Expert Voices: Malcolm Shield, Climate Policy Manager for the City of Vancouver, on the future of greenhouse gas emissions reporting — the inventory specialist

With the recent launch of the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) there is a clear need to develop a widely recognized set of professional skills so that cities can hire people trained in the compilation of community-scale emissions inventories.

To this end, the World Bank, in association with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Korean Government, recently convened a number of experts from the field of greenhouse gas inventory reporting for a workshop in Yokohama to discuss what this professional skill set would look like. This is part of a larger effort by the World Bank to establish a certification program for people to train in this emergent field.

Representatives from C40, World Resources Institute (WRI), and ICLEI - Local Government for Sustainability – the three core GPC partners – attended the workshop, in addition to inventory specialists from all levels of government and the private sector, with geographic reach covering Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and Southeast Asia and Oceania.

The group undertook a highly-structured program to establish what key skills might be required of an inventory specialist. Despite the broad range of professional backgrounds, current job descriptions, and geographic representation, it was quickly apparent that there are common themes to developing community-scale GHG inventories. These themes all converged into one underlying discipline that drives the work of inventory specialists: data management.

Community-scale data is often incomplete, contradictory and not specifically what is required by the calculation methodologies. As a GHG inventory specialist there is a need to be able to interpret the data you do have, understand the significance of data gaps, and find data alternatives and proxies. There is also a clear need for excellent interpersonal skills. It is rare that the data required by an inventory specialist is readily available; they must build, manage and maintain professional relationships to source the data needed.

Also inherent to the role is quality control and quality assurance (QC/QA), which are fundamental to producing an inventory that is as robust as possible and defensible to decision makers and the public alike. This QC/QA process is one recurrent step, like many that come with managing projects. The workshop group soon identified that in many cases delivering an inventory requires additional work, including the management of scope, schedule, budget, resources, risk and quality.

Regardless of the strength of the inventory produced by an inventory specialist, the intended use of the inventory must be borne in mind. The development of an inventory is typically the first step in developing climate targets and plans, with the inventory then used to track progress and inform the narrative supporting the imperative for action. Although the broader roles that an inventory specialist supports were beyond the scope of the workshop, it is apparent that inventory specialists are soon to become the bedrock of effective climate action.