Tag Archives: carbon

Carbon Analytics and Almach Energy educate the next generation about sustainability at “Eco Hack”

Last week Carbon Analytics joined forces with Almach Energy to support ‘Eco Hack’, a ten week program designed to educate young people about the importance energy efficiency and sustainability. Eco Hack’s aim is to provide students with the real world skills and knowledge of coding and website design and by doing so to inspire them to embark their own entrepreneurial journeys in the future.

Michael Thornton, our CEO, delivered a session on energy and climate change to a group of over thirty students at the Tech Cit College. We were pleased to support this initiative and to work together with Almach Energy in delivering this inspiring project.

13077371_10209471219766318_503457243_n copy

Michael introducing students to greenhouse gas sources.

PRESS RELEASE

Eco Hack: Supporting the environment through innovations in education

logos-11

Although there are various technological solutions available to those who strive to reduce energy consumption and live their lives more sustainably, influencing behavioural change still remains a challenge. This inspired initiation of the Eco Hack, a ten week project that will be delivered as a part of the curriculum at the Tech City College. The event is a result of a collaboration between inspiring organisations that have sustainability and education at the heart of their business models. Eco Hack was initiated by Almach Energy and is delivered in collaboration with the Aspirations Academies Trust, Voltaware and Acorn Aspirations.

Eco Hack’s aim is to effect a shift in mindset towards energy efficient behaviours at an early age. The brief is to create an interactive application for Primary and Junior aged children that will influence the way they think about energy efficiency within their own school environment. The application should be fun and interactive and ultimately it must enable children to understand how energy is used in their school and the environment and financial impacts that behavioural change can effect. The winning group will have a chance to turn their prototyped website into a real digital product. The application will then be deployed as part of a pilot within number of Primary Schools before a wider roll out.

Organisers and partners are excited about the event, Steve Kenning, the CEO of the Aspirations Academies Trust said: ‘we are delighted to be involved with Eco Hack as it is vitally important to educate our young people about climate change. We are using the development of the Eco Hack website as a real world problem for our post 16 students at Tech City College and Rivers Academy West London to develop the range of skills essential for success in today’s world’.

Eco Hack creates opportunity to engage young people with sustainability, as Managing Director of Almach Energy highlights: ‘We are proud and excited to be supporting the Eco Hack project as we believe that educating children in their formative years about the benefits of living sustainably, in particular energy usage, has the greatest chance of instilling good behaviours throughout their lives.’

The combination of imaginative flair and design capabilities of the students at Tech City College with the industry knowledge and technical expertise of the involved partners, ensures that Eco Hack will bring some outstanding applications and websites that can revolutionise the way that children are being taught about the energy consumption.

Event will begin on 12 April 2016 with the final presentations taking place on 21 June. To find out more visit Eco Hack’s website: www.ecohack.co.uk

For any media or partnership enquiries email: hello@ecohack.co.uk or call +44(0)7823 333 535

The shortest explanation of the USA’s Clean Power Plan you are ever likely to see

The Clean Power Plan proposed by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been floating in the news, but it’s a pretty big document to digest all at once. Here we’ll share what it aims to do and how, and what stage it is at right now.

The goals of the Clean Power Plan are to:

  • Protect the health of American families by preventing up to 3,600 premature deaths, preventing 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and preventing 300,000 missed workdays and schooldays. These deaths and illnesses are largely attributable to climate- and pollution-related threats.

  • Save American families money (nearly $85 a year in 2030).

  • Boost renewable energy generation by making up to 30% more renewable energy generation in 2030, lowering the costs of renewable energy, and creating jobs.

  • Provide benefits to low-income, minority, and tribal communities.

  • Mitigate the significant costs it expects to incur when faced with “unchecked” climate change.

So why is this plan needed? It addresses carbon pollution, which is the biggest driver of climate change. Electricity and transportation are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

What does the plan intend to do?

While the EPA sets the goals, each state, tribe, and territory makes its own final plan and that it consults with a reliability or planning agency when it does so.

The plan was announced in August 2015. So where is the plan at now? In February, 2016, the Supreme Court decided that the Clean Power Plan is pending judicial review. The decision on the case can be made as early as July 2016 and no later than February 2017.

There are several legal issues with the Clean Power Plan that merit review. Some of them are:

  • Violation of the 10th Amendment. The Clean Power Plan “tramples” on States’ rights.

  • Violation of the 5th Amendment. The Clean Power Plan confiscates property without due process or just compensation.

Opposition came from states West Virginia — a major coal producer — and Texas –a major oil producer –as well as from various business groups (e.g. U.S.Chamber of Commerce) and utilities (e.g. American Electric Power Co., Southern Co., Peabody Energy Corp.).

