Michael Gillenwater

Executive Director, Dean of the Institute and Co-Founder

Michael Gillenwater co-founded the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, and serves as its Dean and Executive Director.

Dr. Gillenwater is a leading expert on climate change and renewable energy, with a specific focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) issues. He has dedicated his career to the development of the policies and infrastructure needed to produce highly credible environmental information that can serve as the basis of market and other compliance mechanisms, especially monitoring and verification policies and management and reporting systems for GHGs and ecosystem services.

Michael has worked on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change policy since 1995 when he worked on an early study of sulfur hexafluoride emissions. He is a lead author of four Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports over 20 years, whose work was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize, and has participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process as a negotiator and then expert for over two decades. For the UNFCCC, he developed and taught the courses that certify experts to serve on compliance review teams under the Kyoto Protocol and has supported both the Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board and the Joint Implementation Steering Committee as a methodology expert. He was also a core advisor to World Resources Institute and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development on the revised edition of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Michael has taught courses on GHG management at Princeton and the Harvard University Extension School.

In the late 1990s, Michael co-developed the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He was lead author of the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks reports published from 1997 through 2003. Michael’s work at EPA concentrated on development of national systems for producing high quality greenhouse gas emission inventories and on designing and negotiating the international compliance review process under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol.

He is widely published, with articles in Energy Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, Environmental Finance, Nature Reports Climate Change, Renewable Energy, and ASTM Journal of Testing and Evaluation. He is the founding co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal Carbon Management, published by Taylor & Francis. Frequently interviewed by the media as an expert, he has been quoted by the New York Times, National Public Radio, Mother Jones magazine, Los Angeles Times, Business Week, and USA Today.

Previously, Michael founded the non-profit Greenhouse Gas Experts Network and was Director of the EcoRegistry® Program at Environmental Resources Trust. Prior to joining ERT, Michael was first with the U.S. EPA’s Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation and then EPA’s Clean Air Markets Division. He has also worked for Sandia National Laboratories and ICF Consulting’s Global Environmental Issues Group.

Michael earned his doctorate from Princeton University’s Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Program (STEP) in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. His research focused on the economic and environmental impacts of renewable energy and emission markets.

He has a masters from the University of Sussex in Evolutionary Adaptive Systems, where he was a William J. Fulbright Scholar. He has two additional masters degrees from MIT in environmental engineering and “Technology and Policy,” as well as a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University.

Michael is married to Bindiya Patel, who is Deputy Director of Public Health at PATH. They have two daughters, Keya Patel Gillenwater and Cimeren Patel Gillenwater and live in beautiful Seattle.

Why I Work at the Institute

The quick answer to this question is that I must be crazy. I would factor to guess that anyone who has founded a non-profit organization — let alone in the middle of the worst economic conditions in generations — probably has a crazy, or at least overly idealistic, side to their personality. (Although, I should not speak so quickly for my fellow co-founders.)

The slightly deeper answer to this question is that the Institute is something that needed to be done, yet no one else was willing to take the risk and put in the work to do it. I now know from experience why: it is difficult; but most things worth doing are. I have blogged on some of problems the Institute was designed to address here, and more is on the Institute’s mission is separately available on the GHGMI website here. But this is supposed to be about me and why I’m here, not an explanation of the role of the Institute.

At the core I am an engineer, and so I have a personal passion for building things. And by things, I include not just objects, but institutions, systems, and ideas. I think of the Institute as an especially ambitious building project, something bigger than myself that then can serve a unique and needed function in the world. My goal, which I share with my colleagues, is to build something sustainable and transformative. A friend called it the curse of being a social entrepreneur…all of the challenges and risks of entrepreneurship without much of the upside (e.g., selling your company for millions). Who wants to say that Twitter was their legacy, anyway?

This is the biggest building project I have ever attempted, so it is taking some time. But luckily, the Institute has some of the most incredibly committed people working for it that I have ever met. This point goes back to my observation on craziness. The people working for the Institute are passionately committed to our mission. And we need passion as well as smarts, because climate change is the biggest challenge we have ever faced as a species.

