The last year has seen a surge of interest in methods for measuring and tracking community-wide GHG emissions. No broadly accepted standard yet exists to measure GHG emissions at the local level, and thus to track progress toward meeting ambitious climate goals, though several protocols have recently been developed or are in the works.

One of the most vexing questions in assessing a community’s contribution to global GHG emissions, the authors note, is how to account for the emissions associated with goods and materials consumed and/or produced in the community. Most communities import and consume a large number of goods and materials that are produced elsewhere, and some produce significant quantities of goods and materials, including energy-intensive goods or materials such as cement or steel, that are largely consumed or used elsewhere.

Currently, however, nearly all efforts to assess community-scale GHG emissions focus on emissions associated with in-boundary energy use. Although such efforts help bolster local government actions on buildings and transportation systems, the implications of including industry (and associated goods and materials) are less clear. The authors suggest that pulling industry out of community-scale inventories, and looking at it separately from both a production and consumption perspective, would be more effective.

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