Carbon emissions are responsible for 81% of overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It’s only one week to go (from the writing of this article) until the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place. The mantra is Paris promised, Glasgow must deliver. Climate action comes under the spotlight with scope emissions targets under review for governments, businesses and the world at large. Tackling climate change takes an understanding of scope 1,2,3 emissions as defined by GHG Protocol, which supplies the World’s most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standards. Investor and consumer awareness has improved with many of them vocal about greenwashing and asking pertinent questions such as:

  • What are the near-term scope 1,2,3 emissions targets?
  • Can we see the transparent information about which emissions are being cut and how?
  • Which emissions aren’t or can’t be cut?
  • What is the plan on that which can’t be cut?

The leading GHG Protocol corporate standard classifies GHG emissions into three scopes. Scope 1 and 2 are mandatory to report, whereas scope 3 is voluntary and the hardest to monitor. Businesses that succeed in reporting all three scopes will benefit from a sustainable competitive advantage. Choosing a carbon reduction strategy based on set science-based targets requires full comprehension of scope 1,2,3 emissions and Global Road Technology takes you through a journey of unpacking them. 

Scope 1 emissions: direct emissions

These are direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources and the emissions are released into the atmosphere as a direct result of set activities at a company level. Scope 1 emissions are divided into 4 categories:

  • Stationary combustion: from fuels and heating sources, all fuels that produce GHG emissions must be included in scope 1.
  • Mobile combustion: from all vehicles owned or controlled by a firm, burning fuel in their cars, vans, trucks. The increased use of electric vehicles means that some of the organization fleets could fall into scope 2 emissions.
  • Fugitive emissions: are leaks from greenhouse gases in refrigeration, air conditioning units. Refrigerant gases are 1000X more dangerous than CO2 emissions – they ought to be reported. 
  • Process emissions: these are released during industrial processes, and on-site manufacturing such as production of CO2 during cement manufacturing, factory fumes, chemicals etc.

Scope 2 emissions: indirect emissions – owned

These are indirect emissions from upstream activities or GHG created by the generation of purchased energy, from a utility provider which happens from the consumption of purchased electricity, steam, heat and cooling. For most businesses, electricity will be the unique source of scope 2 emissions and it covers the electricity consumed by the end-user but provided by an energy company. Many households’ energy bills now give a figure for the carbon emissions associated with energy drawn from the grid by the household. To tackle these emissions, you must understand the suppliers’ policies and procedures and change can be implemented by switching to a more sustainable supplier or sourcing renewable energy sources. Turning off lights or replacing with more energy efficient bulbs and changing to in-house renewable energy generation are ways that can reduce emissions.  

Scope 3 emissions: indirect emissions – not owned

These are all indirect emissions not included in scope 2 that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions. In essence, these are emissions linked to the company’s operations. Scope 3 emissions are separated into 15 categories: 

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

Upstream activities:

  • Capital goods.
  • Business travel. 
  • Employee commuting. 
  • Upstream leased assets. 
  • Purchased goods and services.
  • Waste generated in operations.
  • Fuel and energy-related activities. 
  • Upstream transportation and distribution.

Downstream activities:

  • Franchises.
  • Investments.
  • Use of sold products.
  • End of life treatment. 
  • Downstream leased assets.
  • Processing of sold products.
  • Downstream transportation and distribution. 

To be continued

Scope 1,2,3 emissions are essential in identifying and measuring an organization’s carbon footprint and it is less of a linear process but rather a complete lifecycle with different stages to be addressed. Science-based targets are the way to go in taking actionable steps towards GHG emission reduction. In the next article, we will focus our conversation on the impact shipping water contained within bulk mineral concentrates has on the downstream customer’s scope 3 emissions. The highlight will be how mineral processors can balance between ‘slush and dust’.

Meanwhile, enjoy a selection of our previous articles on related topics:

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Reducing carbon emissions is a business imperative. Retrieved 24/10/21