Because the Clean Power Plan is a deeply partisan issue, it is likely that its approval will be decided after the presidential election, when a new Justice will be selected (following the death of Scalia). On the one hand, some groups point out that many states have already begun a shift toward renewable energy and that they do not need the plan to do so. On the other hand, a rejection of this plan indicates a lack of responsibility for climate change and carbon emissions — a continuation of Kyoto-era affairs. The EPA, at least, would like the USA to lead on the issue of climate change, in contrast to its past. “The Clean Power Plan is changing the international dynamic, and leveraging international action because when the U.S. [sic] leads, other nations follow. U.S. [sic] action has helped spur announcements from China, Brazil, and Mexico to limit their emissions or increase RE deployment.

Carbon Footprints 101: Why Carbon Footprints Are Failing Us

Yesterday, in “Carbon Footprints 101”  we explored what carbon footprints are and their benefits. But today we’ll talk a bit about carbon footprints’ major shortcomings. We hope you will contribute to the discussion with your comments!

Problem #1. Categories and definitions are open-ended and flexible.

Conventionally, when we think about a carbon footprint, it conjures images of a company’s heating, electricity and travel.  These correspond loosely to the industry reporting framework of “Scope 1 and 2” (fuel you burn, or fuel that is burned to produce your electricity) with a little bit of Scope 3 sprinkled in (e.g. fuel needed for flights and other transportation).  These categories have flexible definitions, and are a very narrow subset of the full scope of emissions that a company enables, either through their own fuel consumption, or by creating the demand for fuel consumption among their suppliers.

 

What’s missing in most carbon footprints. Designed by Carbon Analytics. Please ask for permission before reproducing. info@co2analytics.com

 

While flexibility is usually a good thing, the industry standard reporting framework of “Scopes 1,2, and 3” act like buckets into which companies can pick and choose the activities they want to report. Often, information that is difficult to obtain is excluded — but this overlooks potentially huge emissions-savings! In general, most companies report only their Scopes 1 and 2, but leave out 3, where the majority of emissions actually live. A commonly accepted approach is to report employee travel in Scope 3, even though it should be reported in scope 1.

Sometimes, companies will tailor which activities they report in Scope 3, and may do so when expecting an upcoming decrease in emissions to cast their net improvement in a favourable light.

Problem #2. It doesn’t always lead to greater sustainability in practise.

While carbon footprinting does have huge potential to be a conversation-starter that can lead to improved environmental performance, without a way of identifying and acting on improvements, the change stops there. In the worst case, the footprint becomes just a number: footprints are reported and decrease, but companies actually conduct activities that are increasingly harmful, such as resource degradation and pollution. A company is seen to be doing its part, but doesn’t address broader environmental sustainability. One set of researchers concluded that “the carbon footprint is a poor representative of the environmental burden of products, and [that focusing on carbon footprinting exclusively] runs the risk of inadvertently shifting the problem to other environmental impacts”. (This paper is freely available on ResearchGate.)

Problem #3. Only the biggest companies are expected to use it.

Since the Greenhouse Gas Protocol was launched in 2001, carbon footprinting has been undertaken by thousands of businesses. Most of them are large companies, including many Fortune 500 companies. This is partly due to the fact that many big businesses are obliged to do carbon footprints in order to fulfill various reporting requirements (e.g. of climate change legislation such as EU ETS or CRC), to participate in carbon reporting initiatives such as the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), or to fulfill obligations as part of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme. This has created an environment where large companies are talking to other large companies, limiting more diverse participation in the process. As a result smaller companies aren’t taking advantage of huge cost savings and opportunities for optimization that come with carbon footprinting, because the process is “locked in” by still being part of a purely environmental space, but not a general business space.  Many business owners don’t realize that there is a whole additional set of tools they could be using to improve.

So where do we go from here?

We have two big ideas that we think can improve the concept and process of carbon footprinting. We won’t harp on them here — the point isn’t to advertise ourselves when you could simply check out our website.

These two ideas are:

  • Including scope 3 emissions in all measures of carbon footprinting — and making these measurements as clear, well-defined, and all-encompassing as possible.

  • Allowing small businesses to be part of the process.

What do you think? Do these suggestions make carbon footprints fool-proof? Or is carbon footprinting just more greenwash? Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments below!

 

For more general information on the definition of carbon footprints, scopes, etc, check out Carbon Trust’s Carbon Footprinting source.

