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EU's emissions database is still a work in progress


It has been more than 10 months since the EU published its first comprehensive carbon emissions database. The insights are numerous. The challenges, however, still persist for a data set that could prove more consequential than its successors.

EU’s Monitoring, Reporting and Verification data offers an extensive picture of emissions in Europe. But that picture can keep changing and still has questionable data that could be the foundation for big decisions. [...]

Verifavia chief operating officer Nicolas Duchene said some owners had perhaps not realised the significance of the regulation until port state control authorities in Europe surveyed one of their vessels and asked for the MRV document of compliance, which they are meant to have on board from June 30. [...]

“It sounds easy enough to ask operators to enter verified data in the system but in practice, because the data entry is often a manual process and can be rather tedious, and because the final verification of THETIS data can only be visual, the risk that errors remain exists,” said Mr Duchene.

That there are mistakes and missing elements are hardly a secret nor are they intended to be. The European Commission said in its recently published report on the 2018 MRV database that while verified data from the MRV system is generally complete and sound, there were some inconsistencies and missing information seen for this first year.

“The first reporting year involved a learning curve for all actors. The lessons learned from this first year will inform improvements made to the MRV process,” it said in the report.

The errors, anomalies and changes, however, raise the question of when and to what extent the 2018 database can be considered reliable.

Mr Duchene believes it is reliable and that there is no better available option today.

“But there are some limitations associated with it that are important to have in mind. But the obvious inaccuracies compared to the overall number of ships are still a minor percentage,” he added.

Several verifiers noted that a useful tool that could at least mitigate the obvious errors, would be automatic alerts from the system when companies insert a value that is deemed to be unrealistic or when they leave a mandatory field empty.

The commission has acknowledged this in its report. It said the THETIS software could be updated to include warning and error messages when companies are entering seemingly incorrect or incomplete data.

Mr Duchene said he has voiced his suggestions for improvements for the past two years but has not received feedback from the EU. He said that during a January 2020 meeting between the commission and verifiers, in response to suggestions for simple changes to the system, such as preventing people from not inputting a value in a field, the commission said it could not make changes for the sake of the system’s stability. [...]

Despite his belief in the reliability of the database overall, Mr Duchene questioned whether 2018 would be a good reference point.

“Especially for putting together a baseline and having objectives and mandatory reductions requirements, 2018 alone is probably not the best year,” he said. [...]

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