As I have blogged about previously, climate change is the mother of all problems: it’s global, it’s long-term, it involves deep uncertainty, and it calls for complex collective action solutions. Basically, it is exactly the type of problem that human beings have no evolved ability to solve or even clearly conceptualize. It works against all our instincts. Which means we need solutions that counteract those instincts, ideally by using other instincts to overcome them. One of the key tools society has repeatedly used is the creation of professional classes and norms of behavior to address large social challenges. Take the protection of social contracts (lawyers), public health (doctors), justice (law enforcement officers), safety (emergency responders), etc. It is not the text of the law that makes society work. The law is preserved, advanced, and shepherded by a professional class of people who have developed common norms, ethics, rules, and standards of competency that make the whole system work. Doesn’t something as big and important as the maintenance of the Earth’s atmosphere demand similar attention? Cultivating a class of professionals who oversee the work of monitoring and managing society’s greenhouse gas emissions is an essential step towards treating climate change with appropriate severity.

The idea is bold, but it is not out-of-step with the size of the problem we are facing. (If anything it is still dramatically undersized, but it is an important contribution to the solution.) Policy is important, a critical driver of change, but it is also essential to realistically look at and address the challenges that systemically face implementation. (Read here for my broader thoughts on the kind of social infrastructure needed to meet the challenge of climate change.).

If there are others that feel as passionately about our mission as we do, please come join us. Apparently you have to be a little crazy nowadays to think we can really build the kind of global social infrastructure that will be needed to solve this problem. But crazy or no, the cold serious truth is that somebody has to do it.

View All Publications

Hanle, L., Gillenwater, M., Pulles, T., Radunsky, K. (2019). “Challenges and Proposed Reforms to the UNFCCC Expert Review Process for the Enhanced Transparency Framework.” Seattle, WA, Greenhouse Gas Management Institute. http://capacitybuildingcoalition.org/discussion-paper-series/

Brander, et al., 2018. “Creative accounting: A critical perspective on the market-based method for reporting purchased electricity (scope 2) emissions”, Energy Policy, 112, pp. 29-33. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421517306213

Gillenwater, M., X. Lu, M. Fischlein, 2014. “Additionality of wind energy investments in the U.S. voluntary green power market,” Renewable Energy, Volume 63, Pages 452–457. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2013.10.003

Gillenwater, M., 2013. “Probabilistic decision model of wind power investment and influence of green power market,” Energy Policy, Volume 63, Pages 1111-1125. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2013.09.049

Gillenwater, M., 2013. “Redefining RECS: Additionality in the voluntary renewable energy certificate market,” PhD Disseratation of Princeton University; Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Program, Advisor: M. Oppenheimer. http://tinyurl.com/ktkohuk

Gillenwater, M., 2012. “What is wrong with real carbon offsets?” Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Management 2:4, pp. 167–170. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20430779.2013.781879

Gillenwater, M., 2012. “CDM Policy Dialogue Research Programme, Research Area: Governance,” Chapter 3. Bonn, Germany, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1 October. www.cdmpolicydialogue.org/research/1030_governance.pdf

Gillenwater, M., Seres, S., 2012. The Clean Development Mechanism: a review of the first international offset programme. Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Management, 1-25.  <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/20430779.2011.647014>

Gillenwater, M. and S. Seres, THE CLEAN DEVELOPMENT MECHANISM: A Review of the First International Offset Program. Arlington, VA, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, March 2011. http://www.pewclimate.org/publications/clean-development-mechanism-review-first-international-offset-program

Gillenwater, M., 2011. “What Is Additionality? Part 1: A long standing problem,” GHG Management Institute, Discussion paper No. 001.

Gillenwater, M., 2011. “What Is Additionality? Part 2: A framework for a more precise definition and standardized approaches,” GHG Management Institute, Discussion paper No. 002.

Gillenwater, M. 2011. “What Is Additionality? Part 3: Implications for stacking and unbundling,” GHG Management Institute, Discussion paper No. 003.

