Friday, 2 October 2009

UK Government GHG accounting guidance

The UK government’s consultation on GHG reporting, which we reported on back in June, has been completed and the results are contained in ‘Guidance on how to measure and report your greenhouse gas emissions’, published yesterday. The guidance is aimed at all sizes of business as well as public and third sector organisations.

There’s not much new here. The methodology is based on the GHG Protocol and defers to it for any missing emissions factors not supplied by DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change, which has taken over responsibility from Defra).

It looks like a very clear document, with examples and case studies, and will need to be. The UK Climate Change Act requires the government to introduce mandatory business reporting of GHG emissions information by the 6th of April 2012 or explain to Parliament why not.

The document heads in that direction when it says “We encourage organisations to publish their GHG emissions data and supporting explanations. Where you report your data is a matter of choice: for some companies it may be their annual report / business review or it may be in a separate corporate responsibility / sustainability report.”

The document also goes into emissions reduction, including offsetting, with a description of what defines ‘good quality’ schemes. The criteria are based on:

  • Additionality – projects that would not have happened otherwise.
  • Avoiding leakage – offsets don’t generate their own emissions.
  • Permanence – What if the forest burns down (if trees are the offset)?
  • Validation and verification – by an accredited and recognised independent third party.
  • Timing – carbon credits should only be issued after the emissions reduction has taken place.
  • Avoiding double counting – a registry must be used to register, track and permanently cancel credits.
  • Transparency – credits should be supported by publicly available project documentation.

At the same time as the accounting guidance, after a public consultation earlier this year the government has also come up with a definition of carbon neutrality, as follows:

“Carbon neutral means that – through a transparent process of calculating emissions, reducing those emissions and offsetting residual emissions – net carbon emissions equal zero”.

More details in the guidance document here, but I still have reservations about this. I can see that quality offsetting may need to be part of the mix, but very much as a last resort. As far as I could see from this document there is no clear guidelines as to the ‘last resort’ requirement.

At least the guidelines will give some stability to carbon management solutions providers who can now have some confidence about what their products and services need to be able to do and how they should be applied.

© The Green IT Review

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