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Carbon reductions and offsets making activities effectively carbon neutral Prepared by Liese Coulter, Pep Canadell, and Shobhakar Dhakal Last update 3 December 2007
The Goal To internalize in our operations the costs associated with climate change impacts due to carbon emissions.
Carbon Neutral We use “carbon neutral” as a short term for zero net impact on the radiative climate forcing
Why are some people going carbon neutral? • • • Business profit Civil responsibility Environmental commitment Leadership To appease ethical remorse and guilt
Why should we be carbon neutral? • Science bodies provide leadership on climate change science, mitigation and adaptation. • We recognize that our economic system should internalize the costs of climate change and we want voluntarily contribute to the shift. • While the unregulated voluntary carbon market is likely to be less effective than the regulatory market, it gives us the opportunity to ”imperfectly act now” and support the valuing of reducing carbon emissions.
Carbon reductions and offsets The Global Carbon Project addresses issues in voluntary carbon offsets as part of the portfolio of options to reduce CO 2 emissions. See: http: //www. globalcarbonproject. org/carbonneutral
Recommendations 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. Carbon offsets are an important early step. Choose comprehensive carbon calculators. Set meaningful limits of responsibility. Put efficiency first. Purchase 100% truly new renewable energy. The voluntary market has developed many credible offset projects. Offset projects that avoid emissions are best for the longterm. Carbon sequestration in plants and soils can be vulnerable but has additional benefits. Tropical reforestation and avoided deforestation are efficient, cost effective land based strategies. Choose offset projects with stringent standards. Integrate expenses for offsetting into the cost of activities. Make a carbon emissions inventory. Aim for zero net carbon emissions.
1. Carbon offsets are an important early step • Voluntary carbon offsets are a grassroots development adding to the portfolio of regulated mitigation strategies. • Becoming carbon neutral involves three basic steps: – CALCULATE carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases from activities – REDUCE emissions wherever possible through increased efficiencies – BALANCE the remainder by purchasing carbon offsets • In the long term, voluntary carbon offsets are expected to be a transient mechanism as low carbon strategies become business as usual in the future.
2. Choose comprehensive carbon calculators Calculating carbon emissions from activities is a necessary step to design an emission reduction strategy and purchase equivalent carbon offsets. Differences in the estimates result from: 1) considering CO 2 emissions only versus all greenhouse gases: methane (CH 4), nitrous oxide (N 2 O), hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), per fluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF 6) 2) including or excluding non-gas components that affect the radiative forcing such as surface reflection (albedo) of plane contrails and forest canopies 3) setting different boundaries for emissions responsibility, i. e. considering only the energy used in a particular flight versus adding a proportion of the energy used for airport services.
2’. Choose comprehensive carbon calculators Calculators can give big differences in the amount of CO 2 emitted for a given trip. The biggest reason from this difference stems from accounting for i) CO 2 only, ii) all greenhouse gases (CO 2 -equivalents, and iii) full radiative forcing. The latter is recommended. Choosing a provider accredited with a top Standard (see 10) gives better chances that a comprehensive calculator is being used.
3. Set meaningful limits of responsibility • The simplest, most commonly accepted and functional emission boundaries follow the lines of financial responsibility. • Boundaries are important to avoid double-counting emissions and reductions and to include otherwise unaccounted for parts of the total carbon footprint. • Commonly agreed methods can provide some assurance of standard practices. • Standard practices are needed for international implementation, as funding for reducing carbon footprints and buying offsets becomes integrated into project accounting.
4. Put efficiency first It is essential to plan real reductions through increased efficiencies before purchasing carbon offsets. Emission reduction opportunities for offices • Combustion in boilers or furnaces • Generation of electricity, steam, or heat • Business travel in cars, trains, buses and aircraft • Employee commuting in light rail, train, buses and employee cars • Production of office consumable materials and resources such as furniture, paper, equipment, toner cartridges etc. • Incineration of office waste or decomposition in a landfill • Outsourced activities such as shipping, courier services and printing services
5. Purchase 100% truly new renewable energy The transition from fossil fuel energy generation to new renewable energy can directly reduce atmospheric carbon emissions. • CERTIFICATION by an independent third party can help ensure that you get the quantity, quality, and type of green power you pay for. The certification will indicate that the green-power companies are meeting the environmental and customer-protection guidelines adopted by the certifying organizations. • BUY accredited green power as close to 100% as you can afford. • AVOID buying ‘green’ electricity products unless they contain accredited green power. • AVOID energy products with the description ‘renewable’ unless they are accredited.