Stumhofer, T. and M. Gillenwater, 2011. “Will failure to strike a post-Kyoto deal in Durban signal the end of the carbon market?” Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Management 1:3-4, pp. 135–138. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20430779.2012.657191

Gillenwater, M., 2011, “Filling a gap in climate change education and scholarship.” Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Management 1: 11-16.  http://tinyurl.com/6b59r2w

Stumhofer, T. and M. Gillenwater, “Professionalising GHG verification,” Environmental Finance, December 2009 – January 2010. http://www.michaelgillenwater.org/EF1209_p35.pdf

“Assessing Offset Quality in the Clean Development Mechanism” Offset Quality Initiative, November 2009.  http://ghginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/OQICDMpaper_webversion_000_Nov09.pdf

“Maintaining Carbon Market Integrity: Why Renewable Energy Certificates Are Not Offsets” Offset Quality Initiative, June 2009.  http://ghginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/OQI-REC-Brief-Web_Jun09.pdf

Gillenwater, M. and C. Breidenich, “Internalizing carbon costs in electricity markets: Using certificates in a load-based emissions trading scheme,” Energy Policy, Volume 37, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 290-299.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2008.08.023

[Click here for pre-publication discussion paper version]

Gillenwater, M., “Taking green power into account,” Environmental Finance, October 2008. http://www.michaelgillenwater.org/EF_CDP_Gillenwater_small.pdf

“Ensuring Offset Quality: Integrating High Quality Greenhouse Gas Offsets Into North American Cap-and-Trade Policy.” Offset Quality Initiative, July 2008.  http://ghginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/OQI_Ensuring_Offset_Quality_Jul08.pdf

Gillenwater, Michael, “Redefining RECs (Part 1): Untangling attributes and offsets,” Energy Policy, Volume 36, Issue 6, June 2008, Pages 2109-2119.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2008.02.036

[Click here for pre-publication discussion paper version]

Gillenwater, Michael, “Redefining RECs (Part 2): Untangling certificates and emission markets,” Energy Policy, Volume 36, Issue 6, June 2008, Pages 2120-2129.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2008.02.019

[Click here for pre-publication discussion paper version]

Gillenwater, Michael, “Forgotten carbon: Indirect CO2 in greenhouse gas emission inventories,” Environmental Science and Policy, volume 11, issue 3, May 2008, Pages 195-203. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2007.09.001

[Click here for pre-publication discussion paper version]

Gillenwater, M., et al., “Policing the voluntary carbon market,” Nature Reports Climate Change, v. 6, 85-87, November 2007. http://www.nature.com/climate/2007/0711/pdf/climate.2007.58.pdf

Carbon Market North America, Point Carbon, “Guest Commentary – Tradable certificates for load-based cap-and-trade,” 9 May 2007.  http://tinyurl.com/7yypze2

Gillenwater, M., “Compliance under the Kyoto Protocol,” International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement, Newsletter, Issue 14, April 2007.  http://www.inece.org/newsletter/14/editorials.html#3

Gillenwater, M., Sussman, F., Cohen, J., “Practical Policy Applications of Uncertainty Analysis for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories,” Water, Air, & Soil Pollution: Focus, 7, 2007, pp. 451-474. http://www.springerlink.com/content/w238417357k02887/

Carbon Market North America, Point Carbon, “Guest Commentary – Renewable Energy Certificates and the carbon market,” 20 December 2006.  http://tinyurl.com/7e5u74y

2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, Lead author for “Volume 1 General Guidance and Reporting” and “Volume 3 Industrial Processes and Product Use,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2006.  www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2006gl/index.htm

Gillenwater, Michael, “Verification System Design for RGGR and RGGI,” Environmental Resources Trust White Paper for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Registry and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, August 2005.  www.michaelgillenwater.org/RGGR.pdf

Uniform National Standard for EcoPower® Renewable Energy Certificates, Environmental Resources Trust, November 2005.

