Carbon Footprint of an individual or a business is its total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for a given period of time, typically a year. Since carbon dioxide is the most powerful greenhouse gas, footprint is measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). World Resource Institute’s (WRI) GHG Protocol and the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14064 standard are the common standards for measuring carbon footprint. Various terms used for carbon footprint include carbon inventory, carbon audit or GHG inventory. Once you measure your carbon footprint, it acts like a baseline to track your future emission reductions and progress. This is key for organization’s sustainability reporting and also to achieve and demonstrate its carbon neutrality.
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases present in the atmosphere which trap Sun’s heat reflected from Earth’s surface. The main GHGs are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. These are typically measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). Without GHGs, Earth would be too cold for life to exist. But due to human activities, more GHGs are released capturing more heat than necessary, which in turn causes rise in Earth’s temperature known as global warming. This is known as the Greenhouse Effect. Main source of GHGs emissions is energy production by burning fossil fuels which contributes approx. 61% of global emissions. Land use changes such as deforestation releases approx. 18% whereas agriculture releases approx. 14% mostly from soils and livestock.
The increase in Earth’s average surface temperature is called global warming or climate change. Increase in temperature has caused noticeable changes in climate globally including change of weather patterns, intense and frequent heat waves, heavy rains, droughts, flooding, hurricanes, melting of ice glaciers and snow cover causing increase in sea levels. It has negative impacts on biodiversity such as species getting extinct and crop productivity reducing. Climate change is considered one of the biggest threats to life on planet Earth. It can be reversed by reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which is currently the main solution adopted by various governments, businesses and individuals. Everybody contributes to the climate change thus is also responsible to reverse this.
Targets set by a company to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are considered science-based if they effectively keep global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius and well below 2 degree Celsius. World Resource Institute (WRI), WWF, UN and CDP founded the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) which aims to make SBT a standard of corporate practice for reduction of GHG emissions. Companies that set SBT are assessed and approved by this initiative and then showcased to gain them public recognition which also inspires other companies in those sectors. Developing such ambitious yet meaningful carbon reduction targets, which are science based, is now becoming a important part of corporate sustainability strategy.
Unavoidable carbon emissions can be offset by purchasing carbon credits which finance verified emission reduction projects. Verified projects which either store, avoid or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are awarded carbon credits, which can be purchased by individuals or businesses for Carbon Offsetting. Utilizing one carbon credit on a reputable registry, such as American Carbon Registry, balances the effects on atmosphere due to emission of 1 tonne of GHG in carbon dioxide equivalent (1tCO2e). Since climate change has a global impact, it is acceptable to compensate for emissions resulting from activities in certain region by reducing or preventing emissions in another region.