Resource centre for greenhouse gas accounting
Ministère de la Transition Écologique
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GHG reporting for territories


Assessing GHG emissions on a regional or sub-regional scale involves studying all the flows that the territory's functioning entails. Please notice that the word territory is used here to refer to geographical divisions such as:

  • communes (town, village or municipality)
  • départements (districts)
  • régions (regions)
  • agglomérations (conurbations)
  • a regional nature park
  • etc…

In order to assess the GHG emissions from a territory it is necessary to define:

The recommendations made are not intended to replace current regulations when they can be applied, nor are they intended to compete against an organization's environmental policies or expertise.


Different possible approaches

Carbon footprint assessment of territories can be undertaken from different logical perspectives, unlike organizations'. The principal approaches are:

  • Spatial inventory of GHG emissions
  • Holistic approach
  • Consumption approach
Spatial inventory of GHG emissions Holistic approach Consumption approach

Basis: national method under the Kyoto Protocol applied at the territorial level


Emissions covered: direct emissions and Scope 2 emissions for PCIT




Basis: assessing all the emissions that the activity of a territory entails


Emissions covered: direct and indirect emissions


Methods: Bilan Carbone® Territoire; Global Protocol for Community; PAS 2070; etc.


Basis: assessing all emissions necessary for inhabitants in a territory


Emissions covered: direct and indirect emissions (imports)


Methods: SOeS; PAS 2050; Eco2Climat; etc.


Before launching into a GHG assessment, local authorities must consider the following question: « which method and for what purpose? ».


Spatial inventory of GHG emissions

This is the method used to account for and report on France's emissions with regard to the European and international communities. It is about quantifying greenhouse gases emitted "physically" all over the country. It is a geographical representation of emissions.

CITEPA is responsible for drawing up national inventories.

What is a territorial inventory?

Quantification of all GHG emissions directly emitted by all parties involved, sector by sector, all over a territory. It does not cover upstream processes required to meet the needs of a territory, nor any downstream induced effect.

The resulting inventory is sometimes completed with a spatially explicit mapping, which is a gridded spatial disaggregation of emissions with a rather small grid size that can be reduced to km²/h units.

Who uses it?

This is the method used by AASQAs* as part of their monitoring activities of local air quality with respect to different pollutants (particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, CO2,...etc.). Each AASQA can use its own specific tools as long as they comply with the national methodology defined by the National Coordination Centre of Territorial Inventories (PCIT for its acronym in French), whose methodological guidance was published in March 2013 by the Ministry of Ecology in partnership with the French reference framework OMINEA** (Organisation and Methods of National Atmospheric Emission Inventories in France) developed by CITEPA. This document is updated yearly.

CITEPA also compiles regional, provincial and local inventories to support the development of regional climate, air and energy plans or other operations.

Who is this approach intended for?

Primarily, for local authorities that are AASQAs members, as part of the air quality monitoring. Some AASQAs also offer their services to other local authorities at the sub-regional level and disseminate their results via on-line tools.

Territorial inventories follow the same method as the one adopted by France for its inventory under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is the method required for SRCAEs*** (regional air climate and energy overall schemes) and is generally used by local governments with the aim of "taking a picture" of direct emissions in their territories with respect to emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases at the national and international levels. It is also implemented for generating quick-to-use ratios such as "tons of CO2/ inhabitant" or "tons of CO2/ GDP unit"

Focus of attention

To properly interpret an inventory, it is essential to be aware of the following elements:

  • the result of a strict inventory is limited to the territory's production, it does not account for the territory's consumption. Thus, local authorities get only a partial panorama of their emissions (for example, for electricity or heat). The National Coordination Centre of Territorial Inventories states that it is essential to account for electricity-related emissions inasmuch as the assessment is carried out with a view to defining reduction actions. To meet the demands of local authorities, AASQAs are now increasingly lending weight to inventories that account for indirect energy (SCOPE 2).
  • Under national inventory regulations, based themselves on international frameworks (Kyoto Protocol, UNFCCC), CO2 emissions from wood combustion are not reported as emissions from the consumer and therefore emitting territory (residential sectors, industries, etc.). Indeed, these emissions (and offset) are taken into account separately in another sector: the Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry sector (LULUCF). CO2 emissions from wood combustion are thus allocated to the territory where the wood is chopped/produced. Consequently, the use of this method in sub-regional areas does not allow a non-forest territory to identify these emissions without adapting national regulations. On a sub-regional scale, the integration of biomass emissions quantified separately via an inventory is technically possible; however, particular attention must be paid to the quality of consumption-related data.


Holistic approach

In order to widen the scope of research to indirect emissions, different methods have been developed. However, these methods have never been standardized and the question of what boundaries must be taken into account is still unclear.

