Final good that is not immediately consumed or further processed by the reporting company, but instead used in the current form to manufacture a product, provide a service, or sell, store, and deliver merchandise.
The process of measuring the amount of greenhouse gas that is emitted by an entity – whether it be a country, corporation or individual – is referred to as carbon accounting. The practice of carbon accounting involves translating greenhouse gas emission into an internationally recognized measurement of CO2 equivalents.
An emissions unit that is issued by a carbon crediting program and represents an emission reduction or removal of greenhouse gases. Carbon credits are uniquely serialized, issued, tracked, and cancelled by means of an electronic registry.
Carbon Disclosure Project
An international non-profit organization providing a disclosure platform to cities and companies looking to report and manage their environmental impacts. CDP’s corporate climate disclosure platform collects emissions data on all three scopes.
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to support human activities, both directly and indirectly. It can be attributed to an individual, organisation, country, etc. and is usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Activities like driving, heating, and food production have associated CO2 emissions. The carbon footprint is then the sum of all of these emissions that were induced by activities within a given timeframe (usually a year).
Carbon negative (or climate positive)
Carbon Negative and climate positive are two similar terms. It means that a company goes beyond achieving net zero, and removes or captures more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits.
Carbon neutral means that any CO2 released into the atmosphere from a company is compensated with an equivalent amount of CO2 removed. In practice, this means for a company to be climate neutral, either:
- the activities themselves must have zero CO2 emissions. This can be achieved through carbon abatement projects such as reducing fossil fuel use.
- the same amount of CO2 released by the activities must be permanently sequestered from the atmosphere elsewhere by ‘offsetting’ – or removing from the atmosphere. This can be achieved by buying ‘carbon credits’ – in essence, permission to emit carbon dioxide or other GHG in exchange for offsetting the effects of those emissions – and/or by supporting GHG-reduction initiatives such as renewable-energy projects.
Climate target refers to a temperature limit, AI concentration level, or emissions reduction goal used towards the aim of avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. For example, national climate targets may aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain amount over a given time horizon, for example those under the Kyoto Protocol.
Climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings such as modulations of the solar cycles, volcanic eruptions and persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its Article 1, defines climate change as: ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.’ The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition and climate variability attributable to natural causes.
Climate neutral is the same concept as carbon neutrality but it extends to zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions beyond carbon dioxide).
Any type of contract between two parties for the sale and purchase of energy bundled with attributes about the energy generation, or for unbundled attribute claims. They can include energy attribute certificates, direct contracts (for both low carbon, renewable, or fossil fuel generation), supplier-specific emission rates, and other default emission factors representing the untracked or unclaimed energy and emissions.
Emissions form sources owned or controlled by the company.
Decarbonisation refers to the process of reducing the CO2 emissions of a given activity. While full decarbonisation means zero carbon emissions, decarbonisation doesn’t imply zero emissions, as emissions can be balanced by carbon sequestration. To effectively communicate the scale of change needed, the term must be accompanied by a timeframe and rates of decarbonisation.
Emissions are gases and other particles that are released into the atmosphere as a result of burning fuels and other processes. Generally, these emissions are most likely to come from cars, power generation and industrial processes. A greenhouse gas, then, is a classification of gases that, when released into the atmosphere, are capable of absorbing infra-red radiation. Consequently, this process will trap and hold heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. This is called the greenhouse effect, and ultimately is what leads to global warming. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O). So a greenhouse gas emission is when a greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere.
A plausible representation of the future development of emissions of substances that are radiatively active (e.g., greenhouse gases (GHGs), aerosols) based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about driving forces (such as demographic and socio-economic development, technological change, energy and land use) and their key relationships. Concentration scenarios, derived from emission scenarios, are often used as input to a climate model to compute climate projections.
Energy attribute certificate
A category of contractual instrument that represents certain information (or attributes) about the energy generated, but does not represent the energy itself.
Energy generation facility
Any technology or device that generates energy for consumer use, including everything from utility-scale fossil fuel power plants to rooftop solar panels.
Also known as an electric utility, this is the entity that sells energy to consumers and can provide information regarding the GHG intensity of delivered electricity.
Business operating under a license to sell or distribute another company’s goods or services within a certain location.
The entity that owns or operates an energy generation facility.
GHG sources are physical units or processes that release Greenhouse Gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. These include Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N20), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
Greenhouse Gas Protocol
The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol is a global standard, developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI), that informs companies and organisations on how to measure, manage and report greenhouse gas emissions.
Emissions that are a consequence of the company's activities but arise at sources owned or controlled by another company.
Products that require further processing, transformation, or inclusion in another product before use, therefore resulting in additional emissions before the product is used by the end consumer.
Life Cycle Assessment
LCA is the systematic analysis of the environmental impact of fuels, products, structures and activities over their entire life cycle. A life cycle is comprised of production/construction, use/ operational, removal and disposal phases. Environmental impacts are evaluated comprehensively including the evaluation of upstream and downstream processes associated with the production (e.g. production of raw, auxiliary and operating materials) and with the disposal (e.g. waste treatment). Environmental impacts refer to all relevant extractions / removals from the environment (e.g. ores and crude oil), as well as discharges and emissions into the same (e.g. wastes and carbon dioxide) during the entire life cycle.
Net zero carbon emissions
A commitment to net-zero carbon refers to the goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by a selected date. When carbon-neutral refers to balancing out the total amount of carbon emissions, net-zero carbon means no carbon was emitted from the get-go, so no carbon needs to be captured or offset. In practice for companies this means:
- Reducing its GHG emissions of a company through abatement activities as much as possible
- For residual emissions that cannot be removed completely, supporting/funding the removal of carbon dioxide produced by any emissions the business does produce.
Carbon offsets are used to reduce the amount of carbon that an individual or institution emits into the atmosphere. Carbon offsets work in a financial system where, instead of reducing its own carbon use, a company can comply with emissions caps by purchasing an offset from an independent organization. The organization will then use that money to fund a project that reduces carbon in the atmosphere. An individual can also engage with this system and similarly pay to offset his or her own personal carbon usage instead of, or in addition to, taking direct measures such as driving less or recycling.
Carbon offsets are most often used by companies or institutions to reduce their carbon footprint without actually polluting less. Most offsets involve renewable energy. For example, a company in Massachusetts can pay to build a wind turbine off the coast. By using its money to create renewable energy, that company thereby offsets its own carbon use.
Science based targets
Science-based targets provide companies with a clearly defined pathway to future-proof growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Targets adopted by companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are considered “science-based” if they are in line with what the latest climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.
The Science Based Target Initiative
The Science Based Targets initiative champions science-based target setting as a powerful way of boosting companies’ competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy. The initiative showcases companies that set science-based targets, defines and promotes good practice and offers resources and independently assesses and approves companies’ targets.
Sustainability is a difficult term to define, as many view it in different ways. Essentially, it can be defined as it was at the world’s first Earth Summit in 1992 – maintaining operations and development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
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