EPA Climate Leaders

The program is currently being phased out (as of 1/2011).

On September 15, 2010, EPA announced that the Climate Leaders program will phase down the services it offers and encourage and assist the transition of our Partners into non-federal programs that our Partners may choose to join.


Market Size and Scope
Offset Project Eligibility
Additionality Requirements and Project Methodologies
Project Approval Process


Type of System/Program and Context

Climate Leaders is a US EPA voluntary GHG emission reduction program. Launched as an industry-government partnership in 2002, it provides guidance to companies that develop climate change strategies and recognizes their efforts (US EPA, 2009). The program’s goal is to focus corporate attention on cost-effective GHG reduction and energy efficiency projects within the boundary of the organization through support and assistance from the US EPA.

Partner companies complete a corporate-wide inventory of the six major GHGs using the Climate Leaders GHG Inventory Guidance and set a corporate-wide GHG emission reduction goal to be achieved over 5 to 10 years. Each partner works individually with the US EPA to set its reduction goal based on the emission sources and reduction opportunities within the company. To achieve the goal, the company may choose to develop its own GHG mitigation offset projects or purchase GHG reductions certified through existing regulated or voluntary markets, provided that the project adheres to approved EPA methodologies. Performance-based GHG accounting protocols for offset projects were released in mid-August 2008 to provide guidance to companies using offsets to meet their goals. Partners may also use green power purchasing and Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to reduce their indirect electricity emissions and meet their goals under the program.

Program Authority and Administrative Bodies

The US EPA administers the Climate Leaders Program. US EPA staff provide each program partner with technical assistance as they develop, update and document their Inventory Management Plan (IMP) and complete or adjust their base year inventory.

Regional Scope

The Climate Leaders program is limited to industries with operations in the US. Program partners must report US-based emissions and may optionally include their international emissions as well.

Recognition of Other Standards/ Linkage with Other Trading Systems

Climate Leaders partners may meet their emission reduction goals through the purchase of offset credits from regulated or voluntary markets. Purchased offset credits are required to be quantified using offset protocols or accounting guidance approved by the US EPA Climate Leaders program. The US EPA reviews the purchased offset credits before deciding on their eligibility for meeting a partner’s GHG emission reduction goal.

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Market Size and Scope

Tradable Unit and Pricing Information

Under the Climate Leaders program, offset credits are referred to as “external GHG reductions” and are measured in units of metric tonnes of CO2e. No pricing information is available. Program partners may purchase offset credits from regulated or voluntary markets, where prices vary by program, or develop offset projects themselves.


There were 281 program partners in the Climate Leaders Program as of June 2009. They represent a broad range of industry sectors including cement, forest products, pharmaceuticals, utilities, information technology and retail, with operations in all 50 US states.

Current Project Portfolio

Neither a Climate Leaders registry and the projects are no longer listed on the EPA Climate Leaders website. 4 projects have been implemented using Climate Leaders methodologies.

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Offset Project Eligibility

Project Types

The EPA has developed a set of offset protocols for specific project types:

Project Type  Protocols

Climate Leaders

Landfill gas capture


Livestock methane capture


Methane end use




Industrial boiler efficiency


Commercial boiler efficiency


Transit bus upgrade


Improved forest management

(under development)

Coal Mine Methane

(under development)

Project Locations

Offset project protocols are currently applicable to the US. Project developers able to develop a protocol for an international project type can propose an international project, provided adequate country-specific data sets are available.

Project Size

All project sizes are eligible.

Start Date 

Offset projects must have started on or after February 20, 2002. Exceptions may be made for projects developed by partners through state or other federal GHG programs.

Crediting Period

The crediting period for Climate Leaders offset projects has not been specified.  

Co-benefit Objectives and Requirements

Climate Leaders offset guidance document specifies that projects “should be evaluated for any significant non-GHG impacts, both positive and negative … including but not limited to: economic development, sustainability, technology transfer, public participation, and capacity building”.

Additionality Requirements and Project Methodologies

Additionality Requirements

Offset program protocols use a “performance standard” methodology to assess additionality. Depending on the project type, emissions performance may be defined as an emission rate, a technology standard or a practice standard. Offset projects are required to achieve performance emission reductions that are significantly better than business-as-usual practices determined from similar, recently undertaken or planned practices in a similar geographic region.

Project Methodologies

The project protocols developed by the US EPA use standartization as much as possible both for additionality and baseline detemrination.


Project-specific guidelines regarding leakage and permanence are addressed in the protocols for each project type. If it is determined that leakage may result in significant emissions, these emissions must be quantified and included in the calculation of reductions; however, a specific quantification methodology is not required. The EPA states that “all associated activities determined to contribute to leakage should be monitored.”

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Project Approval Process

Validation and Registration

The US EPA reviews all proposed external GHG emission reductions from offset projects, generated or purchased, for eligibility in meeting the Climate Leaders reduction goal. The review is based on the project information provided by the program partner.

Monitoring, Verification and Certification

Protocols for monitoring offset projects have to be submitted to and reviewed by the US EPA during its review process for external GHG emission reductions. Although third-party verification is recommended for purchased offset credits, third-party verification of offset credits is not required.

There is no process for certifying offsets under the Climate Leaders program.

Registries and Fees

Climate Leaders does not have a registry.There are no fees associated with the Climate Leaders program.

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