The historic Paris Agreement brokered in December 2015 established universal and harmonized measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) provisions for climate change mitigation. A common system of transparency now applies to all countries. MRV is central to effectively implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted under the Paris Agreement, which describe countries’ mitigation goals and policies. Measurement is needed to identify emissions trends, determine where to focus greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts, track mitigation-related support, assess whether mitigation actions planned under NDCs or otherwise are proving effective, evaluate the impact of support received, and monitor progress achieved in reducing emissions. Reporting and verification are important for ensuring transparency, good governance, accountability, and credibility of results, and for building confidence that resources are being utilized effectively.
Many countries have engaged in MRV to serve a variety of domestic and international purposes. This term is widely used in the climate change field, but often without a clear reference to the type of MRV being discussed. This often leads to confusion because the underlying nature of MRV-related activities differs according to their context and application. This article attempts to clarify the term as it is used in the context of climate mitigation, by describing different types of MRV and how they differ from one another.
Three types of mitigation-related MRV are discussed in the paper (Figure ES-1):
- MRV of GHG emissions, conducted at national, organizational, and/or facility level to understand an entity’s emissions profile and report it in the form of an emissions inventory.
- MRV of mitigation actions (e.g., policies and projects) to assess their GHG effects and sustainable development (non-GHG) effects as well as to monitor their implementation. This type of MRV focuses on estimating the change in GHG emissions or other non-GHG variables.
- MRV of support (e.g., climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity building) to track provision and receipt of climate support, monitor results achieved, and assess impact.
The article aims to disentangle the concept to make it easier for practitioners to understand which types of MRV are most relevant to them, which methodologies can be used for each type, who should perform the related activities, and how often. Accordingly, the article presents some initial questions to set readers on the path to identifying the appropriate type and level of MRV:
- Why undertake measurement, reporting, and verification? This question addresses the objectives and purpose of MRV, which are critical elements in creating ownership of related initiatives at every level.
- How will measuring, reporting, and verification be performed? This question focuses on the methodological and technical guidelines and processes involved in performing MRV.
- When will measuring, reporting, and verification be performed? This question helps define the appropriate timeframe for undertaking MRV.
- Who will carry out measuring, reporting, and verification? It is important to identify clearly the entities and individuals responsible for undertaking MRV.
There are other sub-categories of MRV, for example, MRV of emissions at the sub-national level (e.g., provincial and city level), but the discussion here is limited to those that are understood to be the most relevant for national decision-makers. Further, the article deals with setting up MRV from the perspective of government and institutions, rather than that of an individual organization or project developer.
Various Types of Mitigation-related MRV
This is meant to be an introductory article to clarify the different types of MRV relevant to climate mitigation. It is aimed at national decision-makers and practitioners from environment and development organizations with no or little prior knowledge. The article does not provide detailed guidance on implementing each type of MRV, nor does it cover monitoring and evaluation of adaptation efforts.
We hope that this article will enhance understanding of the landscape of MRV, the ways in which different types of MRV fulfill particular needs and utilize respective methodologies, and the synergies among them.
Effective mitigation of climate change requires a clear understanding of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their sources, and regular monitoring of mitigation strategies and their impacts. The practice of “MRV,” which integrates three independent, but related, processes of measurement or monitoring (M), reporting (R), and verification (V), is fundamental in this regard (Ninomiya 2012).
MRV includes the following steps and procedures (Dagnet et al. 2014):
- Measure or monitor (M) data and information on emissions, mitigation actions, and support. This may entail direct physical measurement of GHG emissions, estimating emissions or emissions reductions utilizing activity data and emission factors, calculating changes relevant to sustainable development, and collecting information about support for climate change mitigation.
- Report (R) by compiling this information in inventories and other standardized formats to make it accessible to a range of users and facilitate public disclosure of information.
- Verify (V) by periodically subjecting the reported information to some form of review or analysis or independent assessment to establish completeness and reliability. Verification helps to ensure accuracy and conformance with any established procedures, and can provide meaningful feedback for future improvement.
