measured] or baseline [counterfactual])

*State as in environmental state (not political state)

Indicators for states

Indicators delivered by agents via PDDs and MRs

  • unique identifier
  • Impact claim per state
  • name
  • definition
  • unit of measure
  • rationale
  • calculation
  • credibility

  • unique identifier
  • name
  • author(s)
  • applicability - type of agent, type of activity, state
  • requirements (e.g. reporting requirements, calculation requirements)
  • version
  • method(s)
  • precision
  • accuracy / std error
  • emission factors (defaults)

  • unique identifier

Someone or something gathers data

  • observes a phenomenon using some instrument

Someone or something presents data as a claim

Someone or something evaluates the claim

Should there be an event class? An event is like an activity but without the intention of an agent. An accident is an event but it is not an activity. 

(Where do impact claims fit in? Standards contain requirements for claims and claims are made up of indicators and assertions)

An impact claim (a state change claim)

  • agent
  • activity
  • "before" state
  • "after" state
  • causal connection between activity and the resultant state (e.g. scope 1 (primary/secondary), scope 2 or scope 3)
  • standard followed

For discussion: Where do we list the natural processes that lead to climate change?

(emission factors are indicators)

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




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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