Carbon footprints 101: Why they’re a great tool for any business

At Carbon Analytics, we think carbon footprints can change the world by making businesses more transparent and accountable to the effects they have upon the environment. But we also know that carbon footprints are not perfect and that some issues need to be addressed. Here we’ll see what carbon footprints do and what they offer. In another post — “Why Carbon Footprints Are Failing Us” — we’ll discuss the major shortcomings of carbon footprints and how they can be solved.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint measures the greenhouse gas emissions caused by a person, organisation, or product. It is measured in units of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), allowing different greenhouse gases to be compared. Carbon dioxide equivalent is based on the global warming potential of these greenhouse gases.

Six

Six greenhouse gases. From Earth Untouched.

 

Types of Carbon Footprinting

A footprint can measure the emissions of an organisation or a product. Organisational footprints show the emissions from all the activities of an organisation, such as the energy used to heat and cool offices, industrial processes, or company travel. Product activities show emissions over the whole life cycle of a product, from the extraction of raw materials to final disposal.

Here, we are going to focus on organisational footprints.

Scopes in Carbon Footprinting

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is a widely used standard that sets out how to account for greenhouse gas emissions for organisations, splitting up emissions into three groups called “scopes”:

 

scopes.jpg

Scopes 1-3 in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Designed by Carbon Analytics. Please ask for permission before reproducing. info@co2analytics.com

 

Why bother? What are the benefits?

There are multiple benefits to getting a carbon footprint.

  • It’s a gateway to improvement.
    Reporting on carbon emissions can be the introduction to wider work to reduce carbon emissions. Putting a number to something often makes it easier to track progress compared to a benchmark, develop a plan, and hit targets over time. By quantifying your emissions, you can see how your organisation contributes to global emissions and what opportunities you have to reduce them.
    Beyond what happens within your four walls as an organization, a carbon footprint also shows you what’s happening within your supply chain.  Proactively managing impacts in your supply chain can help you build a more resilient business, and puts your purchasing power to positive use. Engaging your supply chain is also a great way to engage your employees – encouraging them to be on the look-out for more sustainable alternatives, or working together with suppliers to improve your footprint.
    Carbon footprinting can lead to unexpected insights and action. For example carbon footprinting analysis has generated global conversations around decreasing meat-eating over the past few years. While animal rights campaigns of the past three or four decades appealed to some, explaining the high carbon footprint of a meat-based diet has helped even more people make a change to lower meat consumption. (More info here and here.)

  • It starts conversations and builds awareness for your business.
    Talking about how to reduce a carbon footprint becomes part of a bigger conversation on environmental change-making and cost reduction. These conversations have the potential to have far reaching changes in the supply chain, as suppliers are engaged in not only improving their carbon footprint but helping them identify and eliminate inefficiencies in their own processes.

  • Reducing cost.
    Knowing where and how you spend energy can help you reduce costs. This is not necessarily limited to your electricity provider. Footprinting can also point to inefficiencies in the way a process is done, and can result in cost savings in waste and packaging as well.

  • Increasing brand value.
    Companies that measure their footprints increase their brand value, especially among eco-conscious customers and investors.

Carbon footprinting is a valuable exercise for companies to undertake, but the process has shortcomings and flaws that need to be overcome. Now check out our post “Why Carbon Footprints are Failing Us“!

 

For more general information on the definition of carbon footprints, scopes, etc, check out Carbon Trust’s Carbon Footprinting source.

 

Carbon Credits 101: What they are, why they’re controversial, and implications for COP 21

Climate change is now a common topic of conversation, and global society is realising that we need to incorporate climate and broader environmental issues into our social and economic systems.

One of the tools that has been used over the past couple of decades is that of carbon credits.

Understanding carbon credits is important because it is part of a global attempt to mitigate climate change by tieing the cause of the climate change — an economic system dependent on consumption — to reducing emissions. At the same time, the concept and use of carbon credits has come under a lot of scrutiny. The next climate conference–COP21 in Paris–is expected to drastically change the way this and other tools work.

Here’s your chance to finally understand all this business about carbon credits you may have heard floating around occasionally but never got around to getting to grips with!

Where did carbon credits come from?

Carbon credits were introduced under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the internationally-recognised Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol recognised that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions that cause climate change, and thus placed a greater responsibility on them to address this problem. [4]

Under the mechanism, a country with an emission-reduction or -limitation commitment with the Protocol can implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries to compensate for an emission made elsewhere. These projects would earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits (also called offsets).

What is a carbon credit?

A carbon credit is a financial investment that represents 1 tonne of CO2, or other greenhouse gases whose effects are equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2 (CO2e), that has been removed or reduced from the atmosphere under an emissions reduction project.

Carbon credits are associated with removing existing CO2/CO2e emissions (for example by planting trees) or by reducing future CO2/CO2e emissions by implementing renewable energy or energy efficiency projects that displace fossil-fuel powered generation production or industrial processes (e.g. by constructing a wind farm).  Each activity has a different “methodology” that accounts how much carbon is avoided.

