Harvard has tracked and publicly reported University-wide greenhouse gas emissions since 2000.

When Harvard's climate goal was established in 2008, a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory methodology aligned with the Climate Registry’s Operational Control model and a Greenhouse Gas Information Management System was developed for tracking emissions University-wide in a consistent format, and data was gathered going back to 2006. 

First inventory produced
First Climate Registry inventory
Short-term Climate Goal established
Transition from Excel to online database and switch from annual to monthly data tracking
Third party audit, and 2015 Climate Registered Status; Transition to official market and location reporting

The Office for Sustainability and the Environmental Health & Safety team manage Harvard’s GHG emissions inventory and reporting.

Inventory components
Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions)
All 7 greenhouse gases recognized by the Kyoto Protocol
600+ buildings across North America
25 million square feet of space
3 campus district energy systems (steam, chilled water, electricity)
80,000 number of data points in the database for FY16 alone

All-inclusive boundary:

Harvard's inventory represents the full breadth of the University's GHG footprint in North America and uses the Climate Registry Protocol as its methodology. The inventory covers more than 600 buildings and 25 million square feet of space within the University's operational control. 

Tracking and Reporting: 

Harvard tracks and reports on all of the critical Kyoto protocol gases from both direct (Scope 1) and indirect (Scope 2) sources. The Office for Sustainability releases an annual University-wide progress report detailing greenhouse gas reductions to-date, and emissions are also reported to the federal and state governments in line with mandatory reporting requirements.

Data Management: 

In 2013, Harvard transitioned away from an Excel-based data management system to an online inventory management system called HARA and switched from annual data to monthly data granularity. HARA enables the University to report on building energy consumption and associated GHG emissions and allows those responsible for building operation and energy conservation to quickly review their progress. Monthly data allows more insight into seasonal trends and allows for more frequent progress updates.

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Facilities teams focused on constructing and operating more energy efficient buildings to curb emissions. Graphic by Judy Blomquist/Harvard StaffFacilities teams focused on constructing and operating more energy efficient buildings to curb emissions. Graphic by Judy Blomquist/Harvard Staff

Climate Registry

As an additional level of quality assurance, the University’s emissions inventory was third-party verified in 2016 and found to be in full compliance with The Climate Registry protocols, receiving Climate Registered™ status.

Harvard was an early leader in showing others how to set a bold, short-term, science-based emissions reduction goal. By including growth in square footage and all properties within their operational control, they’ve also exemplified how organizations can rigorously and comprehensively account for the emissions associated with their operations. 

-David Rosenheim, Executive Director of the Climate Registry

Location vs. Market Reporting:

Harvard calculates its emissions footprint both using the Scope 2 “Market-based” and “Location-based” accounting methods. Harvard is using the market-based accounting method for tracking progress towards its GHG goal; however, both numbers are reported publicly through The Climate Registry.

Calendar Year vs. Fiscal Year:

Emissions were reported on a fiscal year basis for the 2006–2016 greenhouse gas reduction goal. In order to align with the Climate Registry, the University will begin reporting its emissions reduction on a calendar year basis beginning in 2017.

Short Lived Pollutants:

As part of the emissions tracking, Harvard tracks emissions from short-lived pollutants. Refrigerant emissions at Harvard are primarily HFCs and represent 1-2% of total University-wide GHG emissions. Management and tracking of short-lived pollutants in our inventory has improved since 2006, resulting in more accurate data on the actual losses of refrigerant gases and their associated emissions impact. Due to historical over estimations and some reductions in use, this change appears as a decrease in the inventory.