Yesterday we co-hosted our Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA) seminar at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt, bringing our successful Feb 25th Boston event to the Left Coast, this time with our new partner GreentechMedia. As he had done for Boston event, Paul Baier did another great job at putting together a set of speakers and topics to be discussed.
The ECA idea stems from the belief that as GHG emissions will ultimately have economic consequences (ie. cap-n-trade or tax), a company’s GHG accounting system needs to be financial grade. In the extreme, Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres, likened using this new metric for corporate performance to the need for understanding off balance sheet risk. Hence, GHG reporting both now and in the future needs to be transparent and auditable. Early voluntary corporate reporting through programs like Carbon Disclosure Project shows that these organizations understand the emerging problem and are proactively dealing with it.
However, in listening to Pankaj Bhatia from World Resource Institute and case studies from companies like Allied Materials, Autodesk, HP, Intuit and Symantec, it became clear how very early we are in this journey. Each of these companies has needed to develop a new process for building their GHG inventory and their comments highlighted how much subjectivity remains in their interpretation of the boundaries for their emissions. This is especially challenging around Scope 3 reporting.
The speakers also offered commentary about the Waxman/Markey bill and speculation about whether the US would or would not have a strong GHG regulation position going into Copenhagen in December of this year. Speculation was high that cap and trade will prevail as the vehicle whenever policy gets enacted.
The side story is that cap and trade will work principally for political reasons. It would be the only program that would allow US policy makers from states who have each different consequences from GHG regulation (coal vs gas power, mfg vs farms, etc) to satisfy their constituents by shifting the battle to “how many GHG credits do I get?” One can imagine it won’t be as simple as the DOE’s stimulus financed Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program which has been allocated on a $ per capita basis to unsuspecting cities and towns throughout the US, regardless of need.