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GHG Accounting Research

The aim of the Climate Change Institute’s research was to find to effective methods to communicate information and provide resources to small and medium sized enterprises (SMSs) to can self-assess their own GHG inventory, reduce emissions, and determine what is required to become carbon neutral.

It was decided that organisations should assess their carbon neutrality status based on The GHG Corporate Protocol Accounting Standard. The GHG Accounting Tutorial was created by the Institute and designed to be written in plain English, with an easy to follow format. based in the GHG Corporate Protocol Accounting Standard. It is designed to assist companies and sole traders to be aware of the requirements to follow procedures and have properly documented evidence that can be either made publicly available or verified by a certified person such as an accountant.

Going carbon neutral involves:

1 – Implementing an emission reduction program. An emission reduction program template was also designed and created and is provided free of charge by the Institute.

2 – Calculate your Company’s GHG emissions and carbon footprint using GHG Corporate Protocol Accounting Standards and submit a GHG Emission Statement. The Institute also provides the spreadsheet calculator and training resources to assist you do do this.

3 – Offset your remaining emissions with Carbon Offset Certificates.

Then you can declare yourself to be a Carbon Neutral Company within scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and have the evidence to prove it, based on the GHG Protocol Accounting Standard.

The objective is to provide resources to enable companies understand the GHG accounting process, and to measure and document the process, in conjunction with reducing their emissions.

Small and medium sized businesses can be disadvantaged in attempting to be carbon neutral because of the fees and time involved with private certification firms.

It can be hard for smaller companies to justify the expense as they don’t have the financial resources of larger companies. Trying to get certification can be confusing to many. There is no single government entity where you get carbon neutral certification, but a collection of private companies offering it with an array of names. Some are for being ‘climate neutral’ or ‘climate active’ instead of just saying ‘carbon neutral’.

We believe that it is possible to have a transparent system that is self-assessed, where the public can see a company’s GHG Statement, emission reduction policies and procedures and environmental record.

Many businesses have delayed becoming carbon neutral because of the fees involved.

If we want companies to be involved in fighting climate change, then we must make it quick and inexpensive as possible to become carbon neutral.

The costs look prohibitive and it doesn’t seem possible to find out what the out the fees are going to be unless you book an appointment with a consultant. The process looks complicated and expensive. It shouldn’t be like that if we want to encourage companies to be carbon neutral. Money should be spent on emission reduction and offsets that support carbon removal projects, not paying large administrative compliance fees.

With the GHG accounting tutorials and resources using recognised GHG account principles, there is no reason why companies cannot do their own emission reduction and carbon footprint administration. People in the company are often better placed to account for and control their emissions. Using outside consultants means having someone you don’t know through your accounts and seeing all your company information.

Going Carbon Neutral should not involve long timeframes and large fees. If small and mid-sized companies find it difficult and expensive to get carbon neutral certification, they may not be able to compete. They need to be able to get genuine carbon neutral status quickly and at a low administrative cost.

Problems with existing certification regimes

Carbon footprints are often measured annually. Essential data includes energy bills, transport costs, waste generation and other emissions which are a result of company activities. The issue with annual measurements is the timeliness of the data. Company operations and emission levels may have changed significantly since the previous year. Yet the company is still certified as carbon neutral. Companies that offset for the previous period may not be actually carbon neutral now. So when a business is certified as climate or carbon neutral it may not actually be 100% correct. There are also indirect emissions that an individual or business generates that are not always included in the carbon footprint measurements.

The term ‘Carbon Neutral’ relates to the organisation itself. It covers scope 1, 2 and some scope 3 emissions. It does not necessarily relate to a product itself being carbon neutral. These may have emissions associated with obtaining the raw materials which would need to be included for the product to be deemed carbon neutral. Products are carbon neutral when you offset all the ‘upstream’ emissions that were created by its manufacture and transport to your business. These scope 3 emissions are outside of the control of the business.

For example, a manufacturer buys rolls of plastic that are turned into products. Provided the company is carbon neutral, then if it offsets the emissions from the supply of raw materials, then the product is Carbon Neutral.

Carbon accounting principles are based on the GHG Protocol – Corporate Standard and international standards ISO 14064 and ISO 14040.

If seeking to claim carbon neutrality, the carbon account of a product or service must be calculated according to these principles:

• Relevance: the greenhouse gas inventory of a product or service must appropriately reflects the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to that product or service and serves the decision-making needs of users – both internal and external.

• Completeness: all greenhouse gas emissions sources and activities within the defined life cycle boundary of the product or service must be accounted for and reported, and justify any exclusions.

• Consistency: involves using methodologies to allow for meaningful comparisons of greenhouse gas emissions over time and document any changes to the data, boundary, methods or any other relevant factors in the time series.

• Transparency: compile, analyse and document greenhouse gas information clearly and coherently so that auditors and the public may evaluate its credibility. Disclose any relevant assumptions and make appropriate references to the calculation methodologies and data sources used.

• Accuracy: by ensuring the quantification of greenhouse gas emissions is unbiased (not systematically over or under actual emissions) and uncertainties are reduced as far as practicable. Achieve sufficient accuracy to enable users to make decisions with reasonable assurance as to the integrity of the reported information. Where uncertainty is high, use conservative values and assumptions.