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Measurement for our planet

How we identify and quantify greenhouse gas emissions at local and national scales

Greenhouse gas emissions measurement

Identifying and quantifying emissions and their sources that are contributing to climate change, at local and national scales, is key to effective and accurate climate action.

Why does greenhouse gas emissions measurement matter?

Human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are primarily responsible for the rapid climate change we are seeing on Earth today – as evidenced by satellite, atmospheric and ground-based observations.

So that our UK leaders can effectively tackle climate change and meet the legislative net zero target, we must accurately measure how and where we are achieving GHG emissions reductions and whether the climate is responding.

Changes as a result of policy interventions can be observed on a relatively short time scale (years), while the actual effect of such changes on the climate system will only be observable over longer timescales (decades).

Attributing the sources of GHG emissions and supporting emissions monitoring and reduction will be important on the path to reaching net zero by 2050. Measurement can assist by quantifying and analysing the GHGs and pollutants that are present in the Earth’s atmosphere. Measurements related to natural sinks of GHGs (which account for the removal of around half of human-induced carbon emissions) will also be important when assessing progress on climate action.

International standards have been developed to define reference methods for emissions measurement as global agreements, regional directives and national policies require accurate emission data to deliver impactful reduction activities.

How does NPL deliver accurate greenhouse gas emissions measurement?

We work with industry, policy makers and the scientific community to improve the accuracy of GHG emission measurements. We offer expertise in a range of areas including:

  • Validating GHG emission inventories
  • Realising isotope ratio with a robust infrastructure, which is essential to underpin measurements of stable isotopes of key GHGs and infer their origin
  • Undertaking traceable and trustworthy uncertainty quantification of emissions data and processes
  • Measuring concentrations and emission rates in the field of research and policy development activities
  • Validating and calibrating new emissions measurement instruments and methods
  • Providing the UK’s primary realisation of the mole which underpins composition measurements of key components governing atmospheric processes
  • Developing and validating documentary standards and ensuring air quality regulations are met

Related content

Emissions inventory for climate action

Understanding emissions on a local and regional scale.

How are greenhouse gases measured?

Greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are increasing. So how do we define and measure the greenhouse effect?

Measurement for our planet: Leaders’ briefing

If you’re a minister, policy maker or industry leader and would like to find out how measurement can support you in ensuring the accuracy of the information used for decision making in support of climate action, then we can help.

Metrology expertise that provides confidence in climate data

Climate measurement including earth observation


Measurement for Our Planet


Supporting the transition to decarbonised energy sources

Energy vector and infrastructure


Understanding emissions from agriculture and observation of land systems

Agriculture, forestry and other land use


Measurement to test, validate and enable zero emission transport solutions

Decarbonisation of transport


Enabling low carbon manufacturing through materials testing and process development

Advanced manufacturing and materials for net zero