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Monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions in the climate economy

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 24 September 2015

This article has been updated


The monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of greenhouse-gas emissions is the cornerstone of carbon pricing and management mechanisms. Here we consider peer-reviewed articles and 'grey literature' related to existing MRV requirements and their costs. A substantial part of the literature is the regulatory texts of the 15 most important carbon pricing and management mechanisms currently implemented. Based on a comparison of key criteria such as the scope, cost, uncertainty and flexibility of procedures, we conclude that conventional wisdom on MRV is not often promoted in existing carbon pricing mechanisms. Quantification of emissions uncertainty and incentives to reduce this uncertainty are usually only partially applied, if at all. Further, the time and resources spent on small sources of emissions would be expected to be limited. Although provisions aiming at an effort proportionate to the amount of emissions at stake — 'materiality' — are widespread, they are largely outweighed by economies of scale: in all schemes, MRV costs per tonne are primarily driven by the size of the source.

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Figure 1: Typology of verification requirements across CPMs.
Figure 2: Typology of uncertainty requirements across CPMs.
Figure 3: Typology of incentives to reduce uncertainty across CPMs.
Figure 4: Economies of scale in MRV.
Figure 5: Typology of materiality provisions across CPMs.

Change history

  • 08 September 2015

    In the version of this Review Article originally published, the following affiliation should have been included for Igor Shishlov: CIRED (Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement), 94736 Nogent-sur-Marne, France. This error has been corrected in the online versions.


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We thank the sponsors of the MRV project: Agence Française de Développement; EIT Climate-KIC; Ministère français de l'Agriculture, de l'Agroalimentaire et de la Forêt; Ministère français de l'Ecologie, du Développement Durable et de l'Energie; and Union des Industries de la Fertilisation. We are grateful to M. Loprieno (European Commission) and M. Thioye (UNFCCC) who allowed us to discuss our findings at the Bonn MRV conference in June 2014. We also thank X. Wang and P. Guigon (Partnership for Market Readiness, The World Bank) for the connection provided with new CPMs being developed in emerging economies. Many more people contributed to the book on which this Review is based. Their contribution is acknowledged in the relevant chapters of the book.

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V.B. designed the study, analysed the pre-processed data and wrote the paper. V.B, M.A., E.A., A.B., J-P.C., C.C., I.C., M.D., C.D., C.F., G.J., R.M., R.R. and I.S. gathered and pre-processed the raw materials. N.S. coordinated data collection.

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Correspondence to Valentin Bellassen.

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Bellassen, V., Stephan, N., Afriat, M. et al. Monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions in the climate economy. Nature Clim Change 5, 319–328 (2015).

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