The concept of sustainable development goals (SDGs) allows for nationally adapted and differentiated approaches for implementing what is seen as a common and collective responsibility. The SDGs are intended to guide priorities both for the development needed in the emerging countries and for the sustainable transition required throughout the world over the next 15 years. The SDGs include most of the highest priority objectives of the world’s economic, social and environmental agendas and in that sense achieve a degree of balance
The individual goals are not, however, so well balanced within themselves. Some are clearly primarily economic goals, others social and some environmental. Only a partial integration has been achieved of the three dimensions within each area. This is a serious shortcoming since the objective must be to encourage a more integrated approach within each area and each subject community.
For example, the health and education communities need goals that fully express the significance and importance of a fully integrated sustainability approach within their areas, including the economic and environmental dimensions as well as the social.
As a concept sustainable development calls for a practical approach which maximises positive outcomes by recognising the interdependencies between the economy, the environment and society. It is about securing long-term success in all three of these areas by working across sectors to deliver integrated and creative solutions with multiple benefits. Sustainable development therefore requires a systems-based approach for achieving positive, enduring change.
A new report prepared by Accenture for the Global e-sustainability Initiative (GeSI) indicates how the information and communication technology (ICT) sector can help countries achieve the objectives of the 17 SDGs by 2030. The report envisions how digital solutions will contribute substantially to the three dimensions of development covered by the SDGs. In the area of improving people’s lives an estimated 1.6 billion people could benefit from more accessible, affordable and better quality medical services through e-healthcare. Connected road vehicle solutions could save up to 720,000 lives annually and prevent up to 30 million traffic injuries.
In pursuing equitable growth, digital solutions like the Internet of Things and robotics can help bring almost USD 1 trillion in economic benefits to industries from smart manufacturing and smart logistics.
In terms of protecting the environment, digital solutions could enable the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and drive market transformation for renewables, cutting carbon emissions by about 20% in 2030.
Through the strategic deployment of digital solutions, the ICT sector can act as the catalyst for helping the world’s nations solve critical and complex social, economic, and environmental challenges. However Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of ITU, the United Nations Specialised Agency for ICT, emphasises that despite the promise and potential of technology, the world cannot lose sight of the fact that more than four billion people have yet to be brought online.
”Connecting the unconnected and bridging the digital divide must be addressed as an urgent policy priority requiring more innovative public-private partnerships and finance and investment models,” he said.
Where governments were once the primary source of development assistance, today the private sector, civil society, academia and donors are all working together to discover, fund and scale up innovative solutions for long-term development challenges. Some of these solutions have already resulted in transformative innovations that have improved development outcomes. Building the skills and ecosystem to participate in the fast-growing digital economy is probably one of the most powerful drivers for future employment and economic prosperity.
The recurring themes in all this are clearly innovation and collaboration and this is where a global expert in revenue-assurance and ICT solutions like Global Voice Group (GVG) can assist. GVG has developed innovative solutions that enable real-time data-driven governance supported by highly reliable and effective data systems. These innovative systems allow governments, through their respective agencies, to monitor different sectors of the economy in terms of regulatory and tax compliance optimising the collection of surcharges, taxes, levies or any other contributions due to government.
Patrice Baker, CEO of GVG states that: “Global Voice Group (GVG), has pioneered a sound approach of ICT governance supported by effective technology and ICT solutions for government and regulatory bodies. Our technologies and services can be collectively defined as revenue-assurance solution for governments as they help protect and boost State revenues. Their benefits extend beyond revenue protection and boosting—by providing control tools for regulatory enforcement and high-level analytical tools for policy and decision-makers. Overall our solutions enable government control over data and further modernisation of government institutions in order to meet all the requirements of the new digital world. Our telecoms revenue-assurance solutions have been implemented in ten emerging countries. To date they have enabled the governments of these countries to create new revenue streams of nearly USD 1.5 billion to finance their development projects and further reduce dependency on foreign aid. Taking advantage of digital solutions will give countries the ability to measure, track and advance the SDGs within trusted environments and enable true progress.”
