Greenhouse Gas Emissions

For details about this credit, including the criteria, reporting timeframe, applicability, scoring, and more, please review the full credit language:

Frequently Asked Questions

How has this credit changed from STARS 2.1 to 2.2?

Substantive changes have been made to this credit. It has been simplified by moving disaggregated GHG emissions reporting and points earned for conducting an inventory to the revamped Emissions Inventory and Disclosure credit. SIMAP and the Climate Registry are now recognized as GHG accounting tools. A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the 2.2 Summary of changes.

My institution uses SIMAP for its greenhouse gas emissions reporting. Are there any specific guidelines for SIMAP users?

AASHE has published a short guide that maps SIMAP data fields to STARS reporting fields.

Can renewable energy credits (RECs) be counted as carbon sinks or offsets?

Purchased RECs or Guarantees of Origin (GOs) may NOT be counted as carbon sinks or offsets. Only the following carbon sinks qualify:

  • Third-party verified, purchased carbon offsets
  • Institution-catalyzed carbon offsets (popularly known as “local offsets”)
  • Carbon storage from on-site composting.

Note: GHG emissions data should not be adjusted manually to account for carbon sinks, since this is done automatically in the Reporting Tool.

Why aren’t RECs counted as carbon offsets?

While both offsets and RECs can help an institution lower its emissions footprint, they are different instruments used for different purposes:

  • Offsets are used to address direct and indirect GHG emissions by verifying global emissions reductions at additional, external projects. Offsets (verified emissions reductions) are subtracted from an institution’s gross emissions to determine net emissions.
  • RECs are used to address indirect GHG emissions associated with purchased electricity (scope 2 emissions) by verifying use of zero- or low-emissions renewable source of electricity. RECs (MWh of renewable energy) are used in the calculation of gross, market-based scope 2 emissions. Unlike offsets, they are not subtracted from gross emissions.

Learn more from the Green Power Partnership.

Please also note that GHG emissions data should not be adjusted manually based on benefits of carbon offsets, since this is included in the credit calculation.

Does material that is transported off-campus for composting count as a carbon sink?

To avoid double-counting, the compost may be produced off-site, but must originate from on-site materials and be returned to the campus for use as a soil amendment.

Does carbon sequestration qualify as a sink or offset?

While v2.1 recognized sequestration as an offset without conditions, consistent with SIMAP and relevant protocols from The Offset Network, v2.2 does not.

A sequestration project may qualify as an institution-catalyzed carbon offset if it has been certified/verified or quantified using a method that addresses all of the accounting issues listed in the Technical Manual (including demonstration of additionality).

Non-additional sequestration may be reported for transparency purposes in the optional reporting field provided in v2.2.

What information is required when reporting carbon sinks?

If reporting carbon sinks and offsets, your descriptive response should include the vendor, project source, verification program, and contract timeframes and should support all areas where a number above 0 is entered.

Are there other credits that ask for the same information?

Please check to see if:

  • The weighted campus user (WCU) figures reported in this credit are consistent with Academics and Demographics (IC 3/PRE 5). Valid discrepancies should be clarified in the Notes field (for instance, if a different performance year or data source was used).
  • The gross floor area and energy intensive space reported in this credit are consistent with Operational Characteristics (IC 2/PRE 4). Valid discrepancies should be clarified in the Notes field (for instance, if a different performance year or data source was used).
  • See related Help Center article on sharing information between credits.

Templates & Tools

GHG Emissions

Carbon Sinks

Example Responses

Version 2.2

  • Lawrence University – SIMAP used for emissions reporting. Numeric responses fall within acceptable ranges, and carbon storage from on-site composting is clarified.

Version 2.1

  • Babson CollegeClear explanation and justification for the drop in emissions under the optional field for “A brief description of the institution’s GHG emissions reduction initiatives…”
  • University of Missouri – Clear explanation and justification for the drop in emissions under “A brief description of the institution’s GHG emissions reduction initiatives…”
  • Thompson Rivers University – Describes how all British Columbia public institutions are mandated to be carbon neutral every year, resulting in offsets that exceed total emissions.
  • University at Buffalo – Good reporting example of an institution using SIMAP, where RECs are deducted from purchased electricity and not counted separately.
  • West Chester University of Pennsylvania – The university uses SIMAP for GHG emissions reporting. Since RECs are fully accounted for in the SIMAP tool, they were not reported separately under Emissions reductions attributable to Renewable Energy Certificate (REC)…”

Common Issues Identified During Review

  • Score outlier: Uncommon for institutions to earn 6 out of 8 points or above. If a high score is reported, check closely for the issues below. Exemplary performance can be clarified in the descriptive fields.  
  • Comparative outlier: Gross Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions between Performance Year and Baseline Year. Any significant outliers that are valid should be clarified in the descriptive fields or Notes section.  
  • Numeric outliers: Responses of zero under either Gross Scope 1 GHG emissions from stationary combustion or Gross Scope 2 GHG emissions from purchased electricity are unlikely. Any significant outliers that are valid should be clarified in the descriptive fields or Notes section. 
  • Carbon Sinks – Response under “A brief description of the offsets in each category reported above, including vendor, project source, verification program and contract timeframes” should include the necessary detail and support all areas where a number above 0 is entered. 
  • Data consistency: Weighted campus user (WCU) figures should be consistent across PRE 5 and OP 2 if the same performance year is used. Valid discrepancies should be clarified under the Notes field. 
  • Data consistency: Gross floor area and energy intensive building space should be consistent across PRE 4 and OP 2 if the same or similar performance year is used. Valid discrepancies should be clarified under the Notes field.

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