Carbon neutrality, a reality or a scam?

According to the Agence de la Transition Ecologique (ADEME), “carbon neutrality” aims to counterbalance, on a global scale, all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from human activity by sequestering equivalent quantities of CO2, i.e. keeping them out of the atmosphere over the long term. In other words, it is a matter of sequestering as much carbon as we emit to stabilise its level of concentration in the atmosphere and thus limit the increase in the planet’s global temperature. 

The objective of carbon neutrality therefore only makes sense on a global scale. 

In line with the global objective of carbon neutrality, many actors are mobilising and wish to do their part: companies, territories, citizens, etc. There is an increasing amount of communication around this global objective, without a shared framework and without always understanding the ins and outs. Various interpretations of the term “carbon neutrality” are observed, often giving the illusion that an actor, a product or an activity would no longer have any impact on the climate. 

Individually or on their own scale, economic actors, local authorities and citizens who are committed to carbon neutrality are not, nor can they become, or claim to be, “carbon neutral“, which is meaningless on their own scale.

As explained by M. Jancovici, when a company declares itself “carbon neutral“, it does not mean that it has instantly put itself “outside the climate problem”. A company belongs to a value chain, in which all the links (suppliers, customers, partners, etc.) depend for instance on fossil fuel machines, or even deforestation, and therefore on CO2 emissions, whether these emissions are their property or not. The risk comes from the dependence, not from the ownership!

However, companies can enhance their contribution to this global objective through their respective actions. 

At Tapio we have mistaken some terms, concepts and wordings regarding “carbon neutrality” but thanks to institutions such as ADEME, Carbone 4, etc., which shed light on climate blurs, we were able to reconsider and adapt our strategy.

Indeed, as the ADEME explained, the sequestration potential of our forests, soils, etc., is not sufficient to balance the current and trend level of our emissions. It is therefore essential to adopt, as soon as possible, ambitious reduction strategies that will allow us to decarbonise our system while increasing the available carbon sinks.

We thus push our partners to implement actions in priority on their perimeter of responsibility, i.e. on which their activity induces a GHG impact and not to base their strategy solely on the financing of emission reduction or sequestration projects at third parties. 

Sources
https://www.ademe.fr/sites/default/files/assets/documents/avis-ademe-neutralite-carbone-2021.pdf
https://jancovici.com/publications-et-co/articles-de-presse/soyons-neutres/

What should we expect from COP 26?

The 26th annual UN Climate Conference will take place this year in Glasgow from 1st  to 12th November 2021 under the UK Presidency and in partnership with Italy. It was delayed due to Coronavirus. 

History

At the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit held in June 1992, three international conventions were discussed and signed by 197 countries. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the agreement addressing climate change, whose purposes are to prevent human activities that are dangerous for the environment and stabilise greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. 

The UNFCCC was ratified by 197 Parties to the Convention. Once a year, these Parties meet at a ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP). The COP is the UNFCCC’s decision-making body that negotiates and discusses how to best tackle climate change.

Highlights

  • COP3 – Kyoto Protocol (1997). First legally binding agreement treaty aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Agreed in 1997, but ran from 2005 to 2020 after long negotiations. The US, Canada and China pulled out.
  • COP15 – Copenhagen accord (2009). Second attempt at a legally binding global regime. Despite great expectations, talks break down. However, nations agree on trying to limit average temperature increase below 2°C. Besides, rich nations pledge to provide $100bn per year to the poorest by 2020.
  • COP21 – Paris agreement (2015). Historic agreement to replace the extension of the Kyoto Protocol from 2020. Stating that the international community will do its utmost to keep global warming well below +2°C, or even limit it to +1.5°C. All states have committed to publishing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets depending on their individual circumstances and capabilities.

Since then, COPs’ purposes have been to seek an agreement on the details of implementations and finance and to ramp up nations’ ambition on climate action. It was also agreed at the time that every five years there would be a review of progress. 

COP26 will be the first summit where the Parties will review the progress made – or not – since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015. Allowing COP negotiators to know which nations are holding back and which are making progress. 

The most needed outcomes of COP26 are to radically raise ambition, mobilise finance and find an agreement on the ‘Paris rulebook’.

Raising ambition

Until recently, reduction targets still reflected 3°C of warming by 2100. Paris Agreements signatories are required to submit enhanced targets aligned with reaching net zero by the middle of the century, before COP26. Net-zero means cutting all possible greenhouse gas emissions, and then ensuring that the remaining emissions are removed by natural systems (e.g. trees, or peat) or technologies (e.g. direct air carbon capture and storage) that absorb carbon.

Mobilise finance 

At COP26, an enhancement in financial contributions by rich countries is expected to be able to meet the original pledge of COP15 (the threshold of $100bn per year in financial support to poorer countries has not yet been achieved). This achievement is critical if nations want to stand a chance in reaching their targets and especially to enable poorer countries to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts.

Detailed rules to make the Paris Agreement operational

The Paris rulebook is the process whereby nations agree on the rules to achieve Paris agreements goals and on the requirements over how delivery against it will be measured and judged. 

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects. 