The tried and true assistance the company has provided to African and other governments has empowered them to take charge of their own socio-economic future through the smart integration of ICTs. This also paves the way for the empowerment of individuals and the opening of new windows for delivering more effective and scalable connectivity projects.
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Cape Town – The presence of delegations from 13 of the world’s leading clean technology clusters at Africa Utility Week, which is running at the Cape Town International Conference Centre from May 17-19, was held up on Tuesday as confirmation of the Mother City’s position as a leading green economic hub.
GreenCape said in a statement on Tuesday that it was hosting its International Cleantech Network (ICN) counterparts at the event, along with international business delegations from the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Belgium and Canada. The statement from the government-funded, industry-led initiative that supports the development of renewable energy in the province said this would reinforce the Western Cape’s position as the green economic hub of Africa.
With members in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa, the ICN is a platform for cross-regional green economic development that works with business, academia and government to create opportunities for investment in clean technologies.
“Africa Utility Week offers these ICN members and investors a unique opportunity to network with African power and water utility professionals and local service providers,” the GreenCape statement added.
It added that the visitors would meet Cape Town officials who were attending a workshop on ICN and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of the world’s megacities who are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, of which Cape Town is an observer city.
Greencape quoted the Western Cape’s MEC for economic opportunities, Alan Winde, as saying: “The Western Cape government has set itself the goal of becoming the greenest region in Africa.”
To achieve this, he said, the municipality was working to create a conducive environment for private sector investment into this space, adding that GreenCape and its network had been exceptional partners in this regard.
Winde said that investments of more than R17 billion had been made in renewable energy projects in the Western Cape over the past five years, creating in excess of 2 000 jobs.
“Here in the Western Cape, we are producing and selling the energy of the future, and we are proud to share our successes with you through this event [Africa Utility Week]. Building a green energy economy is not only the right thing to do. In the Western Cape, it now also makes business sense.”
In addition to the investments in renewable energy, GreenCape said, R680m of direct investments had been made in the proposed Atlantis GreenTech Special Economic Zone over the past five years.
Water management is essential to maximizing the resources that we have. But water management demands a lot of energy. Energy costs money and increases the greenhouse-gas emissions. Water- and wastewater-treatment facilities are normally the single-largest electricity consumer for a municipality. Typically water- and wastewater-treatment processes account for 25-40% of the municipality’s electricity bill — energy that can be saved and money that can be freed up and put to better use elsewhere. The answer lies in understanding that the technology and knowledge is available to make water-management systems energy neutral.
So why is water and wastewater management so energy intensive? The high consumption is related to the energy-intensive processes but also its continuous-operation cycle, 24/7 and 365 days annually. When clean water is distributed to consumers, it is pumped through the pipework at high pressure. The pressure corresponds to the pressure needed at the furthest end or highest altitude of the system. If the system is not divided into sections, the initial pressure has to be very high. The high pressure strains the pipes to the extent that the United Nations highlights that leakage rates of 50% are not uncommon in urban-distribution systems. Here we are talking fresh water — one of the scarcest resources we have, just pouring into the ground!
Once utilized, the water, now wastewater, is pumped through a separate piping system from the consumer to the treatment facility. Here is it treated, and the cleaned water re-entered into the natural-water cycle. All this pumping and treatment requires energy. However, it is possible to reduce energy consumption, maximize energy production, manage leakages and reduce maintenance and replacement of pipes. It is possible to the extent that the whole system can become energy neutral.
By managing the pressure in the drinking-water pipework by dividing it into sections that are individually controlled, leakages can typically be reduced by 30-40%. This is achieved by using technologies like Danfoss variable-frequency drives to control the pressure in the pipes. This not only saves precious drinking water, but also saves energy.
In Aarhus Water Ltd, we supply water and purify wastewater from more than 300,000 customers in the Danish city of Aarhus. We have transformed the Marselisborg Wastewater Treatment Plant from an energy consumer to an energy provider. In traditional wastewater-treatment plants, the energy that is produced is nowhere near enough to actually run a wastewater-treatment plant. But here in Aarhus it is. The plant is now in fact a power station — a bio refinery where energy is produced from wastewater. Good news for our local budgets but also for an increasingly energy-hungry world.