The term MRV first appeared in the context of climate change mitigation policy as part of the Bali Action Plan (2007), which called for “measurable, reportable, and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions” and stated that they should be “supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building, in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner” (UNFCCC 2007). Subsequently, efforts have been made to fill in the details and define what should be measured, reported, and verified, how, by whom, and for what purpose.
Most recently, under the Paris Agreement, it was agreed that all countries will provide emissions data and track progress against their contributions. MRV systems will be a significant component in effectively tracking and improving the implementation of mitigation goals and policies articulated under countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) (CDKN Global 2016).
This article brings together existing knowledge to provide an introductory guide to MRV related to mitigation efforts, with the aim of clearly distinguishing among different types of MRV and enhancing readers’ understanding of the concept of MRV. It seeks to inform a range of groups, including representatives of governmental organizations at national and sub-national levels, donor agencies and development banks, and research organizations, which do not have prior knowledge of the concept and are interested in learning about the basics of MRV.
Detailed guidance on implementing MRV systems and discussion of adaptation-related monitoring and evaluation are outside the scope of this paper. Significant literature exists on the essential building blocks of MRV systems, including establishing institutional arrangements and data management systems, and building capacities.2 Further, case studies are available identifying good practices based on the experiences of entities setting up different kinds of MRV systems at different levels.
This article describes three different types of MRV of mitigation in Section 2. Section 3 walks readers through a list of questions designed to assess which type of MRV would be most appropriate for their needs and to help with the first step toward implementing a comprehensive MRV system. The final section presents a number of examples to emphasize the complementary nature of different types of MRV.
2. Three Types of MRV
Even before the term MRV emerged under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), some form of monitoring and evaluation (M&E)4 had routinely been used by governments and other entities to accurately and transparently assess their actions and goals. Domestically, conducting MRV helps countries understand key sources and sinks of emissions, design effective mitigation strategies as part of their NDCs or other programs, assess impacts of mitigation projects and policies, track progress toward climate goals, meet stakeholder demands for public disclosure of GHG information, and enhance credibility and promote good governance, among other objectives. Internationally, MRV enables countries to meet their international reporting obligations, compare their national mitigation commitments, track emissions trends, build trust in their actions and reported data, unlock new sources of finance to tackle climate change by demonstrating impact and good governance practices, and so on. Entities should employ principles of relevance, completeness, consistency, transparency, and accuracy to establish MRV systems to track and report information for both domestic and international audiences (GHGP 2004, Kolar 2013).
This article categorizes MRV of mitigation into three types (Pang et al. 2014):
- MRV of GHG emissions refers to estimating, reporting, and verifying actual emissions over a defined period of time. This type of MRV can be performed at national level, or by organizations and facilities. For example, national GHG inventories include an account of emissions from a country for a particular period, are reported to UNFCCC, and undergo some form of review.
- MRV of mitigation actions involves assessing (exante or ex-post) GHG emissions reductions and/or sustainable development (non-GHG) effects of policies, projects, and actions, as well as monitoring their implementation progress. It also involves assessing progress toward mitigation goals. An example would be a national government estimating the GHG and job growth-related impacts of its home insulation subsidy program. While MRV of GHG emissions measures actual emissions, MRV of mitigation actions estimates the change in emissions and other non-GHG variables that results from those actions.
Types of Mitigation-related MRV
- MRV of support focuses on monitoring the provision and receipt of financial flows, technical knowledge, and capacity building, and evaluating the results and impact of support. An example of this kind of MRV would be developing countries tracking climatespecific finance received through bilateral or multilateral channels.
