End2End: Attributing Climate Action Along Global Value Chains

UN Climate Change News, 10 June 2021 – A new project partnership has been launched between UN Climate Change and the University of Edinburgh to develop a framework for assigning, assessing and evaluating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within value chains. By allowing a range of emission reduction interventions in value chains to be modelled and total reductions to be calculated, the project will make it possible to assess the maximum reduction in GHG emissions for the minimum investment.

The need for net-zero pledges aligned with the Paris Agreement now widely acknowledged, but their translation into tangible outcomes remains less well understood and this will limit the pace of behavioural change. The project was launched to address this gap.

Project Team Leader, Navraj Singh Ghaleigh of the University of Edinburgh, said: “The systemic change necessary to comply with the Paris Agreement’s temperature target requires genuinely new technologies, innovative policies, and better targeted financing.”

“These techniques are available, but often are not recognized for the value they can add because the emission reductions of these measures are often indirect,” he explained.

The partnership will seek to identify and categorise indirect enablers of more impactful emission reduction solutions and develop and digitise a methodological framework by which their climate contributions might be measured and attributed, taking into account all the players in their value chain.

In this way, emission reduction actions can be better prioritised.

“The depth and scale of change envisaged by the Paris Agreement requires a broad range of disruptive climate solutions to be developed by solution providers such as financiers, cleantech start-ups, customers and even individual citizens,” said Massamba Thioye, Manager of UN Climate Change’s Mitigation Division.

“For this to work, there is an urgent need for a reliable system to measure and attribute credit for GHG emissions reductions to actors and actions within value chains. The project will focus on this to incentivise innovation, enable recognition, address climate efficient production and consumption, and boost the uptake of renewables,” he added.

Specifically, the project will determine the GHG emission reductions that technology, finance, innovation, culture change and other levers for climate action can achieve, and attribute these GHG emission reductions to components along value chains. The project will also forecast the GHG emission reduction potential for components of existing and new value chains, such as product manufacture, service delivery or societal interactions.

Activities under the collaboration may include:

  • Identifying the positive impact on climate of activities in a value chain attributable to a particular actor or action, and which arise from the application of any particular climate solution within the boundary of any of the organizations operating in the value chain;
  • Defining key performance indicators and measuring the impact in the form of contribution to the long-term climate goals (‘Paris temperature target’);
  • Identifying the key enablers of the impact in the value chain;
  • Constructing the causal chain, in reverse, by building a theory of change, to identify the actions, outputs and outcomes that enabled the impact(s);
  • Determining the relative value of each contribution to the impact;
  • Tracking changes to the contributions/impact over time and updating the attributions already decided in the previous step.

Designing, building and testing this framework, and the individual operations required to enable operation of this framework, are the broader goals of the project. The aim is for the project to deliver:

  • A framework for the measurement and attribution of the impact of climate action undertaken in a value chain. The framework may include several methodologies to address specificities of elements of the value chain, while ensuring comprehensive coverage of the enabling framework;
  • A digitized version of the methodologies in the framework; and
  • A platform where the digitized methodologies will be used alongside other relevant digital technologies such as Blockchain, IoT and AI for an automation of the entire data value chain (data production, data transfer and data use).

The collaboration complements other recently announced partnerships entered into by UN Climate Change, particularly the Coalition on Materials Emissions Transparency (COMET).

At the University of Edinburgh the project team brings together Navraj Singh Ghaleigh and Justin Macinante from the School of Law, Ashley Lloyd from the Business School, Adrian Jackson from the computing centre (EPCC), and Markus Hüwener, an international advisor and carbon market expert.

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