Production of energy from wastewater is no new invention. However, it’s new that a wastewater-treatment plant can produce as much as 192% energy — based on normal household wastewater. Hopefully this ceases to be a novelty. Because scaled up, it means that the huge energy consumption from water and wastewater facilities could be avoided, turning the single-largest electricity consumer in municipalities into an energy-neutral party.
The 192% comes from combining:
· 130% electricity production (30% excess electricity)
· Excess heat production of about 2.5 GWh/year (used in local district-heating system)
The wastewater-treatment plant now produces enough energy to cover 94% of all the energy used for the whole water cycle, from water production, water distribution over wastewater pumping to wastewater treatment in the 200,000-persons catchment area.
In the very near future, the expectation is to get above 100% and so have made this highly energy consuming industry completely energy neutral.
Naturally this has grabbed the attention of many around the world, and we in Aarhus Water are pleased to share. As an example we are working with a delegation from Chicago to achieve similar results in their city. The hope is that many more will follow, because lack of water and climate change are among the top three global risks, according to the World Economic Forum. Energy scarcity is a global challenge we have yet to solve. However, pioneering solutions that can help meet these challenges are ready to be replicated.
This post is part of a “Nordic Solutions” series produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with the U.N.’s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11), aka the climate-change conference. The series will put a spotlight on climate solutions from the five Nordic countries, and is part of our What’s Workingeditorial initiative. To view the entire series, visit here.
Last week, a Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, designed to boost low-carbon development in the sector, was launched at the UN Climate Summit in Paris. Over 60 organisations and several countries have joined the alliance.
Climate Action reported that the countries include Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Singapore, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the US.
The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) has committed to a ‘global market transformation’ to achieve both net zero carbon new building and the energy efficiency retrofit of existing stock by 2050, Climate Action reported.
C taking off
The ‘Moving towards net zero buildings’ commitment, has been signed by 16 European firms including Acciona, British Land, Doosan, Ferrovial, GlaxoSmithKline, Hammerson, Heathrow, Interface, JLL, Kingfisher, Land Securities, Lloyd’s Banking Group, Philips, Skanska, Sky, and Tesco.
Their commitment includes the development of ‘nearly zero energy buildings’ (nZEB) for new build by 2020, and refurbished buildings by 2030.
Climate Action said that: “The plan outlines key actions that the signatories will take, including reducing energy intensity across corporate property estates; collaborating across the supply chain to set specific targets and engaging with policy makers on progress, reporting and progress towards zero energy goals.”
Going green is ‘smart’
A green building should also be a smart one when focusing on becoming more energy efficient.
Neil Cameron, General Manager of Johnson Controls Building Efficiency, a global diversified technology and industrial player, said in an industry insight that by “combining smart grid and smart building technologies improves reliability and security, while reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.”
He highlighted that a recent Energy Efficiency Indicator study, showed that 44% of facility executives in the US selected smart building technology as one of the top three technologies expected to have the greatest price-performance improvement over the next 10 years.
“The time to deploy smart building technologies is now. Doing so could avoid $33 billion in energy costs and eliminate 160 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually by the year 2030,” Cameron said.
Paris – France is counting on Brazil to convince world leaders to strike a deal to limit annual temperature rise at an upcoming Paris summit, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday.
With one week to go to a crucial global warming summit, 170 countries have submitted pledges for greenhouse gas (GHG) curbs meant to underpin a 195-nation climate rescue pact.
Those countries account for about 93 percent of the world population and are responsible for roughly the same proportion of emissions blamed for driving dangerous levels of climate change.
The voluntary pledges, dubbed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs, are the chosen means for staying under the UN-agreed global warming ceiling of two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Fabius met Sunday in Brasilia with President Dilma Rousseff, his counterpart Mauro Vieira and Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira on a three-day world tour.
Earlier, he stopped in India, the fourth largest emitter of GHGs, and in G77 leader South Africa. The emerging nations are crucial to getting a deal done.
“Brazil has made very ambitious and exemplary commitments, and that lends to its credibility as a historic partner in the negotiations on climate [change] since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro,” Fabius said.