There are other sub-categories of MRV that are outside the scope of the paper, for example, MRV of emissions at the sub-national level (e.g., provincial and city level), the sector level (e.g., power generation sector, cement sector), or emissions associated with a product’s lifecycle. The types of MRV considered here are understood to be those most relevant for national decision-makers. It should also be noted that there are synergies across different types of MRV which are discussed further in Section
2.1 MRV of GHG Emissions
MRV of GHG emissions entails measuring and monitoring the GHG emissions and removals7 associated with activities of entities such as countries, organizations, or facilities, reporting the collected data in a GHG inventory or other forms, and undertaking review and verification. The article discusses MRV of emissions undertaken at the following levels:
- National, which involves measuring, reporting, and verifying the total amount of GHG emissions and removals resulting from human activities in a country. These are often reported in a national GHG inventory categorized across four major economic sectors: energy; industrial processes and product use (IPPU); agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU); and waste.
- Organization, which involves building an organization-wide inventory of total emissions and removals from all sources (including stationary and mobile sources, and process and fugitive emissions) within the organization’s boundary.
- Facility, which involves assessing total GHG emissions and removals from all sources within a single facility (e.g., power plant, factory, or waste disposal site), as opposed to an entire organization, to produce a facility-level inventory.
This article does not consider MRV of emissions performed by individual facilities and organizations. Rather, the emphasis is on the role of government in setting rules and guidance for MRV of emissions by these entities.
MRV of Emissions
2.2 MRV of Mitigation Actions
In this article, “mitigation actions” refer to interventions and commitments, including goals, policies, and projects, undertaken by a government or another entity to reduce GHG emissions.10 Examples include national climate plans, nationally determined contributions (NDCs), policies setting emissions standards for vehicles, regional emissions trading systems, sustainable palm oil production policy, and rehabilitation projects to improve degraded land. MRV of mitigation actions includes estimating, reporting, and verifying their GHG and sustainable development effects, as well as monitoring their implementation. The following definitions may be helpful here (GHGP 2014a, GHGP 2014b).
A mitigation goal is a commitment by an entity to reduce, limit the increase of, or enhance the removal of GHG emissions, or to reduce GHG emissions intensity by a specified quantity, to be achieved by a future date.
Mitigation policies refer to interventions to reduce GHG emissions made or mandated by a government, institution, or other entity, and may include: laws, directives, and decrees; regulations and standards; taxes, charges, subsidies and incentives; information instruments; voluntary agreements; implementation of new technologies, processes, or practices; and public or private sector financing and investment; among others. These are termed mitigation policies and actions.
A mitigation project refers to a specific activity or set of activities intended to reduce GHG emissions, increase the storage of carbon, or enhance GHG removals from the atmosphere.
MRV of mitigation actions involves an assessment of the effects and implementation progress associated with mitigation actions
MRV of Mitigation Actions
- GHG effects refer to actual or projected changes in GHG emissions and removals—as opposed to absolute levels of emissions and removals—due to the implementation of mitigation actions. MRV of GHG effects involves estimating changes in emissions resulting from all significant GHG effects of a mitigation action, such as enhanced GHG removals due to tree-planting as part of degraded forestland policy, or a decrease in GHG emissions due to reduced fossil fuel consumption or electricity use resulting from a home-insulation subsidy policy.
- Sustainable development effects refer to changes in environmental, social, and/or economic conditions that occur as a result of mitigation actions. Examples include: measuring and reporting changes in average household income resulting from the sale of nontimber forest products (e.g., mushrooms, honey, edible nuts) due to a policy to improve degraded forestland; assessing the changes in household disposable income resulting from a home-insulation subsidy policy; or assessing changes in the incidence of health problems due to air pollution among the population affected by a new bus rapid transit system.
