Department of Energy:

Voluntary Reporting Program for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions

RCED-98-107R: Published: Mar 24, 1998. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on selected aspects of the Voluntary Reporting Program for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions, focusing on the: (1) efforts taken to help ensure the accuracy of data collected by the Voluntary Reporting Program; (2) incentives for accurate reporting; (3) types of projects reported and their contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and (4) reasons organizations participating in the Voluntary Reporting Program pursue activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

GAO noted that: (1) several efforts have been taken to help ensure the accuracy and the quality of the data reported; (2) these efforts include developing and implementing program guidelines and procedures to assemble and present emissions data in standardized reports, establishing a report review and assistance process to check the arithmetic accuracy of emissions data and the internal consistency of all data reported, requiring each reporter to provide certification of data accuracy, and asking each reporter to provide a self-assessment of data accuracy; (3) the Department of Energy (DOE) cites several incentives to promote accurate reporting; (4) one is the potential benefits of public recognition and goodwill that can accrue to an entity from reporting emissions reductions; (5) another incentive to be accurate is the potential economic value of early actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; (6) there are criminal penalties for falsifying data on a federal form that the reporter has certified as accurate; (7) some environmental groups, however, believe that the economic value of future credits may be an incentive to overstate emissions reductions; (8) to prevent this, they believe a more rigid review process may be needed; (9) for 1994 and 1995, the most recent years for which data are available, the two largest groups of projects reported for reducing emissions were electricity generation, transmission, and distribution activities, totalling 515 projects, and energy end-use activities, totalling 484 projects; (10) altogether, there were 1,612 projects reported during those 2 years; (11) emissions reductions for all reported projects were estimated to be about 257 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents of all greenhouse gases; (12) for 1995, the estimated U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases were 6,219 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents; (13) for 1,335 of the 1,612 projects, organizations gave reasons for their activities when reporting to DOE; (14) for 1,227 projects, the reasons cited for their activities were voluntary, which DOE interprets to mean that the reporters were motivated by a variety of reasons, ranging from environmental stewardship to anticipating emissions reduction credits in the future; (15) for 100 projects, the reason cited was state or federal regulatory requirements; and (16) for eight projects, the reason cited was plant closing.

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