“I am really counting on Brazil’s drive to succeed in this area – and on its strong reputation [on climate change] – to help convince others. That was really the main reason for my visit.”
Brazil has pledged to reduce GHG emissions by 37 percent by 2025, and 43 percent by 2030, compared to its 2005 levels.
Other large developing countries in many cases so far have only pledged to keep GHG emissions from increasing.
Brazil also has committed to eliminating illegal logging in the Amazon basin region – one of the world’s critical huge green areas.
Some non governmental groups say the pledge is not realistic due to lax rules and enforcement.
With the summit fast approaching from November 30-December 11, Fabius said “it must be a success.”
“There is no Plan B, because there is no Planet B,” Fabius stressed.
With time was running out to put a dent in damage done, “Paris must be a turning point,” he stressed.
Recycling is not about rubbish: it’s valuable commodities you’re chucking in your wheelie bin, according to sustainability expert Marcus Gover, not rubbish.
Myths persist about recycling, with some people still claiming that material in recycling bins is secretly sent to landfill rather than recycled and made into new products. (See episode one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s TV show if you don’t believe me.) But the truth is that recycling is more important than it has ever been, with the global population at 7 billion and rising, and a growing middle class in developing countries hungry for the same consumer pleasures that richer countries’ citizens already enjoy.
“We need to be really clear that we know we’re on a planet with dwindling resources,” says Fearnley-Whittingstall, warning that the amount we waste is tantamount to an “environmental catastrophe”. While he is referring to food waste, his point holds for all the other materials we consume – the oil that makes our plastic water bottles, the trees that make our Amazon delivery’s cardboard packaging and so forth. Everything we buy and use has to come from somewhere, and that means finite resources being dug up, often at great environmental and social cost.
“Everyone knows the environmental benefits of recycling: it conserves resources by putting them back to productive use and, even more importantly, it avoids the pollution caused by having to extract, mine and process new resources,” says Annie Leonard, producer of the viral YouTube film Story of Stuff, and now head of Greenpeace USA.
That extraction can not only cause local environmental problems but international harm too. All extraction requires energy and so – until we take the carbon out of our energy systems – that means more emissions and more global warming. “If you recycle plastic rather than make it from oil, it’s saving about one tonne of CO2 for each tonne of plastic that’s recycled,” says Gover. “All the UK’s recycling is probably avoiding around 18m tonnes CO2 equivalent [total UK emissions in 2014 were 520.5m tonnes CO2e]. It’s a significant contribution. It’s like taking 5 million cars off the road.” Metals in particular are very recyclable. Making the aluminium in your can of fizzy drink from bauxite is a very energy-intensive process – to the point where it’s much cheaper for soft drinks companies to buy recycled aluminium.
Recycling advocates – which should surely be all of us – are increasingly likely to talk up the economic importance of recycling. EU commissioners have even warned that Europe faces another recession if we don’t get better at reusing and recycling our resources. “Recycling has huge job creation potential, creating 10 to 200 times the jobs created by burying and burning all that stuff,” says Leonard. Gover argues that recycling more in the UK – recycling has flatlined in England in recent years – is vital to the country’s economic growth. “We talk about the UK getting its economic growth back, and resources are the fuel for the engine of recovery,” he says.
Recycling also keeps stuff out of landfill, where it can have further environmental impacts. As well as causing local contamination – researchers have found abandoned UK landfills leaching ammonium into rivers – putting rubbish in landfill can exacerbate climate change too. Anything biodegradable that breaks down in a landfill, such as newspapers and food waste, generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is much more powerful than CO2.
We are running out of landfill, too, with just 484,370 cubic meters left in England at the end of 2014, down from 715,000 at the turn of the millennium.
So it’s important for the economy, for our remaining wildernesses that are yet to be mined and logged, and for the planet’s atmosphere and climate. But is it important to you as an individual? Well, if you’d prefer your council tax to be spent on local libraries rather than ever-rising landfill taxes, it’s worth caring about. Gover says that some of its most successful promotional materials communicate to people that recycling more reduces costs for their local authorities.
