Greenhouse gas emissions according to different frameworks

There are several frameworks for estimating the greenhouse gas emissions of a country, yielding different results. The best-known are the emissions reported to the UNFCCC (United National Framework Convention on Climate Change) in particular under the Kyoto Protocol. But environmental statistics as well as the air emission accounts also provide independent greenhouse gas estimates. The differences are not the result of disputes about the accuracy of the estimates themselves, but arise from different interpretations of what has to be counted. The inclusion or exclusion of certain elements depends on the concepts and definitions that underlie these frameworks. The estimates differ in their possible applications for analysis and policy making.

1. Greenhouse gas emissions according to the IPCC regulation

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has drawn up specific guidelines to estimate and report on national inventories of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and removals(IPCC, 1996).  “Anthropogenic” refers to greenhouse gas emissions and removals that are a direct result of human activities or from natural processes that have been affected by human activities.In general the IPCC records all emissions that occur on the Dutch territory, with a few specificities. Emissions originating from the so-called short cyclic carbon cycle, such as the combustion of biomass and emission from biochemical processes, are left aside in the IPCC calculations. It is assumed that these emissions do not structurally contribute to higher greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The emissions by road traffic are calculated according to the total domestic deliveries of motor fuels, regardless of the nationality of the user of the motor fuel or the location where the use takes place.The only emissions considered for air transport and shipping are those caused in domestic transport. A complicating factor is that distinction between international and domestic travel is based on the travel destination, with the result that emissions from a ship sailing around the world and therefore traversing international waters, count as domestic travel if the destination is a national port. Emissions related to bunkering of airplanes and ships are mentioned in the IPCC reports as a memorandum item, but are not included in the targets of the Kyoto Protocol.

The IPCC guidelines include not only sources but also sinks. Sinks represent the greenhouse gases stored in the atmosphere, either stemming from anthropogenic or natural sources, absorbed by nature for instance through carbon sequestration in organic matter, i.e. in living forests. These are excluded from air emission accounts and environmental statistics. However, not all emissions absorbed by nature are included, only those that occur on so-called managed lands including managed forests which are areas under human influence. Emissions and sinks due to land-use changes are also taken into account .

2. Greenhouse gas emissions within the Dutch territory (actual emissions)

Statistics Netherlands annually publishes the actual greenhouse gas emission within the Netherlands. These are greenhouse gas emissions that actually take place within the Dutch territory. In contrast to the IPCC guidelines, all emissions by mobile sources that occur within the Dutch territory are accounted for, regardless of where the fuels are purchased. Also short cyclic carbon emissions are included in the actual emissions.
With regard to international transport (inland shipping, seagoing vessels, air transport), only those emissions are included that occur within the national territory. The actual emissions are used as input for several modelling and scenario analyses, and functions as the basis for the calculation of the air emission accounts.

3. Greenhouse gas emissions by the Dutch economy

Statistics Netherlands also annually publishes the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by economic activities, which are calculated according to the national accounting principles. These include all emissions caused by the residents of a country, regardless of where the emissions take place. For stationary emission sources the resident principle will generally converge with emission data as recorded in the emission inventories. For mobile sources, however, substantial differences may occur. Transport activities by residents, like road transport, shipping and air transport, and related emissions to air may also occur abroad. Likewise, non-residents may cause pollution within the Dutch territory. The greenhouse gas emissions caused by Dutch economic activities are thus equal to the actual emissions on the territory, plus emissions caused by residents abroad minus emissions caused by non-residents on the Dutch national territory.