- Implementation progress refers to monitoring, reporting, and verifying conformity with agreed modalities and approaches, and assessing progress made toward the implementation of a mitigation action. In the case of a degraded forestland policy, this could entail regularly monitoring the number of forest managers trained, percentage change in annual reforested area, and number of saplings transplanted for reforestation, and verifying whether trainingrelated guidelines, if any, are being followed. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to mitigation actions, which are put forth in their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Box 2 highlights key details relating to MRV or transparency provisions of NDCs in the Agreement,
Box 1 | Measurement, Reporting, and Verification of Nationally Determined Contributions
2.3 MRV of Support
Support refers to climate finance, technology transfer, and/or capacity building. It includes monetary support— such as climate finance for developing a national emissions trading system, investments in low-emissions technologies, and funds toward organizing training workshops for energy auditors. The definition of support also includes non-monetary support—such as technical advice to design national energy efficiency standards or labeling schemes. For simplicity, this article limits itself to MRV of monetary support; often technology transfer and capacity building are not monetized.
MRV of monetary support encompasses measuring, reporting, and verifying the provision of funds by donor countries, the receipt of funds by recipient countries, and the results and impact achieved that can be attributed to these funds:
- Provision of support includes identifying and reporting relevant data on overall support provided by donor countries through various channels, such as multilateral and bilateral institutions, and ensuring that they are reliable. The EU tracks and reports information on mitigation-related financial and technical support provided to developing countries; this is an example of MRV of provision of support (Iro 2014). Relevant information to be collected includes the financial instrument used, recipient country or institution, and information related to the mitigation project.
- Receipt of support involves recipient countries tracking and reporting mitigation-related support received from donor countries in the form of various financial instruments such as loans, grants, etc. (Tirpak et al. 2012). For instance, Indonesia reports information on finance needs and finance received in its national communications13 to the UNFCCC.
- Results/impact of support involves monitoring the results achieved and evaluating how effectively climate support is utilized toward achieving mitigation-related objectives. Indicators to measure output and impact of support for various mitigation efforts can include, for example, the number of emissions-reduction projects implemented with the support, GHG emissions avoided, energy savings achieved, and private investment mobilized.
MRV of Support
3. Identifying the type of MRV needed
The following questions can assist decision-makers within government and other institutions, who have been tasked with setting up MRV systems, in identifying which type of MRV may be best matched to their needs. These should be considered in the order presented because the answer to a particular question will inform and influence the answers to subsequent questions.
- Why carry out MRV? Answering this question describes the objectives of the MRV process and helps to build ownership and consensus around MRVrelated initiatives.
- How will MRV be carried out? Here the focus is on outlining the methodological and technical guidelines and processes that will be necessary to perform MRV.
- When will MRV be performed? This involves deciding on the appropriate timeframe to undertake MRV.
- Who will carry out MRV? The next step is to identify entities that can undertake MRV. It also considers the resources and capacity that will be required, and where these could come from, for example, from the national budget or international support.
3.1 Why Carry Out Measurement, Reporting, and Verification?
Different types of MRV fulfill distinct objectives, which eventually determine the design of the MRV system. Therefore, entities should first define the purpose of conducting MRV to ensure that the system is designed to serve their domestic goals and priorities, while also fulfilling international obligations. As discussed in Box 1, under the Paris Agreement, an enhanced transparency framework has been established for both action—for post-2020 climate change commitments, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs)—and support, with flexibility for countries to take account of their different capacities (UNFCCC 2015). Each country will regularly provide a national inventory report of emissions and removals, as well as information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving its NDC. Countries are also expected to provide information on climate impacts and adaptation, as well as information on financial, technology transfer, and capacity-building support provided, needed, and received. Common modalities, procedures, and guidelines will be developed in the future for the transparency of mitigation action and support and will guide the provision of such information, which will then undergo a technical expert review. Domestically, countries may be interested in conducting MRV to understand their emissions profile and track emissions from major industrial sources, so as to shape mitigation policies. Or they may want to assess and monitor the sustainable development effects of climate change measures. They may also be interested in tracking progress toward climate finance goals (Table 2).
