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Set meaningful limits of responsibility

The simplest, most commonly accepted and functional emission boundaries follow the lines of financial responsibility.

Boundaries are important to avoid double-counting emissions and reductions as well as to include otherwise unaccounted parts of the total carbon footprint. This is an area where commonly agreed methods can provide some assurance of standard practices. As funding for reducing carbon footprints and buying offsets becomes integrated into project accounting, common practices are needed for international implementation.

Both direct and indirect emissions are included in any particular carbon footprint. The International Organization for Standardization recommends in ISO 14064 that direct emissions are defined by what we own or control which contributes to our direct responsibilities and benefits, such as company cars. We have direct control over selection, purchase, maintenance and usage patterns for this transportation. Indirect emissions come from sources used for our benefit but controlled by others (Pino 2002), including purchased electricity, commercial air travel and taxi use. 

The Global Carbon Project example

GCP’s carbon footprint extends to all activities for which the GCP has control of funding.  Activitiy has been grouped into four categories which make clear the financial responsibility and therefore whether those activities are part of GCP's carbon footpring:.

  1. Core operations include emissions for maintaining International Project Offices, running project meetings, setting up and maintaining new activities and partnerships, and project representation.
  2. Hosted workshops and conferencesare events for which the GCP is organisationally and financially responsible. Emissions include those resulting from the consumption of energy in meeting venues and travel for participants covered by the GCP. Observers or guests who are funded by other organisations are not the responsibility of the GCP.
  3. Contributions to projects and meetings organised and paid by organisations other than the GCP. The footprint of the event (including travel) is considered the responsibility of the host organisation.
  4. Endorsed events and projects which are hosted or run by other organisations and involve no funding from the GCP are not considered the GCP’s responsibility.
Pino (2002) Working 9-5 on Climate Change: An Office Guide. World Resources Institute.
UNFCCC (2006) GHG emissions inventory of the secretariat for the biennium 2004 - 2005.