Even so, ADEME favors the holistc approach because it enables all emissions to be accounted for and therefore to draw up an action plan within the framework of a PCET in particular. It is about taking into account ALL the emissions of a territory, whether they are emitted INSIDE or OUTSIDE it.

Understanding the operational boundary of a carbon footprint assessment for territories.

French Version

What is it?

This method aims at accounting for all GHG emissions (direct and indirect) of a territory, whether they are emitted BY or FOR the territory.

Who uses it?

Primarly, private environmental consultancies and specialised organisations proposing methods to cover all 3 SCOPES. Local authorities can also assess GHG emissions themselves. Bilan Carbone® training courses have made a significant contribution to the deployment and assimilation of this approach.

Who is this approach intended for?

For all local authorities, in particular those who wish to have a broad vision of their emissions in order to draw up a Territorial Climate & Energy Plan (PCET in French) and come up with an action plan including all the emissions related to the territory's activity.

Focus of attention

This method requires data collection from all stakeholders in a territory (or even beyond) to cover all emissions. On the one hand, data collection can be complex due to the information scattering and the potential lack of statistical data on a sub-regional scale. On the other hand, it offers local authorities the opportunity to raise awareness among stakeholders upstream of the territory's activity and involve them in the whole process.

Accounting for indirect emissions implies being concious of the difficulty to obtain a result exhaustive enough. In any event, this approach is subject to a fairly high degree of uncertainty. Focusing on the reduction of emissions, this uncertainty does not hinder the conception of coherent action plans, especially as the main goal is to propose actions adapted to each stakeholder and to its specificities.

Moreover, the quantification of SCOPE 3 indirect emissions, and in particular of materials and consumer goods, is not governed by any official and national methodological framework. Each tool based on the principles of the holistic approach entails its own calculation rules, making comparisons impossible.


Consumption approach

This approach adopts an opposite perspective compared to the previous two. It is considered that each anthropogenic GHG emission responds to a particular need and can therefore be attributed to a good or service intended for citizens. Thus, the emissions on which a territory depends are obtained by adding the emissions related to the citizens' consumption.

What is it?

The aim here is to take into account all the goods and services necessary for a territory's functioning (from domestic production and imports) and therefore all the sectors involved in the final consumption by inhabitants (sectors represented or not in the territory).

This approach makes it possible to centralise the consumption issue, which is a very significant subcategory of emissions. As emissions are tied to the final consumer, reduction actions naturally rely more on citizens, consumption-related practices and manufacturing and service companies.

Who uses it?

Mainly, private environmental consultancies and specialized organizations such as SOeS of the French Ministry of Sustainable Development.

Who is this approach intended for?

For all local authorities that wish to get a different perspective of their emissions.

Focus of attention

This method is complex and its implementation requires a considerable amount of information that is rarely easily collected at the territorial level (use of ratios). Please note that this approach excludes part of air transport, sea freight transport, issues related to land use change and finally all exports from a territory.


Comparison between approaches

Category Advantages Disadvantages Use Current methods
Spatial inventory of GHG emissions
  • Most accurate method
  • Only internationally recognized method
  • Reduction targets based on this method.
  • Robustness
  • Involves biased results in the measurement of emissions reduction (e.g. offshoring, electricity, etc.)
  • Excludes international sea and air transport
  • International standard
  • Basis for all other approaches
  • National inventory in UNFCCC format and equivalents
Holistic approach
  • Covers all the categories of emissions
  • Brings up all the related issues
  • Non-standardized
  • Complex interpretation
  • Double counting
  • Drawing up an action plan
  • PAS 2070
  • Bilan Carbone® Territoire
  • CITEPA SCOPE 3 approach
Consumption approach
  • Easily interpreted
  • No double counting
  • Citizen-oriented communication
  • Calculation difficulties
  • Non-normalizable calculations
  • Citizen involvement


Data collection

This stage is even more complex at the level of a territory than at the level of an organization, as data are often too scattered and heterogeneous.

Click on the link below to read a summary table of public data (and their availability) required to carry out a territorial GHG assessment.

Table of public sources for data collection within the frame of a territorial GHG assessment.

Upstream, regional energy and GHG observatories collect and value data and advise local authorities in order to support the preparation of territorial GHG emissions assessments. In particular, their activity is described in the interdisciplinary and sectoral technical specifications of OTEC (Territorial Energy and Climate tools)


N.B. :

*Certified air quality monitoring associations


***Decree No. 2011 678 of 16 June 2011 on regional climate, air and energy schemes

63464 registered members
5280 validated emission factors
4189 published GHG inventories
19 sector guides