3.2 How will Measurement, Reporting, and Verification be Carried Out?
One of the important issues to address in operationalizing MRV is the provision of methodological and technical guidelines. Methods to measure, report, and verify information differ based on what is assessed and at what level. In some cases, such as MRV of GHG effects from mitigation projects, a variety of methods may be available for use; in other instances, such as building national inventories, there is only one internationally accepted method, that is, the IPCC Guidelines. Methods and tools exist for undertaking MRV (e.g., of emissions or emissions reductions) at different levels (Table 3). Available methods may need to be customized or new methods may have to be developed to suit particular needs and circumstances. Appendix 1 provides links to some of the commonly used methods for different types of MRV.
Table 2: Objectives of MRV Types
Table 3–A: Methods for MRV of GHG Emissions
3.3 When Will Measurement, Reporting, and Verification be Performed?
The key consideration here is when to undertake MRV, whether it should be undertaken before, during, or after the emitting activity has been completed. Undertaking MRV after the activity has happened is called ex-post assessment (e.g., performing MRV after a mitigation project has been completed and emissions reductions have been realized). MRV to assess the future effects of an activity, such as the anticipated effects of a mitigation policy, is called ex-ante assessment. Implementation progress entails monitoring while the activity is being performed. Some types of MRV can only be carried out expost while others may be carried out ex-ante and ex-post (Table 4). Even for ex-post MRV, it is useful to plan early and lay down monitoring systems to ensure that adequate information is available later to undertake MRV.
It should also be noted that performing MRV is an ongoing process and decision-makers should consider how often measuring and monitoring will be undertaken, as well as the frequency of reporting and verification.
Table 4: Timeframe for Different Types of MRV
3.4 Who Will Carry Out Measurement, Reporting, and Verification?
MRV processes may be implemented by a variety of institutions, including governments, civil society, research organizations, and consultants. Some aspects of MRV may need to be carried out domestically, while others may be performed by an international institution, such as the UNFCCC. Institutions and governmental bodies that form part of the MRV system vary from country to country and with the type and level of MRV (Table 5). Often, a lead institution may work with other contributing institutions and agencies to implement MRV systems. In the case of MRV of emissions at the national level, the lead institution tends to be an environmental ministry or ministry of science and technology, working with other contributing ministries (e.g., ministry for industry, agriculture, waste, energy, transport, etc.). In addition, other entities such as research and academic institutions as well as private sector bodies often collect and provide necessary activity data for national inventories. For CDM projects, countries have established Designated Operational Entities (DOEs), often in environment ministries, to validate mitigation project proposals or verify whether planned emission reductions were achieved (CDM n.d.).
Table 5: Entities Responsible for Implementing the MRV Process
Related to the question of who will undertake MRV is the issue of their capacity to carry out MRV-related tasks. Many developing countries need strengthened capacity to fulfill their commitments regarding transparency and MRV. Depending on the type of MRV, different resources and capacities may be required, and it is important to assess how they may be sourced, for example, from the national budget or international support. Table 6 describes various kinds of capacities that may need to be enhanced. Under the Paris Agreement, the Capacitybuilding Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) has been established to strengthen institutional and technical capacity, and support developing countries in establishing effective MRV systems (Dagnet and Waskow 2015).
Table 6: Capacities Required for MRV
4. Relationships among different types of MRV
Different types and levels of MRV can use common methodologies and data, and the same institutions can perform different MRV-related functions. For example, the methodology used to estimate GHG emissions from natural gas use may also be used to build a national GHG inventory and to assess the effects of energy policy. A single lead institution might coordinate all national MRV processes. Entities should identify areas of overlap between their different MRV processes and explore ways of increasing synergies to improve the efficiency of the overall MRV system. This can help in developing a comprehensive MRV system while utilizing fewer overall resources, and provides an opportunity to customize the MRV system to serve domestic objectives.
Below we describe four illustrative examples of overlapping relationships between various types and levels of MRV. Other synergies are also possible but a description of all synergies is beyond the scope of this article.