The true attempt is clear: TURN AMBITION INTO ACTION. Targets and rulebooks will not be enough to reach Net-Zero. Collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society is needed to change the way our consumption and living standards are affecting the planet. 

Tapio chose to support companies in their climate transition by providing them all the tools to measure, understand and reduce their CO2 emissions in an All-in-One Carbone Management Software. Reach us out if you think a company could benefit from our service.

Sources
https://ukcop26.org/
https://eciu.net/analysis/infographics/cop26-climate-infographic 
https://unfccc.int/

Understand a carbon report: what are scopes 1, 2, 3 ?

The climate emergency is finally shaking up our society: national and international climate objectives are becoming clearer, programs aiming at carbon neutrality are multiplying and laws aiming at limiting gas emissions are appearing on all sides. The business world has not escaped this revolution. Indeed, more and more companies are committing, voluntarily or by obligation, to report their emissions and to reduce them. These carbon reports are now very frequent and standardized.

What is included in a corporate carbon report ?

The GHG Protocol, a 20-year partnership between World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) was the first organization to define reporting standards for greenhouse gas emissions, particularly for companies. All information related to corporate carbon reporting can be found here.

A company’s carbon report describes in detail all the emissions related to the company’s activities along the entire value chain. The major difficulty is to determine the boundaries of the emissions’ reporting scope and to assign responsibility to the right organization. Or put more crudely, to determine to what extent one counts and how far one is responsible. For this purpose, the GHG protocol has defined some concepts of boundaries and scopes of emissions.

“The major difficulty when it comes to carbon accounting is to determine the boundaries of the emissions reporting scope and to assign responsibility to the right organization”

What are the boundaries and scope of emissions?

Initially, an organisation has to define the organisational boundaries, which are the physical sites, goods and facilities taken into account in the carbon report. Defining the organisational boundaries can be tricky for complex organisations with, for example, shares in or control of another organisation. However, for most organisations, this part is quite intuitive. 

Then, the company has to define the sources of emissions that will be taken into account in the calculation method. These sources are divided into 3 scopes of emissions:

SCOPESDEFINITIONINCLUDED
Scope 1Direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by the organization. In concrete terms, these are the emissions that take place within the physical limits of the company as defined previously. Combustion of stationary and mobile sources, non-combustion industrial processes, ruminant emissions, refrigerant leaks, biomass, etc.
Scope 2Indirect energy emissions associated with the production of electricity, heat or steam imported for the organization’s operations.Elecricity, heat, steam.
Scope 3Other indirect emissions produced by the organization’s activities that are not accounted for in Scope 2 but are related to the complete value chain. They are believed to have the most significant impact of the three scopes in terms of quantity averaging 80% of the total emissions.Business travel, commuting, inputs, waste, inbound and outbound logistics, etc.
Tapio – Methodology

Generally, the responsibility for Scope 1 and 2 emissions is attributed to the reporting company. Responsibility for Scope 3 emissions is not attributed to the reporting company but to the company that owns these emissions within its Scope 1 and 2. However, even if a company is not responsible for its Scope 3 emissions, it can have an impact on them through various reduction levers. 

Generally, the responsibility for Scope 1 and 2 emissions is attributed to the reporting company.

For example, company X uses a third-party transportation company Y to make deliveries of its product. The emissions from the delivery trucks are part of company Y’s Scope 1 and company X’s Scope 3. The responsibility for these emissions is therefore attributed to the delivery company Y. However, Company X can reduce these transportation emissions by using less heavy and efficient packaging, choosing another greener transportation company that uses electric trucks,… It can also be pointed out that one’s scope 1 and 2 are another one’s scope 3.

The 3 scopes of emissions are themself divided into 23 emissions categories, allowing you to precisely target the GHG flows within your organization. Those categories are represented in the following figure.

The objective of scope separation is to determine who is responsible for a source of emissions. But more importantly to include all significant emissions linked to a company’s activities through the entire value chain of a product and on which it can have a reduction impact. This is the reason why it is an essential element found among all public carbon reports.

Now what? You did a carbon report and you want to make something out of it? Or you would like to start the exercise of doing a carbon report. Both subjects are addressed by Tapio. 

Tapio, an All-in-One Carbon Management Software, makes it easy and cost-effective to manage your carbon emissions by facilitating the aggregation of the data. With an overview of your carbon emissions, we give you the foundations on which to take action.

What is carbon offsetting and how does it work?

As you all (may) know, carbon emissions must be halved by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. Thus, as planet earth’s citizens, our absolute priority is to reduce the carbon intensity of anthropogenic activities (see our previous blog post on the topic). But what can we do when we reach the limit of the carbon emission reduction potential of an activity? Carbon offsetting is an alternative to adjust your net emissions in the short term.

Simply put, carbon offsetting enables an organization to further act on  its carbon footprint by supporting projects that reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The organization finances a project that captures carbon or avoids an emission. In exchange, the organization receives a carbon credit that can be accounted for as a decrease in the organization’s net emissions. The credit can be created through different methods. The most well-known example and also the most used is forestry and land-use projects. These projects generate credits based on reforestation, avoided deforestation, improved forest management or ecosystem restoration. The principle is simple: any healthy tree captures carbon and if several project criteria are met, credits are emitted on the carbon captured by the trees. The same mechanism applies for renewable energy, household devices (such as cookstoves and water purification systems), waste disposal or energy efficiency projects (check Tapio’s projects).