6. The voluntary market has many credible offset projects The two general categories are avoided emissions and sequestration. • • • Solar Power - Generate energy from the sun's rays. Wind Power - Use winds in the atmosphere to create electricity. Hydroelectric Power - Harness water flows to generate electricity. Fuel Efficiency - Burn a particular fuel more efficiently. Fuel Substitution - Switch to a fuel which emits less carbon. Cogeneration - Create electricity and heat from the same source. Efficient Lighting - Replace traditional light bulbs with fluorescent lamps. Material Substitution - Change the input material for an industrial process. Environmental Buildings - Increase energy and materials efficiency. Public Transportation - Subsidize or encourage public transport. Methane from Industry - Collect and burn methane from industrial waste. Burning Agricultural Residue - Burn farming residue to generate power. • Reforestation - Plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
7. Offset projects that avoid emissions best for long-term Projects that avoid carbon emissions • Energy efficiencies through reduced energy consumption Carbon offsets based on energy efficiency rely on technical efficiencies to reduce energy consumption and therefore lower CO 2 emissions. • Renewable energy from displaced energy production Emission avoidance projects that displace the production of high carbon intensity energy to low or zero emission energies require a greater change in infrastructure and larger capital investments. • Fuel emission reductions by cleaner energy production One option for emission reduction offsets is the improved disposal of waste methane When methane capture for power generation becomes business as usual this will no longer work as a carbon offset.
8. Carbon sequestration - vulnerable but has additional benefits • Biosequestration offsets reduce atmospheric CO 2 concentration by growing vegetation that will store carbon in plants and soils. • The permanence of these offsets is not always secured as forest plantations are expose to fire, drought, pests and climate shifts. • Biosequestration offsets can bring multiple secondary social and environmental benefits, including sustainable forestry, reduced erosion, increased biological diversity and hydrological regulation. • Unintended negative consequences, such as the use of limited water resources and biodiversity must be avoided. • Biosequestration carbon offset projects need to demonstrate a well integrated plan with other environmental resource uses and a framework for sustainable development.
9. Tropical forestry offers efficient land based strategies • Reforestation and avoided deforestation in the tropics are the most efficient and cost effective land-based options to reduce carbon emissions. • When all components of radiative forcing are considered, ü greenhouse gases ü hydrological changes ü surface reflection (albedo), the climate benefits of forest plantations in boreal and mid-latitudes are smaller than in the tropics and in same instances might be quite modest or nil.
10. Choose offset projects with stringent standards High standards ensure carbon offset projects meet the minimum requirements to yield real emission reductions: • Additional – a genuine reduction can only be counted if it is in addition to what would have been done in the normal social paradigm, be it for business profit or ongoing improvements. • No Leakage - offset projects in one place should not increase emissions from another source elsewhere. • Permanent - the risk of reversibility (eg, loosing the carbon back to the atmosphere) should be minimal and have mechanisms in place to offer replacement or compensation for any reversal. • Verified - independent and transparent verification of reductions is required. • Efficient - successful projects will yield real emission reductions with competitive costs.
10’. Choose offset projects with stringent standards Any commonly accepted standard has to be credible, financially efficient to administer and effective in the goal of reducing atmospheric CO 2 Stringent standards include: • The Gold Standard • Greenhouse Gases Protocol • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO 14064 • The Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) • The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCBS)
11. Integrate expenses for offsetting into activities cost • With limited resources it is better to offset fewer of your emissions but invest in offset projects that are of high quality. • The new practice of offsetting carbon emissions is a step towards slowing the growth of atmospheric CO 2. • As there has been little consideration of the atmospheric implications of our fossil fuel use in the past, tying specific offsetting costs to these activities reinforces a causal connection and establishes a direct fiscal responsibility.
12. Make a carbon emissions inventory While boundaries determine the edges of a carbon footprint, the inventory defines what is contained inside it. Basic guidelines for preparing a CO 2 inventory • decide what is most relevant to core operations • undertake a complete audit to justify whether emissions are included • be consistent so that there can be comparisons over time • make the process transparent by noting methodologies and important assumptions • use the most precise calculations available.
13. Aim for zero net carbon emissions We use carbon neutral as shorthand for zero net impact on radiative climate forcing. The steps involved were (i) Identify boundaries for emission responsibility to set a baseline for reporting (ii) identify opportunities for reductions and implementing them (iii) choose a methodology to determine the resulting emissions (iv) select verified offsets to neutralize an agreed amount of emissions.
13’. Aim for zero net carbon emissions Zero Emissions • Carbon Footprint of the Global Carbon Project for 2006 (total ghg emissions in CO 2 -equivalents) – Core operation 130. 3 – Hosted workshops 227. 4 – Endorsed workshops 4. 2 TOTAL: 362. 0 t. CO 2 -e (90% from travel) • Aim to become a zero net emitter by the end of 2008
end Carbon Neutral homepage: http: //www. globalcarbonproject. org/carbonneutral