Indicator 1.2

Issue: Climate change

Indicator: Energy use and emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2)

Why is this important?

Global climate change has been described by many, including the UK Prime Minister, as the biggest public policy challenge we face. Our economies are already having an impact on the climate.[3] Temperatures and sea levels are rising - average global temperatures are now warmer than at any time during the last 120,000 years, - ice caps are melting and there has been an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events - droughts, floods and storms. One of the predictions of global climate change is now a reality: Insurance weather related damage claims, for example, exceeded $90 billion in 1998 alone. This represents more weather related damage destruction than reported in the entire decade of the 1980s.

The cause - emissions of greenhouse gases from virtually all economic activity. The main source of human enhanced emissions is carbon dioxide from energy use. Carbon dioxide emissions account for over 50% of total anthropogenic emissions (for the UK this figure is nearer to 80%). Emissions result from the combustion of fossil fuel derived energy - from gas, coal and oil used in the generation of electricity and from the combustion of liquid fossil fuels - mainly diesel, petrol and kerosene - in our transportation systems. The globalisation of food supply networks and their associated emissions have become a major concern and a hotly debated issue.

In human terms the consequences of climate change are likely to mean disruption to food supplies, displacement of populations and associated social upheaval, severe water shortages and increased incidence in disease. Agriculture in particular will be hard hit. Areas already prone to environmental stress, like the drylands of Africa, Asia, and closer to home, East Anglia, will be particularly vulnerable. Sea level rises, due to the thermal expansion of the oceans and melting ice caps threaten low lying areas such as Bangladesh and many of the great cities in North America and Europe, including London.

Unless emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced substantially, climate systems are likely to become increasingly unstable. The IPCC suggest that emissions need to be reduced by 60% or more to avoid 'dangerous anthropogenic interference of the climate.' Under the Kyoto protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, one of the three international agreements reached at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the UK is committed to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 12.5% from 1990 base line emission levels by 2012. The UK Government has set a more ambitious target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from their 1990 base line and is encouraging companies, under its Make a Corporate Commitment Campaign (MACC2), to contribute to meeting this UK wide policy goal. Given the IPCC's recommendations, as well as that of the UK's own Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) for a 60% cut (by 2050), even this unilateral and more ambitious target runs the risk of doing too little, too late.

How will this indicator be measured?

Ideally it would be good to capture/estimate each organisations total carbon footprint - the total emissions resulting from its activities and operations over the period under review. Emissions would have to be estimated within defined boundaries. For this project, we advocate using the boundary definition used in DEFRA's Environmental Reporting - Guidelines for Company Reporting on Greenhouse Gas Emissions. A total carbon footprint/emission quantification would include energy related emissions from offices and stores - ie from heat, light, power and refrigeration and all transport related emissions - as bullet pointed below - from company cars, freight and distribution and so on.

Needless to say, the quantification of a company's total carbon footprint, even using the defined DEFRA methodology, can be a very data intensive exercise. Many companies simply do not have the systems or procedures in place to capture the required information routinely (although there will probably come a time in the not too distant future when they have too). This is why we have decided to limit the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions to the following two significant source areas:

These two emission sources are likely to catch the bulk of total greenhouse gas emissions. However, the eventual aim will be to report on total emissions as per the DEFRA Guidelines. This will enable the important and growing emissions source area of air freight to be captured, along with freight and travel movements by rail and sea.

Some of these sources may be more significant/material for some companies/locations than others. Progress on reducing emissions could then be tracked annually. There are numerous options open to companies (and individuals) to reduce their carbon footprint. These include efficiency savings, - using less fossil fuel derived energy in the first place (ie doing more with less). For supermarkets this could be achieved by reducing food miles[4], for example through sourcing more goods and services locally, especially fresh fruit and vegetables when in season, and exploring ways to inform and encourage consumers to choose these products.. Switching to cleaner and greener transport fuels provides another opportunity to reduce emissions. CNG, for example, is associated with lower carbon emissions per kilometre than petrol or diesel. Several companies are also contracting for a proportion of their total electricity demand, or developing their own, on-site renewable energy generating capacity, as part of their overall carbon reduction policies. All of these strategies would contribute to lowering total emissions per £ of turnover, per metre squared of floor space or whatever other normalising factor is used to express emissions. Companies should also be aiming for absolute emission reductions in accordance with Government targets and obligations. Companies will also be asked to provide information on setting and achieving emission-reducing targets.


[3] In their Third Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental panel on climate change, the IPCC made up of over 2500 of the world's leading scientists, concluded that humankind is now having a discernible impact on the climate. Latest predictions suggest that average tesmperatures will rise by 2.7 degree centigrade by 2100, perhaps by as much as 5.8 degrees centigrade - a rate of increase higher than any seen since the last ice age. The UK is certainly getting warmer. The six warmest years on record all occurred in the 1990s, with 1998 being the warmest since records began two centuries ago. Sea levels are predicted to rise by between 15-95 cms.

[4] Between 1989 and 1999 there was a 90% increase in road freight movements of agricultural and food products between the UK and the rest of Europe. Over the same period, total UK air freight doubled and is predicted to increase by 7.5% each year to 2010. Quoted in Eating Oil: Food Supply in a Changing Climate. Sustain, Nov 2001.

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