Measuring GHG Emissions: Empowering Businesses for Climate Responsibility

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Quick summary: Dive into the world of measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and understand its significance in combating climate change. Explore the methodologies, tools, and challenges involved in accurately quantifying and monitoring GHG emissions. Discover how businesses and industries are embracing emission measurement practices to drive sustainability initiatives and make informed decisions for a greener future.

Measuring greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) is a crucial step in understanding and addressing the environmental impact of various  sectors including agriculture, industry and transportation. Accurate measurement of GHG emissions enables us to identify sources, set reduction targets and track progress towards a sustainable future. In this blog, we explore the necessity for measuring GHG emissions, methodologies used for measurement and the challenges and considerations involved. Join us in uncovering insights into measurement of GHG emissions and how they play a key role in climate change mitigation. 

Why measure GHG emissions? 

Peter Drucker famously taught: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” While that applies to business management, it is also important for reducing Green House Gases (GHG).

GHG are gases that can trap heat, creating a warming effect on the earth. The major GHG are carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and Chlorofluorocarbons. Often the non-carbon dioxide gases are converted to carbon dioxide equivalent to create a single number to report GHG. 

Measuring GHG is a key step to reduce emissions. Emissions are reported as Scope 1, 2, or 3.

Scope 1 emissions are direct GHG emissions that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organization (e.g., emissions associated with fuel combustion in boilers, furnaces, vehicles). 

Scope 2 GHG emissions are indirect emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling. 

Scope 3 emissions come from the businesses customers and vendors. These emissions are the result of activities from impacts in its value chain. 

All emissions not included in an organizations Scope 1 or 2 emissions are counted in their Scope 3 emissions. These Scope 3 emissions are also referred to as value chain emissions, and they often represent the majority of an organization’s total GHG emissions. 

Measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions provides several benefits, including: 

  1. Identifying emission sources: GHG emissions can come from various sources within an organization, such as energy use, transportation, and waste management. Measuring emissions helps identify the sources and quantify the emissions associated with each activity, which can then be targeted for reduction. 
  1. Setting reduction targets: Once emissions are measured, organizations can set reduction targets and develop strategies to achieve them. Measuring emissions helps track progress towards achieving targets and identifying areas where additional efforts may be required. 
  1. Demonstrating commitment to sustainability: Measuring emissions and setting reduction targets demonstrates an organization’s commitment to sustainability. This can help to attract customers, investors, and employees who are increasingly looking for sustainable companies. 
  1. Reducing costs: Reducing GHG emissions often involves reducing energy consumption and improving efficiency. This can result in cost savings through reduced energy bills, improved operational efficiency, and reduced waste management costs. 
  1. Compliance with regulations: Many jurisdictions require organizations to report their GHG emissions and set reduction targets. Measuring emissions helps organizations comply with regulations and avoid potential penalties. 
  1. Improving reputation: Measuring and reporting GHG emissions can improve an organization’s reputation by demonstrating transparency and accountability. This can help to build trust with stakeholders and improve relationships with customers, employees, and communities. 

Measuring GHG emissions provides several benefits to organizations, including identifying emission sources, setting reduction targets, demonstrating commitment to sustainability, reducing costs, complying with regulations, and improving reputation. By measuring emissions and taking action to reduce them, organizations can contribute to the fight against climate change and benefit from increased sustainability and reduced costs. 

The push towards Net Zero has become increasingly urgent, resulting in greater regulation and pressure on companies to reduce their emissions. Companies need to be more conscious than ever about not only the direct greenhouse gases (GHG) they produce, but also of their indirect emissions. To achieve Net Zero, companies need to be conscious to track their direct and indirect emissions, and take a holistic approach to reducing their GHG emissions. By doing so, companies can not only contribute to the fight against climate change but also benefit from reduced energy costs and increased sustainability. 

With the rise in companies and countries all over the world calculating their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), measuring Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) in kg is becoming increasingly commonplace. 

How do we measure GHG emissions 

Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) have created large-scale imbalances in our environment, as they are being generated faster than they can be sequestered. The gas most often quoted as being most impactful on Global Warming and Climate Change is Carbon Dioxide (CO2) but many other gases also play their own role, including, 

  • Methane(CH4) 
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O) 
  • Hydrofluorocarbons(HFCs) 
  • Perfluorocarbons(PFPs) 
  • Sulphur Hexaflouride (SF6) 

All GHGs allow sunlight to pass through the atmosphere, but then trap the excess heat from that sunlight, stopping it from being able to leave, and turning the atmosphere into a kind of greenhouse with the Earth sitting in the middle, hence the name. 

Each gas has a specific global warming potential (GWP), which allows comparisons of the amount of energy the emissions of 1 tonne of a gas will absorb over a given time period, usually a 100-year averaging time, compared with the emissions of 1 tonne of CO2. 

To measure emissions it becomes important to take a product’s Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) into account when analyzing emissions. In other words, the environmental impact it has over the course of its existence, from the energy used to produce it to the ecological consequences at the end of its useful life. LCA aids in creating a picture of the effects that various goods and services have. You may decide what levers are available to modify in order to reduce emissions once you have a thorough understanding of all the various components and services involved.

