According to UNFCCC, “The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005.” “Under Kyoto Protocol, many industrialized nations made binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels during the 2008-2012 timeframe” (Dutta & Lawson, 2008).
Redefining Progress-The Nature of Economics asserted, Carbon emissions accounting has played a very important role in international activity, as it is the way by which nations comply with the Kyoto Protocol. Besides, carbon accounting also is a means to better measure an organisation’s environmental impacts as well as opportunity costs related to the depletion of natural resources and the effects of pollution (Dutta & Lawson, 2008).
Having ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the EU adopted a cap-and-trade trading system by which carbon emission allowances are traded in free market (Dutta & Lawson, 2008). Carbon emission then becomes a financially material commodity which can be traded in the carbon market, so there is a stronger need to properly define, measure, account for, audit and report its value in the consistent way similar to the other physical commodities and financial instruments (Aldersgate Group, 2007).
The IASB issued IFRIC 3 on ‘Emission Rights’ in December 2004, but then it was withdrawn in June 2005. The main reason for withdrawal was the application of IFRIC 3 created measurement mismatches between assets (Emission Allowance) and liabilities (Provision for Emission) (NZICA, 2005). Though the IASB and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) have launched a joint project on carbon reporting and carbon emission accounting models, they have not published a conclusion so far (KPMG, 2008).
IASB (2010) noted that, following the withdrawal of IFRIC 3 on Emission Rights, there was a risk of various accounting practices for emission trade scheme that would weaken the comparability and usefulness of financial statements. ACCA (2009) also pointed out that, a number of different methodologies and approaches to measure and account for carbon emission are used by different disclosing companies because of no specific or common carbon reporting or accounting standards, so comparability of carbon disclosure among data setters is difficult. Besides, the current carbon reporting is made on a voluntary basis without uniform standards (Dutta & Lawson, 2008).
Consequently, many companies still are confused about the appropriate accounting treatment complying with both International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Therefore, accounting for GHG remains a challenge, in which market participants are going to wait for a clear guidance from accounting standards bodies (Deloitte, 2007). Though accounting standards bodies have not provided generally accepted protocols for carbon emission or emission trading, ISO launched ISO 14064 – greenhouse gases standard in 2002 and published it in 2006 as a solution to address the above problems (ISO, 2006).