Baseline Emissions

From Open Risk Manual


Baseline Emissions is an estimate of GHG Emissions, removals, or storage associated with a Baseline Scenario.[1]

Baseline emissions associated with primary effects are derived from either a GHG Baseline Scenario or a performance standard.

Baseline emissions associated with secondary effects will be linked to the project-specific baseline scenario. If the performance standard procedure is used, baseline emissions associated with secondary effects are inferred from baseline candidates or are estimated conservatively.

Baseline emissions are often estimated using an emission rate, relating GHG emissions to the production of a product or service or to a certain period of time.

Baseline Estimation Procedures

Baseline procedures are methods used to estimate baseline emissions. For Primary GHG Effects associated with a GHG Project Activity the project developer shall select and justify the choice of baseline procedure used to estimate baseline emissions.

The GHG Project Protocol describes two procedures:

  • Project-Specific Procedure: This procedure produces an estimate of baseline emissions through the identification of a baseline scenario specific to the proposed project activity. The baseline scenario is identified through a structured analysis of the project activity and its alternatives. Baseline emissions are derived from the baseline scenario and are valid only for the project activity being examined.
  • Performance Standard Procedure: This procedure produces an estimate of baseline emissions using a GHG emission rate derived from a numerical analysis of the GHG emission rates of all baseline candidates. A performance standard is sometimes referred to as a multi-project baseline or benchmark, because it can be used to estimate baseline emissions for multiple project activities of the same type. It serves the same function as a baseline scenario, but avoids the need to identify an explicit baseline scenario for each project activity.

Selection Procedure

The choice of a baseline procedure will affect the outcome of any GHG project accounting effort, since the two procedures can lead to different levels of quantified GHG reductions, even for the same project activity

The performance standard procedure may be preferred when:

  • A number of similar project activities are being implemented.
  • Obtaining verifiable data on project activity alternatives is difficult.
  • Confidentiality concerns arise with respect to the project activity

The project-specific procedure may be preferred when:

  • The number of baseline candidates is limited, or GHG emission rate data for baseline candidates are difficult to obtain

Dynamic versus Static Baseline Estimates

Baseline emission rates may be dynamic or static. Static baseline emission rates do not change over time, while dynamic baseline emission rates change over time. A static baseline emission rate is most appropriate for GHG projects that are substituting for existing plants or technologies where it can be reasonably assumed that basic operating parameters will not change over a certain time period. In contrast, dynamic baseline emission rates are better suited to GHG projects that are part of a system that changes significantly over time. Two types of GHG projects that may require dynamic baseline emission rates include:

  • Electricity supply projects - The baseline emission rate may be based on displaced generation sources that are expected to change significantly over time
  • LULUCF projects—The baseline emission rate may change over time to reflect the changing growth patterns of carbon stocks in trees

Issues and Challenges

  • Any choice about which procedure to use is thus relevant to GHG program concerns about additionality

See Also


  1. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Policy and Action Standard