Gillenwater, Michael, “Calculation Tool for Direct Emissions from Stationary Combustion,” version 3.0, WRI/ WBCSD GHG Protocol, July 2005.  www.ghgprotocol.org/includes/getTarget.asp?type=d&id=MTY1MDI

Gillenwater, M., F. Sussman, and J. Cohen, “Practical applications of uncertainty analysis for national greenhouse gas inventories,” Proc. of the International Workshop on Uncertainty in Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Verification, Compliance & Trading, 24-25 September 2004.  Warsaw, Poland.  www.ibspan.waw.pl/GHGUncert2004/papers/Gillenwater.pdf

“Estimation of emissions from road transport,” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, FCCC/SBSTA/2004/INF.3, Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, 3 June 2004. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2004/sbsta/inf03.pdf

Gillenwater, M., “Developing a New York State Greenhouse Gas Tracking System,” Center for Clean Air Policy, May 2004. http://www.ccap.org/Presentations/NY%20Tracking%20paper~FINAL.pdf

IPCC Good Practice Guidance for Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry, Lead author for “Cross-Cutting Issues,” Chapter 5, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2004.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: a common corporate accounting and reporting standard, revised edition, “Quality Management” chapter 7 and Annex on “Uncertainty Assessment,” GHG Protocol Initiative, World Resources Institute/World Business Council on Sustainable Development, 2004.  www.ghgprotocol.org

Background on the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Process, U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, EPA 430-R-02-007A, June 2002.

Procedures Manual for Quality Assurance/Quality Control and Uncertainty Analysis, U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, EPA 430-R-02-007B, June 2002. http://nepis.epa.gov/Adobe/PDF/P1005GXH.PDF

U.S. Climate Action Report 2002: Third National Communication of the United States of America Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “Chapter 3: Greenhouse Gas Inventory,” U.S. Department of State, ,Washington, DC, May 2002. http://www.gcrio.org/CAR2002/car2002ch3.pdf

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:  1990 – 2000, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, EPA 430-R-02-003, April 2002.  http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usgginv_archive.html

IPCC Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, Lead author for “Quality Control and Quality Assurance,” Chapter 8; “Energy Sector” Chapter 2, and “Industrial Processes Sector” Chapter 3 in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, XVI/Doc. 10 (1.IV.2000), May 2000.  http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/gp/english/

Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming Potential Values, U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, April 2002.

Emissions by Economic Sector, U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, April 2002.

In Brief–The U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, EPA 430-F-02-008, April 2002.  http://www.gcrio.org/OnLnDoc/pdf/ghgbrochure.pdf

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:  1990 – 1999, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, EPA 236-R-01-001, April 2001.

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:  1990 – 1998, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs, EPA-236-R-00-001, April 2000.

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:  1990 – 1997, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy, EPA-236-R-99-003, April 1999.

Gillenwater, M. W., “Findings from the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory,” American Waste Management Association Emission Inventory Conference, 1999, 1999, 2000, and 2001.  http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/conference/ei10/ghg/gillenwater.pdf

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:  1990 – 1996, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy Planning & Evaluation, EPA-236-R-98-006, Mar. 1998.

1995 U.S. Submission Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “Chapter 3: Greenhouse Gas Inventory,” Department of State publication 10496, Bureau of Oceans & International Environmental Scientific Affairs, Office of Global Change, July 1997.  http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads06/inv_97.pdf

Gillenwater, M. W., K. T. Hartwig, and C. Y. Hua, “Eddy Current Decay and Resistivity Measurements on Longitudinally Grooved Aluminum Bars,” ASTM Journal of Testing and Evaluation, July 1998, Volume 26, No. 4, pp. 320-328. http://www.astm.org/DIGITAL_LIBRARY/JOURNALS/TESTEVAL/PAGES/JTE12009J.htm

Gillenwater, M. W., “The Aging Stock of Coal-fired Electric Generating Units:  Utilization, Retirements, Repowering, Additions, and Environmental Policy Implications,” Masters thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 1996.  http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/10924