Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of their purchases. “Green” products line the shelves in just about every type of store for customers to purchase and carry home in their re-usable shopping bag. While the shift to more environmentally conscious shopping is great, it is important for consumers to consider the steps required to manufacture and dispose of products as well – this is called a life cycle assessment.
Most reasonable scenarios of the future suggest that expected increases in population and economic growth will outweigh the low-hanging fruit of decreases in per-capita energy use and reductions in the carbon-intensity of the energy provided. As a result, only dramatic technological and behavioral change is predicted to break the linkage between rising global population and economic aspirations, and increasing carbon emissions and climate change. This blog post examines how some corporations can benefit from this change and how to best prepare for climate change as a business opportunity rather than a regulatory or environmental obstacle.
Fertilizer use and climate change. Unfortunately, choice words you rarely hear used in the same sentence. With so much focus given to emissions from transportation and industry, lesser known, but equally important factors like fertilizer use are often overlooked. To place things in perspective, the overuse of fertilizers releases an estimated 2 billion tonnes of nitrous oxide (a GHG estimated to be 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere annually. What is also alarming is that agricultural activities in general contribute to 17 to 32 per cent of global GHG emissions. And with the majority of these agricultural activities requiring fertilizers in one form or another, it’s clear their use must be examined closely.
A recent report from Carnegie Mellon University added numbers to our suspicions that a large portion of China’s emissions are from producing goods for export. 1.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or 33% of China’s emissions, are the result of activities related to the production of export goods. With roughly 18% of Chinese exports going to the US, the US is indirectly responsible for about 6% of China’s emissions, or over 300 million metric tons of CO2.
To hear my friends and colleagues discuss the matter over cocktails, you’d be sure that every major company in the world knew what their carbon footprint was and that they were actively managing it through increased implementation of energy efficiency and clean technology programs. That’s why when I came across a recent Harris Interactive poll commissioned by Dow Corning I was shocked by a few of the main findings. Especially surprising was that 68% of the companies surveyed did not know the meaning of the term “carbon footprint”. With well over half of the world’s major corporations still unaware of what a carbon footprint is, those of us in the greenhouse gas management industry, like ClimateCHECK, have a lot of explaining to do. We also have an enormous potential market ahead as 100% of these companies will, sooner or later, need to deal directly with climate change. But for now things are just getting started, and while moving quickly, there are definitely all the signs of a young market out there. For instance, there are diverse motivators and diverse standards as to what makes a credible corporate response.
Climate change is one of the most profound challenges of modern times. So why is it that there is such a serious shortage of greenhouse gas experts, climate-change strategists, and professionals in the field? After all, climate change will certainly affect all of our lifestyles and the way we do business. And while it’s undoubtedly important to develop rigid, international standards for greenhouse gas monitoring and management, it’s equally as important to have skilled workers in place to ensure these standards are put into practice correctly.
This week we’ll take a quick look at one of the summer’s biggest events – the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Now less than two weeks away, the Olympics will bring approximately 10,500 athletes from over 200 nations to Beijing to compete in over 300 events (which take place at over 30 different venues). While the focus of the Games is, and should be, the athletic competition, it is interesting to consider the effects of such an event in terms of its impact on climate change.
The issue of climate change as it relates to the Olympic Games has been largely overshadowed by Beijing’s poor air quality. Understandably, Olympic organizers have had their hands full in an attempt to decrease local pollution and improve local air quality over the short-term, leaving little resources for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is unfortunate given the scale of GHG emissions associated with the Olympics.
It is important that every company consider various forms of GHG regulations, specifically the impact on the business and which forms they will be most sensitive to. This week we’ll take a look at three different and equally likely forms of GHG legislation to help your company better understand its possible exposure and risk mitigation strategies.
Protocols for corporate greenhouse gas accounting that are based on the ISO 14064 standards, such as the WBCSD/WRI GHG Protocol, use the term “scope” to distinguish between different greenhouse gas emissions sources. There are three categories; Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3. For most registry’s or reporting agencies Scopes 1 and 2 are considered mandatory while Scope 3 is considered optional.
Scope 1 emissions, also known as direct emissions, include any emissions that occur on-site or from company-owned assets. This includes the combustion of fuels, process emissions, and refrigerant leakage. These emissions are aggregated on a facility-level, with the company’s vehicle fleet considered as one “facility.”
For years environmental management for businesses has been focused on the task of ensuring compliance with environmental regulations. Traditional business and financial analysis was not a critical component of their decision-making as much as simply ensuring that the organization was maintaining compliance status. Paper-based systems, Excel spreadsheets, and Access databases often satisfied the needs of most environmental professionals.
GHG management is most often still the domain of environmental professionals, but because GHG emissions may be viewed as potential liabilities, and present financial opportunities for some, in the near future, company executives are increasingly looking for greater visibility into the data.
As the public debate continues on whether greenhouse gases contribute to global warming or whether we are going through a natural cycle, enormous political pressure and investment dollars are streaming into the solutions aspect of the debate. Discussions in North America on environmental policy and economic benefits are steaming ahead at all levels of government and in the corporate board room.
Putting the debate aside, creating a carbon market that stimulates activity to address climate change provides everyone an opportunity to participate. Whether it is cap and trade, carbon taxes or carbon tariffs, a business case will drive change especially if the end consumer does its talking with its wallet.
Last week ClimatePULSE addressed the question, “Are offsets immoral?”. We considered offsets from the “philosophical” point of view and from the regulation side, where we noted the potential of offsets help us reduce emissions now while buying the time needed to transform our energy infrastructure.
This week let’s consider the question, “Are offsets inspirational?” Here we examine offsets from the ‘innovation’ side, and highlight the potential for offset opportunities to motivate the development and widespread adoption of new and cleaner technologies. To illustrate the concept, we will use as a current ClimateCHECK project as an example; the development of a protocol to quantify GHG reductions on dairy farms in Canada.
In my previous role as Executive Director of LiveNeutral I regularly received emails from friends and colleagues sharing the website or videos developed by the “CheatNeutral” (http://cheatneutral.com/). They asked if I though it somehow damaged or diminished the objective of LiveNeutral which in part promotes the use of carbon offsets as a tool to help prevent catastrophic climate change. This pertains as much to the work of ClimateCHECK as it does to LiveNeutral and is an important concept to consider for those of us in or interested in the carbon markets industry.
The voluntary carbon market has grown at an astonishing rate over the past few years. Since 2006 we have witnessed an enormous surge in the carbon offset market. Many companies and institutions have even become familiar with not only how carbon offset programs work, but how these programs can net them a hefty gain both financially and for their public reputation and brand. But how are carbon offset programs like the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) useful as a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction tool?
The stated objective of voluntary carbon offset programs like the VCS is to standardize and add credibility to offset emissions from certain projects. For example, the VCS is involved with programs aimed at evaluating clean-energy projects in developing countries that are used to offset industrialized nations’ emissions of GHGs under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. Nevertheless, we need to look at programs like the VCS in detail and evaluate just how effective they are at adding value to offset projects.
As the need for climate change solutions continues to grow, so does the need for properly educated greenhouse gas management and measurement professionals. With the help of various media outlets most people understand and accept the most basic aspects of climate change – global temperatures are rising, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are extremely high and ever increasing, and action needs to be taken, on a personal level and at government and business levels. While it is a positive sign that the general population has this basic understanding, there is also a need for advanced education in greenhouse gas accounting and climate change mitigation. Universities and colleges are typically the first place one thinks of when they hear “advanced education”; unfortunately, these institutions alone do not currently provide education for the full spectrum of the climate change industry.