Recycling is also one of the few tangible and immediate things that anyone can do to minimise their environmental impact. “Recycling has a personal benefit; it gives us a chance to align our values and our actions, which feels good, and inspires us to do more,” says Leonard.
Of course, any schoolchild will tell you that while recycling is important, it’s not as important as two other “Rs” – reducing and reusing. As Leonard puts it: “We shouldn’t start with recycling, but only do it after we have exhausted the environmentally preferable options of reducing and reusing stuff. Being able to recycle something is not a licence to carelessly consume, but is a last resort if we honestly cannot have avoided, reused, repaired or shared the stuff.”
As countries all over the world continue to submit carbon reduction pledges to the United Nations in a bid to tackle climate change, buildings will play a key part in the success of government efforts to tackle climate change, said experts at the close of the International Green Building Conference in Singapore.
Terris Willis, chief executive of the World Green Building Council (WGBC), noted that already, about 98 per cent of cities in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group are experiencing climate disasters today such as increasing floods, heatwaves, droughts, which are all putting economies and societies at risk.
C40 is a network of the world’s megacities taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Comprising 78 member cities, the network aims to address climate risks and impact locally and globally by leveraging on each other’s knowledge and expertise.
This makes working with cities and mayors on climate change a top priority. Speaking to a room full of business leaders at the BCA Breakfast Talk for CEOs on the final day of the event, Wills said: “This is absolutely critical. Cities are in the frontline in the battle against climate change not only because they are experiencing the negative impacts, but also they have the powers to act.”
“Cities and their mayors around the world can take significant action in areas which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that’s why we believe that we at the WGBC need to work with cities.”
Wills added that what’s encouraging is that a lot of work is already being done by city leaders around the world.
Chicago in the United States, for instance, with a population of about 2.7 million led by mayor Rahm Emanuel, set out to slash the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in a programme called Retrofit Chicago.
The overhauls including new lighting systems, smarter climate control practices and window replacements which are estimated to create about 1,000 jobs and save US$20 million a year in energy bills.
Wills also cited Australia’s Melbourne, which has an initiative involving 1200 buildings that is aimed at helping building owners, managers and facility managers improve the energy and water efficiency and reduce waste of commercial buildings in the city, home to about 4.1 million people.
They get rebates and matching funding for projects such as lighting retrofits and building tune-ups that improve energy efficiency.
In India, the Mahindra Group and the government of Tamil Nadu are aiming to create a carbon-neutral development called Mahindra World City Jaipur which spans 3000 acres.
Wills noted that there are many more examples – from Denmark’s Copenhagen to South Africa’s Johannesburg – of cities that are embracing sustainability, and the building and construction sector has a vital role to play in the movement.
“It’s important to remember that green buildings equal green cities,” she said. “We need to help the mayors by working on green buildings all around the world.”
Rallying citizens and people
The key to doing that is to rally property developers and owners to embrace sustainability as an inherent part of business, said Kwek Leng Joo, deputy chairman of property developer City Developments Ltd (CLD), at the same panel.
CDL is recognized as a leader in Singapore’s green building movement, with 57 buildings having been awarded the country’s Green Mark certification.
Kwek shared how CDL started its sustainability journey about 20 years ago, way before sustainability became a buzzword in the corporate sector. It was slow-going at the beginning, but the company pressed on with implementing initiatives such as using environmentally-friendly building materials and energy efficient lighting systems.
If a leader does not believe in what he is doing, he will not be able to mobilize the people to implement the programmes, said Kwek. The second factor is a supportive staff, and the third is a plan that can be implemented “with some degree of confidence,” he added.
“If you have these – the leadership and strong support, and a good majority of the people in the company feel that they can play a part and they will play a part – then the chances of success will be much higher,” he told the 100-strong audience at Marina Bay Sands.
Chris Fossick, managing director for Singapore and Southeast Asia, JLL, who also spoke at the panel, noted that involving building users is also a key part of the green building movement.
At the end of the day, while a city’s government has a lot of power to make significant changes, it “cannot do everything,” said John Keung, CEO of Singapore’s BCA.