How to measure Greenhouse gas Emissions by Scope? 

When measuring greenhouse gas emissions, we need to understand the obligations  around Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions. 

Scope 1 emissions- These are direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources. Emissions are released into the atmosphere as a direct result of a set of activities at a firm level. 

Scope 2 emissions- These are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, from a utility provider. The GHG emissions are released in the atmosphere from the consumption of purchased electricity, steam, heat and cooling. 

Scope 3 emissions – These emissions are the indirect emissions not included in Scope 2 that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and  downstream emissions. Emissions are linked to the company’s operations. According to GHG protocol, scope 3 emissions are separated into 15 categories.

How do you measure greenhouse gas emissions? 

There are 3 essential steps to measure GHGs: 

  • Decide which GHGs to measure. 

There are 6 main gases covered by the Kyoto protocol. Organizations should also identify the emissions their activity is most likely to emit, as different activities release different greenhouse gases. These findings influence the GHG emissions you choose to measure. 

  • Collect the necessary data. 

The data sets related to agriculture emissions are: 

Farm inputs- Type and amount used like fertilizers, pesticides and fuel for machinery. 

Crop Data-Data on crop yield and practices like Irrigation methods, tillage practices, residue management. Emissions from agriculture soils such as nitrous oxide from fertilizer application or organic matter decomposition is estimated using crop data. 

Energy consumption- Data on energy use with agriculture operations, including electricity consumption and fuel consumption. 

Livestock data- Data on number and type of livestock and their daily feed intake. Livestock emissions including methane from enteric fermentation and manure management are calculated based on this. 

Waste management – Information on handling and treatment of agriculture waste such as crop residues or manure. Methane emissions are considered from this. 

Land-use change- Data on land-use change such as deforestation, forest conversion to agriculture land. 

Emission factors- Emission factors specific to agriculture activities are necessary to convert the activity data into GHG emissions. 

Tracking of activity data like fertilizer application rate, fuel consumption and livestock inventories are important. 

Boundaries- Establishing boundaries such as upstream or downstream emissions is crucial for accurate emission assessment. 

  • Calculate your GHG emissions. 

GHG calculations in the agriculture sector can be complex and require specialized methodologies and models. Additionally, regional or country specific data and emission estimation guidelines is necessary for accurate assessments. A prescribed set of emission factors specifies how emissions for different categories of pollutant should be calculated. Greenhouse gases are then calculated by multiplying these emission factors by the activity data. 

GHG emission = Activity data x Emission Factor  

Challenges in measuring GHG emissions 

  • Preparing, tracking and disclosing key metrics in line with regulatory frameworks and standards might be overwhelming and time consuming. 
  • Gathering accurate and reliable data on agriculture practices and emissions can be difficult. 
  • Scale and Spatial variability 
  • Reporting rules and emission factors are ever evolving. 
  • Accounting for Carbon sequestration is challenging. 
  • Need to integrate GHG reporting with broader ESG strategies. 

How Trace Carbon helps in measuring GHG emissions 

Trace Carbon is a one-stop carbon management platform that can help companies in their decarbonization journey by measuring GHG emissions. The platform captures the granular level carbon emissions of a product from production to consumption and its end cycle. This enables companies to assess carbon hotspots and identify abatement strategies to reduce emissions. 

The platform can also help companies measure the impacts of sustainable farming practices and generate reports to fulfill sustainability commitments and achieve sustainable development goals. By measuring GHG emissions, companies can identify areas for improvement and set reduction targets. 

Trace Carbon can help companies in several ways, such as: 

  1. Carbon footprint analysis: The platform can calculate the carbon footprint of products and services, enabling companies to understand their carbon impact and identify opportunities for improvement. 
  1. Supply chain emissions tracking: The platform can track emissions across the supply chain, helping companies identify areas where emissions can be reduced and work with suppliers to develop sustainable solutions. 
  1. Abatement strategy development: The platform can identify carbon hotspots and help companies develop strategies to reduce emissions, such as increasing energy efficiency, using renewable energy sources, and implementing sustainable practices. 
  1. Sustainability reporting: The platform can generate reports to help companies fulfill their sustainability commitments and comply with regulations. 
  1. Goal tracking: The platform can track progress towards emissions reduction targets and help companies stay on track to achieve their decarbonization goals.

By measuring GHG emissions, companies can contribute to the fight against climate change and benefit from increased sustainability. 

Conclusion 

Measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is essential for organizations to understand their carbon impact and identify opportunities for improvement. By measuring GHG emissions, companies can identify emission sources, set reduction targets, and develop strategies to achieve them. This helps reduce costs, comply with regulations, and demonstrate commitment to sustainability, ultimately improving their reputation. Measuring GHG emissions can also contribute to the fight against climate change by reducing emissions and helping to achieve global climate goals. Overall, measuring GHG emissions is a crucial step towards achieving sustainability and reducing carbon footprint, and can provide numerous benefits for organizations and the planet as a whole. 

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