Climate change and the emission of greenhouse gases are some of the most critical issues facing society. Strategies and actions to reduce carbon footprints remain important and governments, industry and communities are still responding to this issue in various ways.
To minimise the effects of climate change, countries and indeed corporate entities need to significantly reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and eliminate or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Some organisations that assess their GHG (Green House Gas) emissions have a tendency to claim that they are “carbon neutral” by reducing their carbon impacts and offsetting the remainder through a variety of schemes such as renewable energy projects and afforestation. Previously, these claims could not be substantiated, leading to a degree of ambiguity as to the veracity of these statements. This has led to the welcome development of a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) to produce a common definition and a recognised method of validation of greenhouse gases reduction. PAS 2060:2014 Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality is an internationally recognised standard designed to verify the accuracy of claims made by corporate entities that they are carbon neutral or carbon zero.
PAS 2060 builds on existing environmental standards such as the ISO 14000 series of standards and on PAS 2050 – The assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services, which I did a blog on recently.
Implementation of PAS 2060 will lead to:
- reduced greenhouse gas emissions
- enhanced consumer protection
- improved brand image
- improved resource efficiency and lower spending
- increased action on climate change
- accurate and verifiable declarations of carbon neutrality that are not misleading
- increased likelihood that corporate entities will make improvement in their carbon management relating to production processes and products, in response to customer pressure
- increased opportunity for the public, consumers and purchasers to make more informed choices
- compliance with environmental legislation
- strengthened customer loyalty
The specification can be used by any entity, including:
- regional or local government
- organisations or parts of organisations (including brands)
- clubs or social groups
This specification is applicable to the demonstration of carbon neutrality in respect of any subject or subjects selected and defined by the applying entity, including:
- projects and major developments
- towns and cities
Developed by the British Standards Institution (BSI) in 2010 and updated in 2014, PAS 2060 presents four key stages towards carbon neutrality — measurement, reduction, offsetting and documentation. The specification sets measurement and reduction targets and through the examination of documents and plans, it then allows for a specific carbon neutrality statement to be fully verified.
At the end of the process, organisations can pursue verification with an independent third party. Although the standard does allow organisations to purchase carbon credits as part of the process, these offsets must meet certain criteria, and organisations cannot receive PAS 2060 verification using offsetting alone.
The Carbon Trust definition for Carbon Neutrality has a minimum requirement of covering scope 1 and 2 emissions with scope 3 encouraged. Net zero must cover scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.
The process of demonstrating carbon neutrality is comprised of four key stages as follows:
- 1 Measurement
- 2 Reduction
- 3 Offsetting
- 4 Documentation & validation
We start by calculating the carbon footprint for the entity seeking declaration.
Recommended methodologies include:
- ISO 14064-1:2018 Greenhouse gases — Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organisation level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Greenhouse Gas Protocol
- PAS 2050 -Specification for the assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services
Emissions measurement must include a minimum of 95% of the total calculated emissions but can exclude emissions that constitute less than 1% of total.
Scope 1 Direct emissions are from entity-owned or controlled sources
Scope 2 Indirect emissions are from generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling
Scope 3 Indirect emissions relate inter alia to outsourced operations, business travel in vehicles not owned by the company, embodied energy in products purchased, waste disposal, etc.
The implementing entity must implement a Carbon Management Plan by declaring a commitment to carbon neutrality through the adoption of several reduction strategies. This plan should include a commitment to achieving carbon neutrality within a defined timescale and specific targets for GHG reductions. Reduction can be documented in absolute terms or in a normalised format – relative to production or service delivery.
The plan must be updated annually.
The specification requires that the total amount of carbon emissions at the end of a reduction period may be offset by high-quality, certified carbon credits which meet the following criteria:
- They must be from one of the PAS 2060 approved schemes (for example the Clean Development Mechanism, Joint Implementation, The Gold Standard, Voluntary Carbon Standard or Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard)
- they must be genuinely additional (i.e., reductions that would not have happened anyway)
- they must be verified by an independent third party to ensure that emission reductions are permanent, avoid leakage (so that emissions are not increased in another area as a result of the project reductions) and are not double counted
- they must be retired after a maximum of 12 months to a credible registry
ISO 14064-2:2019 Greenhouse gases — Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements can be used in the offsetting stage of the process.
4. Documentation & Validation
The final stage of the process is the documentation, verification and declaration of carbon neutrality.
This standard-compliant declaration of achievement of neutrality is achieved through a Quality Explanatory Statement (QES).
The standard requires public disclosure of all documentation supporting the carbon neutrality statement including the following:
- Proof of emissions reduction
- Withdrawn offsetting credits
- Carbon footprint report
- Carbon Management Plan
- Qualifying Explanatory Statement
The requirement to provide all of this documentation is mandatory vis a vis the final validation of the entity’s carbon neutrality status.