Automated emissions reporting – Ministry for the Environment

Ministry for the Environment

Learn how the Ministry For the Environment (MFE) automated some mandatory reporting requirements as part of New Zealand’s commitments under the UNFCCC to save time and resources, improve transparency, and streamline processes.

Problem

Each year MFE completes New Zealand’s mandatory UNFCCC climate reporting – the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Preparing the prescribed content, including data and content from multiple agencies, is intensive, requiring up to 7 internal staff over six months. This leaves staff with little surplus time to streamline annual preparation of this report.

Solution

MFE automated the "low hanging fruit" of data and content that is updated annually in the National Inventory Report (NIR) using R/R Markdown programming language for four set chapters. Essentially, this meant being able to embed the presentation of data from multiple agencies in a formatted word document with finalised values, figures and text.

Observations and lessons learnt

Collaboration with other government organisations

IT TAKES A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH

The inventory is a cross-agency project and unites data from several government agencies under one framework. It takes cross-agency teamwork to prepare and strong connections between those with specialist inventory knowledge and the data/reporting capability. These connections and the commitment from existing staff were what made the project possible.

Role of technology

REUSE OF EXISTING TECHNOLOGY

The team looked to previous MFE projects and other government organisations that had embedded automated processes. The timing was right, they weren’t building something entirely new, and there was also an existing community of practice of R software users. Having experienced users with the time to support learners and share insights was vital.

Autonomy

THE TEAM UNDERSTOOD THE PROBLEM BEST

The people doing the work knew that just adding more people resources wouldn’t fix the root problem. Advice for how to improve needs to come from the bottom up – the team knows what’s best.

Sometimes you have to be deep in the weeds to know what will actually help.

Processes and adaptability

EFFICIENCY

Removing manual processes (for example, 30 graphs now update automatically) takes time to establish in the short-term, but in the long-term it ensures the focus shifts to continual improvement. It’s a continuous learning process.

SHARE THE APPROACH, NOT JUST THE PRODUCT

The team recorded how and why the work has been done, so someone else could pick it up and follow the process, or adapt it for their own work. This can be shared with the community of practice. If someone leaves the role, it’s all there.

DATA PROCESS TRANSPARENCY

Backtracking through manual processes to know exactly what’s happened can take time. Having the approach coded meant all information sources and destinations were clear and easy to access.

Don’t go 1 FTE deep – have someone who knows enough alongside you.

2020

APR 2020

Report due

The National Inventory Greenhouse Gas Report is due to the UNFCCC.

MID-LATE 2020

Learning

Self-directed learning about how to embed data calculations to automate annual data updates.

2021

JUL 2021

National Inventory Report due

National Inventory Report is due and will have four set chapters partially automated.

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