“There is a strong need for the private sector to come on board,” said Keung. “Of course we are blessed in thee sense that we have leaders like CDL and other companies in our sector even before we did anything.
“But we want more to come on board…then the whole industry can move forward.”
Buildings are a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore a more sustainable built environment is needed. The Green Building Conference will focus on these issues as citizens have a responsibility to minimise electricity usage, with demand exceeding supply in both commercial and residential areas.
“The world’s population could reach almost ten billion by 2050. Most people will live in cities. To accommodate an additional three billion people, we’ll need to build the equivalent of one new city that can support one million people, every five days between now and 2050,” says Professor Barbara Norman, foundation chair of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Canberra. Norman will present extensive insights into building resilient and healthy cities for the 21st century.
Improving urban living
Co-founder architect of UNITYDESIGN Inc and researcher at Tokyo University, Tomohiko Amemiya, will discuss how to improve urban living in high density residential areas. Amemiya will share insights gained from his work on the award-winning Slum Housing Project, Megacity Skeleton, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Kenneth Stucke, director of Environment Response Architecture (ERA Architects) will present two green building case studies of energy, water and waste efficiency. Stucke will discuss the value of climate, geology, geography and ecology as a resource with which architecture synthesises to produce built form.
“We define sustainability as a balance between economic success and social and environmental responsibility. Sustainability is at the core of our business with global standards implemented across all value chains, and we’ll be showcasing our innovative solutions that drive sustainability,” says Joan-Maria Garcia-Girona, vice-president and head of Business Centre South Africa and sub-Sahara at BASF.
“South Africa is now seeing a strong move to sustainable development. We have always played a leadership role in the industry and promoted cooperation in sustainable development. Green building in the broadest sense of sustainable development is an integral part of all aspects of our business strategy, and that is why we attach such importance to the Green Building Conference 2015,” says Felix Motsiri, national mineral and sustainability manager at Lafarge South Africa.
Massive food waste by humanity is an undisputed fact documented daily in tons of discarded scrapings from dinner plates around the world. It is now being measured as a serious threat to the global environment and economy, with an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world left uneaten at a cost of up to $400 billion a year in waste disposal and other government costs.
The food discarded by consumers and retailers in just the most developed nations would be more than enough to sustain all the world’s 870 million hungry people if effective distribution methods were available.
Unfortunately, most of the uneaten food goes to landfills where it decomposes and produces the dangerous greenhouse gas methane at a volume that amounts to an estimated 7 percent of the total emissions contributing to the global warming threat. This puts food waste by ordinary humans in third place in methane emissions behind the busy economies of China and the United States, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. These stark facts have been laid out in a new report from the Waste and Resources Action Program, or WRAP, a British antiwaste organization. The organization warns that the problem is getting worse because the global middle class is, fortunately enough, expanding. According to the report, by 2030, consumer food waste will cost an estimated $600 billion a year — a 50 percent increase from current costs — unless there is a wide effort to change the trend.
Numerous antiwaste programs are underway, from backyard composting to restaurant donations to food pantries, from London’s campaign to cut food waste by 50 percent in five years to fish-drying innovations in West Africa that prevent spoilage. Reducing food waste by 20 percent to 50 percent could save an estimated $120 billion to $300 billion a year, according to the WRAP report.
This would take far more action by national and local governments, food producers and, most of all, consumers unaware of the mounting costs of their dinner scraps.
Source: NY Times
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By Teresa Legg
With an increased awareness and concern of environmental issues, specifically global warming and climate change, and growing evidence of the financial benefit of environmental sustainability, stakeholder’s expectations have matured. Shareholders, investors, customers and employees are demanding a better understanding of an organisation’s environmental impacts. Measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions provides organisations with the base from which to understand their GHG impacts, manage their GHG risks and embrace the opportunities of a low carbon economy. This also provides a means to effectively communicate these outcomes with relevant stakeholders.
This chapter aims to discuss the benefits of measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions in business, as well as outline the process and requirements of internationally accepted GHG measurement and reporting frameworks.
What are the Benefits of Reporting GHG Emissions?