How do carbon credits work?

There are several actors involved in creating a carbon offset project: there is a verification body that validates how many tonnes of CO2 a project avoids, the the registration body that operates the registry where a buyer can look up your projects, and the company that ultimately buys your credits. In general, to get carbon credits a business needs to calculate its carbon savings against a very specific methodology and get an official body to validate the project.

There is some strategy to the way businesses choose their methodologies, or how they assemble carbon-saving activities into verifiable carbon offset projects. A very “green” manufacturer may seem to be constantly coming up with new “projects” every time they make a batch of green goods that saves X amount of carbon.

What are the regulated markets and the voluntary markets?

In addition to the regulated markets under the Clean Development Mechanism and some regional compliance markets in the USA and Australia, there are voluntary markets and compliance schemes. One of the biggest is Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

The voluntary markets allow individuals, companies, or non-profits to purchase carbon credits on a voluntary basis to satisfy personal or CSR objectives. As a company or non-profit getting carbon credits for the first time, it is generally easier to get credits on the voluntary market. This voluntary market operates similarly to eBay. [5] Unlike the regulated market, carbon credits on the voluntary market are not actively traded. [5]

As of January, the World Bank valued emissions trading at  $30 billion [6]. When including the voluntary market, carbon trading is worth more –about $176 billion in 2012 [6].

What are some of the problems with carbon credits?

The system of carbon credits has historically been criticised for being “essentially a 
permission slip with a cash value that allows a country or company to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases” [6] and for promoting, rather than preventing, carbon-intensive industrial activities. The argument is that this allows rich countries to feel better about harmful behaviour, rather than encouraging governments to correct that behaviour [6]. Beneficiaries of the CDM included industrial gas producers (nitrous oxide, refrigeration gases) and dam construction projects. [2]

Carbon credits are also vulnerable to fraud, and are susceptible to not delivering on the promises of low emissions in the future [6,9]. This is largely due to the fact that carbon credits are fundamentally based on carbon, which is not really tangible/palpable.

In August 2015, a study from the Stockholm Environment Institute found that the majority of carbon credits generated by Russia and Ukraine did not represent cuts in emissions and that these credits may have actually increased emissions. [7,8]

For these reasons, credits have fallen in price over the past few years. [1] The European Union’s market, which used to be the main outlet for the Clean Development Mechanism, was restricted and then shut down. [2]

What does the COP21 — the climate talks in Paris — mean for carbon credits?

Over the years, the Clean Development Mechanism has been discussed and various amendments and solutions have been proposed. However, little progress has been achieved because positions on the issue are so radically discordant: while wealthy nations that are high emitters endorsed the continuation of market-based mechanisms, developing countries adopted divergent and contrasting stands. [1]

Some groups have suggested the creation of a “New Market Mechanism” (NMM), involving the implementation of sectorial and cross-sectorial measures, thus scaling up market-based mechanisms beyond project level activities. The USA and Japan have supported the “Framework for Various Approaches” (FVA), which aims at ensuring flexibility for Parties to create a set of components and rules that will ensure an individual crediting systems that helps fulfil internationally agreed targets. [1] Other groups have attempted to draw attention to a non-market GHG reduction solution in correlation with REDD. [1] None of these proposals have yet been able to gather broad consensus. [1]

The COP21 is expected to test business and government commitments to tackling climate change, and is seen as the last chance to come up with a deal to avert 2 degree warming that scientists say is the tipping point to irreversible fallout.

References

[1] “COP21 and the Clean Development Mechanism: Deciding the Future of International Carbon Credits.” Climate Policy Observer, 29 July 2015.

[2] Aline Robert (tr. Samuel White). “COP21 Will End a Decade of Failed Climate Finance.” EurActiv, 18 November 2015.

[3] Lauren Hepler, “COP21 and Decoding the Economics of Climate Change.” GreenBiz, 6 August 2015.

[4] “Kyoto Protocol.” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), n.d.

[5] Chris Lang. “Why You Should Not Buy Voluntary Carbon Credits as an Investment: A Carbon Trader Explains.” REDD Monitor. 22 April 2013.

[6] McKenzie, “The Hack That Warmed The World.” Foreign Policy, 30 January 2015.

[7] McGrath, M. “Carbon Credits Undercut Climate Change Actions Says Report.” BBC News, 25 August 2015.

[8] Arthur Nelsen, “Kyoto Protocol’s Carbon Credit Scheme ‘Increased Emissions by 600m Tonnes.” Guardian, 24 August 2015.

[9] Ryan Jacobs. “The Forest Mafia: How Scammers Steal Millions Through Carbon Markets.” Atlantic, 11 October 2013.