The COMACO Landscape Management Project (CLMP) promotes sustainable agriculture and forest conservation in the Eastern Province of The Republic of Zambia. The main objectives of the project are twofold: to sustainably increase smallholder farmer crop yields, income and welfare; and to reduce uncontrolled forest loss and degradation, and increase net forest cover.

The required criteria are standardized across all projects. They ensure that every carbon credit is emitted ex-post, only when the carbon has been captured or avoided. These criteria are commonly referred to as “PAVER”:

  • Permanent: the reduction or avoidance must be perpetual;
  • Additional: the project would not have occurred without the offset project;
  • Verifiable: the project must be able to be verified with data;
  • Enforceable: the credit must be emitted only once, and then retired;
  • Real: the credit must not be emitted due to false accounting methodology

Certifications ensure that these criteria are met and register all the emitted credits. The certifications are granted by international specialized certification agencies, such as Gold Standard, Verra, or Plan Vivo. They guarantee the equivalence of carbon credits: every credit has the same validity, independently of how they were generated. On top of that, they also analyse to what extent each project contributes to a wider social or environmental impact (co-benefits), like the Sustainable Development Goals.

Back in the early 2000s, carbon offsetting was considered a very niche type of initiative for idealistic tree-planters. Nowadays, offsetting carbon has come under the spotlights, with a yearly transaction volume of credits of 100 million tonnes of CO² equivalent in 2020, expected to be multiplied by up to 15 by 2030 and up to 100 by 2050, according to McKinsey and the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS)

Note that we are speaking here about the voluntary carbon offset market when organisations proactively decide to offset their emissions. This voluntary aspect differentiates itself from regulated markets of carbon credits such as the EU ETS. These regulated markets work according to different principles, generally through a “cap and trade” mechanism.
In our case, voluntary carbon offsetting works with certified projects that generate credits that can be bought by organizations willing to offset carbon emissions. 

At Tapio, we select the most suited project according to your volume needs and sustainable development preferences. To us, carbon offsetting is an essential tool to compensate for the emissions you cannot abate today. However, when targeting net-zero, you must first focus on your carbon reduction goals using our solutions generator. Carbon credits come second and provide you with a way to correct your trajectory over time while supporting meaningful projects.

Sources:
Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets
Science Based Targets Initiative
Forest Trends
Gold Standard
Verra
World Bank

Understand the European Green Deal in 2 minutes

In 2015, the Paris Agreements set an ambitious global target to limit the increase in global temperature to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The European Union (EU) is the first powerful economic bloc to respond by unveiling the Green Deal, the roadmap for transforming the EU into a fair and prosperous society with no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

Released in December 2019, the Green Deal (GD) is actually a 27-page document that sets out the timetable for the tasks of the Commission and its members to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 55% in 2030 and then achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Various sectors that have a negative impact on the environment will be subject to an in-depth review. Agriculture, transport, mobility, energy, industry, food and other key sectors in the ecological transition are subject to a clear strategy and part of a systemic approach to integrate the objective of prosperity with an environmental objective.

Video from European Commission – “The European Green Deal”

The means deployed by the EU are equal to the task. The EU will deploy a minimum of 1000 billion euros. A sum that will be massively injected into European private and public sector initiatives that support the transition to a sustainable and resource-independent system. A significant part of the budget will also be used to support innovation, research and allow a fair transition for people dependent on polluting activities. With the invested budget, the EU would like to develop a resource-independent green economy.

To ensure the proper implementation of the GD, the union unveiled the climate law in March 2020. The climate law sets the legal framework for the GD by setting out, among other things, the mandatory monitoring measures to which members will be subject, as well as the obligations to integrate the GD objectives into all member states’ policies and initiatives. The Climate Act is in addition to pre-existing initiatives inherent to the GD, such as the European Trade System (ETS), which already limits the emissions of major greenhouse gas producers on the European continent.

Finally, the GD also addresses the EU’s global strategy to become a world leader in terms of climate initiatives. In order to achieve the objectives set by the Paris agreement and to avoid a simple relocation of emissions, the EU is working with other global players. Since the emergence of the green deal, other ambitious climate projects have emerged such as the American Green New Deal or China’s Great Green Reset.

The EU is dependent on its size and complexity resulting in many inconsistencies and greatly slowing down the implementation process. Although criticized, GD confirms Europe’s intention to significantly reduce its impact on the environment. In this context, many companies and organizations will have to review their operating methods in order to compensate but above all to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Tapio’s carbon management platform provides a simple, accessible and enjoyable way for companies to be in line with Europe’s objectives and to become a positive actor of change. 

Sources:
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1588580774040&uri=CELEX:52019DC0640
https://www.iew.be/le-green-deal-europeen-un-changement-de-paradigme/
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/09/what-is-the-european-green-deal-and-will-it-really-cost-1tn
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/api/files/attachment/859152/What_is_the_European_Green_Deal_en.pdf.pdf