The value of embracing a sustainable strategy is demonstrated through reduced costs, profitability, increased efficiencies, increased market share and customer loyalty, as well as reduced business risk, both reputational and financial. More importantly, a sustainable strategy drives innovation in product and technology, standing a company in good stead for long term success.
Embedding environmental sustainability into your strategy requires a thorough understanding of your impacts and the risks and opportunities that these impacts present. These risks and opportunities need to be brought into your strategy, managed and continually reviewed to feed back into strategy.
You cannot however understand the extent of your impacts and manage them without having a solid measurement framework. In light of expected carbon taxation, measurement also allows a prudent organisation to understand the financial risk of its emissions, both internal and external.
Due to the fundamental link between strategy and environmental impacts, executive leaders need to sponsor the measurement and management of GHG emissions. Understanding impacts is key to a sound strategy and therefore strategy should dictate such impact assessments and the results thereof should be fed back into the strategy. Executive commitment also secures funding and resources and places a priority on the carbon footprint project.
Carbon Footprint Reporting Standards for Business
Understanding your carbon footprint is a starting point to identify areas of the business where greenhouse gas emissions occur and where they need to be managed.
So what is a carbon footprint and why can it be complicated? Simply, a carbon footprint is a calculation of the total GHG emissions caused directly and indirectly by an organisation or company. This is typically calculated and reported over a period of 12 months. What often makes a carbon footprint complicated is defining the boundaries of the audit and categorising and reporting emissions in line with international standards and protocols, much like one would report financial information.
The GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, developed by the GHG Protocol Initiative is widely regarded as the standard for corporate GHG accounting and company reporting. From a carbon perspective, the protocol is analogous to the generally accepted financial accounting principles (GAAP) for an organisation’s normal accounting and reporting practices.
The GHG Protocol Initiative is a multi-stakeholder partnership of businesses, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments, and others convened by the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The initiative has developed internationally accepted greenhouse gas accounting and reporting standards that have been broadly adopted by business worldwide.
Calculating a Carbon Footprint
The process of calculating a carbon footprint entails translating business activity data into a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for 7 selected greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perflourocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen triflouride (NF3).
To find where these GHG emissions occur in business involves building a GHG inventory from which to operate. This is where a carbon footprint can become complicated and may require the skill of a GHG professional in complex operations or business structures.
Planning a GHG Inventory
Your GHG inventory requires a skeleton of business structures, facilities and emission sources from which your emissions data will be sourced. To define what will be measured, the GHG Protocol provides guidance to assist in determining both the organisational and operational boundaries of the carbon footprint. The organisational boundary refers to entities and facilities that will be included while the operational boundary defines which operations and sources of emissions will be included.
The GHG Protocol provides three options to define the organisational boundary. These options are as follows:
Under the equity share approach, a company accounts for GHG emissions from operations according to its share of equity in the operation.
The company has financial control over an operation if it has the ability to direct the financial and operating policies of an operation with a view to gaining economic benefits from its activities. Under this approach, the economic substance of the relationship between the company and the operation takes precedence over the legal ownership status.
Under the operational control approach, a company accounts for emissions from operations over which it has operational control. A company has operational control over an operation if it has authority to introduce and implement operating policies.
The operational control approach is preferred as it provides the most complete GHG inventory. It also lends itself to performance tracking as managers can be held accountable for activities under their control and companies are also likely to have better access to operational data under their control. Most importantly, it has the advantage that a company takes ownership of the GHG emissions that it can directly influence.
Once the boundary approach is decided upon, the entities and facilities included in the boundary are identified and form part of the GHG inventory.
The operational boundary defines which operations and sources of emissions will be included in the carbon footprint. Examples of emission sources include motor vehicles, generators and air conditioning equipment.
GHG emissions are categorised as direct and indirect and accordingly grouped into scopes for accounting and reporting purposes.
Emissions are categorised as ‘direct’ when they are generated from activities or sources within the reporting company’s organisational boundary and which the company owns or controls. Under the GHG Protocol these are called Scope 1 emissions and are accounted for as such. These largely include fuel burned in company owned assets.