4.1 Relationship between National Inventories and Facility
Inventories National inventories and facility inventories can complement each other in two important ways (Singh et al. 2014) (Figure 5):
- First, source-level data from facilities can be used to improve the accuracy of national emissions estimates and provide a reference for validating national numbers. However, in order to facilitate consistent use of facility-level data in national inventories, certain conditions should be met. There should be consistent definitions of emissions source categories between inventories and completeness of data within each reporting category.
- Second, because national inventory systems are typically in place before corporate/facility inventories, practitioners can build on existing institutional resources, technical expertise, and data systems related to national inventories when developing facility inventory systems. This approach can increase synergies and efficiencies and get the most from limited resources.
Figure 5: Synergies between National- and Facility-Level Inventories
Leveraging these linkages can enhance consistency and accuracy of national datasets and formalize the use of data from facility inventories in the national inventory system, thereby strengthening overall GHG management and mitigation efforts within limited resources.
4.2 Relationship between National Inventories and MRV of Mitigation Actions
National inventories are a critical element in designing national mitigation goals, tracking goal progress, and assessing goal achievement (Figure 6). When designing a mitigation goal, national inventories are needed to identify high-emitting sectors, understand mitigation opportunities, and target significant emissions sources. To track progress toward the goal, an inventory is needed to calculate base year emissions or as the starting point for estimating baseline scenario emissions, depending on the goal type. National inventories are also needed throughout the goal period to assess progress toward the goal. At the end of the goal period, governments need to review the national inventory to determine whether their goal has been achieved.
However, at the same time, tracking progress toward goals differs from inventory accounting in a number of important ways. While a GHG inventory covers the full range of a jurisdiction’s emissions and removals across all sectors and gases, accounting for mitigation goals focuses only on those sectors and gases included in the goal boundary, which may be a subset of total emissions. Furthermore, goals accounting can include purchases and sales of transferable emissions units (such as offset credits and tradable allowances) and emissions and removals from the land sector, which may be accounted for under a different inventory system. Therefore, tracking progress toward mitigation goals should be carried out as a complement to developing and updating a GHG inventory.
Figure 6: Synergies between MRV of Emissions and MRV of Mitigation Actions
4.3 Relationship between MRV of GHG Effects and Tracking Progress toward Mitigation Goals
When designing mitigation goals, entities need to decide the absolute amount or percentage of emissions reductions to be targeted. As an input to this process, governments can utilize information collected through MRV of GHG effects of policies and gain a better understanding of the likely emissions reduction impact of various existing and/or planned mitigation policies. Such information can be used to assess the contribution of these policies toward reducing national emissions and inform the mitigation goal. Conversely, after deciding on a mitigation goal and calculating the emissions reductions needed to achieve it, governments can assess the emissions impacts of their mitigation policies to determine whether they are collectively sufficient to achieve the goal. They can continue to track policy implementation, in order to determine whether the country is on the right path to achieve its mitigation goal.
4.4 Relationship between Assessing GHG Effects and Sustainable Development Impacts of a Mitigation Policy
The basic procedures that are required to assess the GHG effects of a policy are applicable when assessing sustainable development impacts; they include developing a baseline (business-as-usual) scenario and a scenario with the policy in place.15 This is especially true for sustainable development impacts most clearly linked to GHG emissions in terms of data needs, such as energy use, waste generation, or local air pollution. For example, estimating GHG reductions from the promotion of public transit requires information on how many passengers no longer drive by car, from which fuel savings and GHG reductions can be calculated. The same information can be used to estimate money saved through avoided fuel purchases, and reduced emissions of local air pollutants, such as particulate matter, ozone, SO2, and NOx. However, to assess impacts that are less directly related to GHG emissions, such as public health impacts or broader economic impacts like changes in GDP or jobs, additional methods and data will be necessary.
Suggested Citation: Singh, N., J. Finnegan, and K. Levin. 2016. “MRV 101: Understanding Measurement, Reporting, and Verification of Climate Change Mitigation.” Working Paper. Washington DC: World Resources Institute. Available online at http://www.wri.org/mrv101.