What exactly is your carbon footprint, and why does it matter?

Here we are in 2018 another year in the books and another 80 MT of carbon released into the atmosphere by New Zealand as a whole. We’re another year closer to the complete removal of the 2-for-1 emissions trading scheme (we’re currently at 83% at the moment) and the carbon market is starting to take notice.

Source: Carbon Forest Services

Figure 1 – NZU Price – Last 5 Years

It’s been suggested that this is likely to continue rising in the future with Greens Leader James Shaw believing that the current government appointed cap of $25/T is insufficient. This is backed by industry experts with OMF head Nigel Brunel stating that “In the longer term, I think we are going much, much, much higher”. Calculations based on the 2015 Paris climate change accords means that  a global carbon price at over NZ$100 a tonne could be justified in the long-term.As of the start of February 2018 the carbon price sits at $21.20 having risen around $4 since September last year.

The New Zealand scheme is targeted at large manufacturing industries which means the commercial and residential sectors need not worry directly (except for a possible rise in electricity prices and some product prices). There are, however, a new wave of companies and institutions who are voluntarily taking ownership of their emissions. The University of Canterbury is one such example. In the last seven years they have reduced their absolute carbon emissions by 34%, the equivalent of having 2,300 less cars on the road each year!

The journey to these kind of savings starts simply with an overview of the current state of play of your company’s carbon emissions. There is guiding document for this released each year by the Ministry for the Environment. It breaks the carbon emissions into three scopes;

Scope 1: Fuel usage you have direct control over e.g. coal use in a boiler, fuel use in company cars as well as refrigerant losses from heat pump systems and refrigeration units. This can usually be collected through record of fuel deliveries, company fuel card and maintenance reports.

Scope 2: Electricity . The easiest of the lot, a good record of your electrical bills makes this step straightforward

Scope 3 : Everything else… Scope 3 is where things start to get messy. The definition moves away from the ownership or control of the emitter as with Scope 1 and 2 and moves toward a consequence of the actions of the companies. Things such as Air kms, organic rubbish disposal and anything else that is regarded as a greenhouse gas emitting process that is a consequence of the companies’ action. Luckily Scope 1 and 2 form the bulk of the usage and emission sources with estimations <5% of the approximated total do not need to be further calculated.

Once you know how much carbon you’re emitting there’s a clear base from which you can improve from. Embarking on efficiency projects means that you will not only reduce your carbon footprint but in the process, you’ll likely cut fuel/electricity usage which can make a real-world difference to your bottom line.  Some companies like to go even further and target carbon neutrality. This is a concept by which you buy the aforementioned carbon credits in a quantity that offsets your emissions (which hopefully have already been reduced as low as reasonably possible) with the overarching idea that the credits are responsible for taking in as much carbon as you produce.

This is unlikely to be financially beneficial, but it has great immeasurable side-effects and in the hands of a good marketing team can give a company an edge in a competitive market.

If this sounds like a good way to put real numbers and actions to your sustainability strategy get in touch and let’s start a conversation.