Below you will find a glossary of terms which are often used in environment and climate discussions to refer to processes, methodologies and initiatives. Often the names make little sense or are shortened to acronyms, which equally make little sense.
We hope this glossary will help to explain what some of the acronyms stand for and put in plain English what governments, companies and charities are trying to do with the processes, methodologies and initiatives.
There’s little doubt that the world is playing catch up in its action to slow down climate change. And because countries and governments are essentially trying to fix the plane whilst it’s flying it means that the processes, approaches and reporting frameworks in place to guide this effort are not necessarily 100% universal, agreed, tried or tested. As a result, there are various approaches, methodologies and reporting structures to quantify emissions targets and overall approaches to reducing them.
In building Windō we have looked to integrate the most widely used reporting systems and integrate frameworks we believe most likely to remain.
Either way, our approach will continuously evolve to serve both business and consumers so that it is as useful as it can be for everyone involved.
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol provides standards, guidance, tools and training for business and government to measure and manage climate-warming emissions.
The GHG Protocol was born when the WRI (World Research Institute) and WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) recognized the need for an international standard for corporate GHG accounting and reporting in the late 1990s. Together with large corporate partners such as BP and General Motors, in 1998 WRI published a report called, “Safe Climate, Sound Business.” It identified an action agenda to address climate change that included the need for standardised measurement of GHG emissions.
Currently the GHG Protocol divides emissions into scope, three of them to be precise.
It’s not clear why they’re called ‘scopes’ rather than ‘groups’ or ‘types’ but that’s the name the Greenhouse Gas Protocol gave it, so, well, there we are. But it is the world’s most widely-used greenhouse gas accounting standard, so it’s important to get a grip on what it’s all about.
So, in order to take action to reduce emissions, we need to understand and measure the source of those emissions.
In all there are three scopes and they provide a way of categorising the different kinds of emissions a company creates in its own operations and in its wider ‘value chain’ (its suppliers and customers).
As the Greenhouse Gas Protocol itself puts it: “Developing a full [greenhouse gas] emissions inventory – incorporating Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions – enables companies to understand their full value chain emissions and focus their efforts on the greatest reduction opportunities”.
Scope 1 covers emissions from sources that an organisation owns or controls directly and falls into four areas.
Burning fuel in a fleet of vehicles (mobile combustion), or in factories that make the business’s products (process emissions), or offices that house the staff (stationary combustion). Scope 1 also covers GHG leaks such as refrigeration gas or air conditioning units leaks (fugitive emissions).
Scope 2 are emissions that a company causes indirectly when the energy it purchases and uses is created.
For example, emissions generated to create the electricity used to power the machines to build cars in a factory.
Where scope 2 gets a little complicated is that within scope 2 reporting businesses can use two different kinds of methodology: location based and market based. So what’s the difference?
This simply takes the average emissions from electricity generation at the power plant that services the business that is using the energy.
This takes into account contracts that a business might have in place to buy specific amounts of renewable energy. In these cases the market based methodology would report zero emissions against the renewable energy generation, if the renewable energy production was certified.
Scope 3 emissions are probably the most important, but complicated. So one to always keep an eye on. This is often where it’s at.
Interestingly, they are emissions that are not produced by the company itself, or the result of activities by things that are owned or controlled by the company, but by those that it’s indirectly responsible for, up and down its value chain.
Within scope 3 there are 15 different categories where a company can indirectly create emissions.
As an example a combustion engine car manufacturer will create emissions in the mining of the metal for the car, the transport of the metal to their production plant, the commuting emissions of its employees who make the cars and then when the cars they sell are on the road the emissions from the car, and then when the car is no longer usable, the emissions generated to dispose of all the parts of the car….
So, they’re super, super important.
The Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) was introduced in 2019 by the UK government, as legislation to replace the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Scheme. SECR requires obligated companies (those listed on the London Stock Exchange and Limited Liability Partnerships) to report on their energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions within their financial reporting. The guidelines are split into data that is mandatory and optional. As it currently stands, within reporting on scopes, only reporting on scope 1 and scope 2 is mandatory, scope 3 is optional. Businesses are also free to determine the best metric to define their intensity ratio (IR). Whilst IRs being mandatory is definitely a good thing, a lack of consistency between how they are measured makes it hard to compare companies.
You can read more about SECR here.
You might often see a reference from a company that their targets are in line with the SBTi (The Science Based Targets initiative).
Science-based targets show companies how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Critically it helps to do four things:
- Define and promote best practice in emissions reductions and net-zero targets in line with climate science.
- Provide technical assistance and expert resources to companies who set science-based targets in line with the latest climate science.
- Provide companies with independent assessment and validation of targets.
Currently nearly one thousand organisations worldwide are setting emissions reduction targets based on climate science through the SBTi.
You can read more about them here.
The TCFD was created by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) to develop recommendations on the types of information that companies should disclose to support investors, lenders and insurance underwriters in appropriately assessing and pricing risks related to climate change.
The recommendations are structured around four thematic areas which are usually integral to how a company operates:
Governance: Making sure that the right structures and approaches are in place to keep the business in check.
Strategy: What the business is prioritising to drive it forward in a way that aligns with its vision, mission and in accordance with its values
Risk Management: Where do the business risks exist… competitors, supply chain disruption, legislation and now climate related risk
Metrics and Targets: This should be pretty obvious.
You can read more about them here.
In 2015 all United Nations Member States signed up to the The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is defined as a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.
At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in global partnership.
They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
The 17 goals are:
You can read more about them here.
Net zero means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. To achieve this businesses need to reduce emissions across their entire value chain (scope 1, 2 and 3) as much as humanly possible. At that point, any remaining emissions can be balanced out by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere, through offsetting.
Companies can cancel out the impact of some of their emissions by investing in projects that reduce or store carbon – forest preservation and tree planting are among them as well as supporting the build of renewable energy plants.
Businesses often speak about becoming carbon neutral. This means they’re taking steps to remove the equivalent amount of CO2 to what’s emitted through activities across their supply chains, by investing in offsetting.
Carbon neutrality is not perfect as it can allow companies to just offset and not actually look to actively reduce their emissions first. In addition, it has recently been argued that there is not strong evidence to support the idea that offsetting reliably reduces emissions and there is also a simple fact that there isn’t enough land to plant trees to make offsetting a primary strategy.
Also worth noting…
Net Zero refers to the amount of all greenhouse gases (GHGs) – such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane or sulphur dioxide – that are removed from the atmosphere being equal to those emitted by human activity.
Carbon neutrality specifically refers to the amount of carbon being removed from the atmosphere being equal to the carbon emitted.
Most people are familiar with this term and it’s often used more for individuals than business or products, but it’s relevant for everything.
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use and end-of-life of a product or service. It includes carbon dioxide and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming.
An intensity ratio is a way of defining your emissions data in relation to an appropriate business metric, such as tonnes of CO2e per £ of sales revenue, or tonnes of CO2e per total square metres of floor space. This allows comparison of energy efficiency performance over time and with other similar types of organisations.
When building these data out for companies our research showed that our users wanted one consistent metric so that all businesses could be compared against each other. To this end we chose total emissions by revenue.
Within this model low is more efficient, high is less efficient. And we have only included emissions efficiency data for businesses that have reported location based scope 2 methodology. (More of which you can read under scope 2).
A megawatt is a unit for measuring power that is equivalent to one million watts. One megawatt is equivalent to the energy produced by 10 automobile engines.
A megawatt hour (Mwh) is equal to 1,000 Kilowatt hours (Kwh). It is equal to 1,000 kilowatts of electricity used continuously for one hour. It is about equivalent to the amount of electricity used by about 330 homes during one hour.