WBCSD/WRI GHG Protocol for Project Accounting

Standard currently in use (as of 1/2011).


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


Type of Standard and Context

The WBCSD/WRI GHG Protocol Initiative has developed several GHG accounting tools, the two most widely used include the Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard which covers accounting for corporate GHG emission inventories; and the GHG Protocol for Project Accounting (GHG Protocol) which is an offset project accounting protocol. For a full list of WRO GHG accounting tools go here. The following summary focusses on the GHG Protocol for Project Accounting (GHG Protocol)

The GHG Protocol was developed by the GHG Protocol Initiative, which was launched in 1998. The initiative was jointly led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a global association of some 200 companies committed to sustainable development, and the World Resources Institute (WRI), an environmental think tank, in partnership with a coalition of businesses, NGOs and governmental and inter-governmental organizations. The GHG Protocol was finalized and published in December 2005. The GHG Protocol is a program-neutral tool for quantifying and reporting GHG emission reductions from GHG mitigation projects and does not focus on verification, enforcement or co-benefits. The GHG Protocol aims to:

  • Provide a credible and transparent approach to quantifying and reporting project-level GHG emission reductions;
  • Enhance the credibility of GHG project accounting through the application of common accounting concepts, procedures and principles;
  • Provide a platform for harmonizing different project-based GHG initiatives and programs.

Standard Authority and Administrative Bodies

WRI and WBCSD are responsible for developing and updating the protocol and its additions. The protocol can be freely used by anyone and its use is not administered by any organization.

Regional Scope

No restrictions, can be used globally.

Recognition of Other Standards/ Linkage with Other Trading Systems

The GHG protocol is and accounting tool and therefore not a full offset standard or program in itself. It is used or referenced by several GHG standards and programs, including ISO 14064-2 and the Climate Action Reserve. It has been developed as a flexible tool that can be easily adapted by GHG programs to match their objectives.

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Market Size and Scope

Tradable Unit and Pricing Information

Not applicable.


Users of the GHG Protocol include companies, institutions, government agencies, other standards organizations (see above) and project developers.

Current Project Portfolio

Not applicable.

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Offset Project Eligibility

Project Types

The GHG Project Protocol can be used to quantify GHG reductions for any project type. The protocol is supplemented by more specific guidelines for accounting GHG emission reductions in grid-connected electricity and land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) projects.

Project Locations

Not specified under the GHG Protocol.

Project Size

Not specified under the GHG Protocol.

Start Date 

Not specified under the GHG Protocol.

Crediting Period

The protocol does not specify the duration of the crediting period. It provides the following parameters for project developers to consider in determining a crediting period:

  • The pace at which economic conditions, technologies or practices are changing.
  • The point at which the underlying assumptions for a project’s baseline scenario are likely to change significantly.
  • Whether the baseline emission estimates are static or dynamic (change over time).

Co-benefit Objectives and Requirements

The GHG Project Protocol does not address co-benefits such as environmental and social impacts because they are not directly related to GHG reduction accounting and quantification per se. It acknowledges the importance of these issues but leaves it to the users of the protocol to determine policies in this regard and to incorporate them into the requirements of their program or standards.

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Additionality Requirements and Project Methodologies

Additionality Requirements

The GHG Protocol contains no formal requirements for additionality determination but it discusses additionality conceptually as it relates to baseline determination.

Project Methodologies

The GHG Protocol defines the baseline scenario as “a hypothetical description of what would have most likely occurred in the absence of any considerations about climate change”. It suggests the following step-wise approach to choosing a baseline scenario:

  1. Identifying possible “baseline candidates,” which are alternative technologies or practices within a specific geographic area and time period that could provide the same product or service as the project activity.
  2. Assessing the identified implementation barriers (and optionally, the projected net benefits) of each baseline candidate and the project activity.
  3. Using a comparative analysis to identify the most likely alternative for the baseline scenario.

The Protocol offers further guidance on the use of both project-specific and performance-based standards for estimating the baseline of a project. The protocol recommends use of the performance standard procedure when:

  1. A number of similar projects are being implemented;
  2. Obtaining verifiable data on project activity alternatives is difficult;
  3. The project developer intends to keep confidential data that would need to be revealed if a project-specific standard were used; and
  4. The number of baseline candidates is limited or the GHG emission rate data for baseline candidates are difficult to obtain.

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Project Approval Process

Validation and Registration

Not specified under the GHG Protocol.

Monitoring, Verification and Certification

The GHG Protocol requires a monitoring plan for GHG emissions at the sources or sinks significantly affected by a project. It also requires monitoring of the data underlying key baseline assumptions, and a description of the quality assurance and quality control measures to be employed for data collection, processing and storage.

The guidance provided for developing a monitoring plan allows the use of direct (e.g. smokestack measurements) and indirect (e.g. fuel consumption data) measurements, both of which are subject to uncertainties. It recommends that the project developer be conservative, using data for quantification that reflect the uncertainties and that tend to underestimate the GHG reductions. It further recommends considering costs versus benefits in deciding whether to estimate emissions or monitor them directly.

Verification and certification are not defined under the GHG Protocol.

Registries and Fees

Registries and fees do not apply to the GHG Protocol – the GHG Project Protocol is free and publicly available at www.ghgprotocol.org.

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