Creating a common greenhouse gas reporting infrastructure is a key step in the fight against global warming—so that organizations from Newfoundland to Baja are measuring and publicly reporting their emissions the same way. That's why the work of The Climate Registry is so essential. This new non-profit organization is developing consistent reporting and measurement standards across industry sectors and borders. Still growing, its Governing Board includes 39 U.S. states, eight Canadian provinces, six Mexican states and three Native American tribes—each of whom agrees to support the organization's standards. While participating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, PG&E announced it is a founding reporter in The Climate Registry—a natural extension of our role as a charter member of the California Climate Action Registry. The Climate Registry provides a necessary framework for organizations like PG&E that are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
Diane Wittenberg is the Executive Director of The Climate Registry, www.theclimateregistry.org, pioneering the development of key protocols and infrastructure to establish a common accounting standard for greenhouse gas emissions.
Why was The Climate Registry created?
With greenhouse gas emissions, there's been a void of leadership at the federal level. So states and regions have stepped in. They knew that every state or provincial policy should be underpinned by standardized, consistent measurement. And so, they created The Climate Registry. We play a very important behind-the-scenes role. We ensure that everyone can trust that a ton is a ton when it comes to measuring greenhouse gas emissions.
How have you achieved so much already?
The Climate Registry is built on the foundation and experience of the California Climate Action Registry. This has allowed us to hit the ground running and work more quickly across North America. We've also refined our protocols through interaction with international organizations.
What's the biggest challenge you face?
Getting everyone to agree to calculate greenhouse gas emissions in the same way! But consistency leads to comparability and to transparency, which is really important. My job is to encourage our members to think about these issues in the same way and to exercise their own policy authority on top of a common accounting framework.
Why voluntarily report emissions?
I think that companies like PG&E that started reporting their greenhouse gas emissions early have a competitive advantage. In a carbon-constrained future, companies that act fast, early and decisively are going to be winners.
How has PG&E supported your efforts?
PG&E has always been a big supporter—first of the California Climate Action Registry, and now of The Climate Registry. You've done excellent reporting of your own greenhouse gas emissions. You've also helped recruit others to report. And I feel it has really made a difference given the respect people have for PG&E's environmental leadership.
What's your view of California's leadership?
For years, California's environmental laws have been considered a model for the federal government. Often, California rules are also the choice if states want to go over and above what the federal government requires. And that tradition is continuing with greenhouse gas emissions. California has the only economywide greenhouse gas reduction law in the nation and it will, by virtue of being first, become a model for the federal government and other states.
What will it take for PG&E to become the utility of the future?
First, produce low-carbon electricity; PG&E is pretty far along, but your sector produces a lot of carbon. Second, maintain your environmental leadership and creativity. Third, hire employees for their values and their skills, because they reflect what you're trying to get to. And finally, work with your customers on climate change through programs like ClimateSmart™, where PG&E has been just spectacular in requiring quality offsets. It shows the kind of integrity and respect you have for the customer and the environment, which is admirable.