‘Indirect’ sources are those emissions related to the company’s activities, but that are emitted from sources owned or controlled by a third party company. These are categorised as either Scope 2 emissions for purchased electricity or as Scope 3 for other non-owned or controlled emissions e.g. rental cars, commercial airlines or paper use.
Under the GHG protocol reporting of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are mandatory. Reporting of Scope 3 emissions is voluntary but encouraged where the activities are material to the overall footprint of the organisation.
The next step involves sourcing business activity information for the relevant emission sources. Business activity data could be electricity consumption or fuel purchases. For each emission source one needs to determine what would be the most appropriate activity units required, e.g. litres of fuel , as well as the availability of such data. Estimations, assumptions and samples may need to be applied where data is incomplete or unavailable.
The data collection process is often an overlooked step, however sourcing the most accurate, appropriate data is vital for the credibility of the report output. As they say, rubbish in, rubbish out. So rigorous quality checks on all data gathered will ensure good quality data is fed into the analysis.
With business activity data for each emission source in hand, the data is converted into carbon dioxide equivalents using formulas and factors that are relevant to the data, organisation and geography concerned.
Relevant, updated factors to apply to the emission calculations also need to be sourced. A review needs to be made on which factors are most relevant bearing in mind the activity data available to the analyst and the geography in which the emission sources occur. Factors are specific to emission source and are generally updated annually. The factor producing the most accurate emission value should be applied.
In its simplest form, a calculation formula would look like this:
Activity data × emissions factor = CO2e emissions
Where activity data quantifies a business activity in units e.g. litres of fuel purchased, tonnes of paper used and the emissions factor converts activity data to emissions values e.g. Kg CO2e per litre fuel or Kg CO2e per tonne of paper used.
However, in reality formulas become more complex where assumptions and estimations need to be applied to incomplete or unavailable data, or where certain emissions require additional factors to be applied. For example in air travel emissions additional factors to account for uplift and radiative forcing are applied.
Due to the varying ability of GHG to trap heat in the atmosphere, each GHG has a ‘global warming potential’. Global warming potential (GWP) refers to a gas’s heat trapping potential relative to that of CO2. Using GWP factors, emissions from all 7 greenhouse gases are converted into a common metric of CO2e and reported as such for consistency and like for like comparisons.
It is important that all formulas, factors, estimations and assumptions are clearly documented in the GHG inventory for transparency and consistency in reporting.
Selecting Base Year and Setting Targets
Managing emissions requires a commitment to reduce absolute emissions or intensity emissions (e.g. emissions per unit of activity). To set this target, one needs to measure against a yardstick – this being the base year emissions. Therefore, a base year needs to be selected from which future years’ performance will be measured against. It is important that the base year emissions are based on reliable emissions data.
Once you have selected a base year, set short and long term targets. Targets can be absolute (e.g. reduce emissions by 5% year on year from base year) or rate based (e.g. reduce emissions per employee headcount or unit of production).
Absolute targets are preferred as they result in a real emissions reduction, whereas emissions may increase in the face of a rate based decrease in emissions.
A strategy and work plan should provide a framework from which to initiate and run reduction projects to meet these targets. This is an on-going process which requires constant measurement and review.
Businesses may want to communicate their performance to stakeholders such as investors, customers, employees or the business community. In reporting information, it is valuable to follow the guiding principles of The GHG Protocol (see insert).
Emissions need to be reported for all seven greenhouse gases separately in metric tonnes of CO2e. Emissions must be categorised and reported by scope, clearly stating the scope totals.
The boundaries of the inventory must be described together with a description of the company.
All emissions information, including methodologies, calculations, assumptions, estimations and exclusions must be disclosed.
The base year must be documented with a view of performance over time.
For credibility of reported information it is wise (and in some cases required) to have your footprint assessed by a 3rd party GHG professional, especially when publically reporting.
Business operates within the context of an environment. Best practice principles, standards and guidelines provide methodologies, processes and guidelines which if followed rigorously will provide a deep understanding of an organisation’s internal and external impacts. For responsible and accountable governance it is imperative to understand and manage the risks and opportunities that emerge from these environmental impacts.
Source: The Sustainable Energy Resource handbook Volume 5
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