Wednesday, 28 February 2007

EU Manufacturers Planning to Phase Out Incandescent Lightbulbs

Europe's largest lighting manufacturers are working on an agreement to phase out the production of energy-hungry incandescent light bulbs. The European Union is encouraging the increased use of compact fluorescent bulbs, which consume 1/3 to 1/5 as much electricity.

The announcement by the chief executive of Royal Philips Electronics NV's lighting division follows moves last week by the Australian government to ban incandescent bulbs within three years.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Part of the Solution

When EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas announced bold new CO2 reduction targets for the European Union, he stated that only 2/3 of those reductions would come from in-house measures. Fully 1/3 would come from carbon offsets. This should not be a surprise.

At Carbon Clear we know that people want to take responsibility for their actions. When it comes to climate change, this means reducing your own CO2 emissions as much as possible. That's why we provide advice to help people reduce energy use at home, promote alternatives to solo driving, and encourage them to think twice before flying. We also help companies understand their climate change impact and find ways to change their carbon-intensive operations.

But climate change is too important to fight with one hand tied behind our collective backs. It will be a few years before drastically improved public transport schemes, zero-carbon homes, and low-carbon vehicles are in widespread use. And the UN says we simply don't have time to wait.

Short of living in a tent and growing all your own food, it may be very difficult or expensive for you to cut the last four or five tonnes of CO2 out of your life. In another part of the world, the cost to achieve that same reduction might be much lower, but poverty and lack of awareness keep people from taking action.

Offsets provide the money and technical assistance to make those reductions happen. You may not be able to take the last five tonnes of CO2 out of your life, but you can help take them out of someone else's life. In either case, that's five fewer tonnes of CO2 released. The benefit to the environment is the same as if you'd done it yourself. Next year, as the cost of energy efficiency at home goes down, you can reduce more and offset less.

Offsetting is a practice endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the world's governments, climate scientists and policy experts. It's not the entire answer to climate change - we all need to reduce our own emissions as well. But it's an important part of the puzzle.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

A Company's True Carbon Footprint

Christian Aid, a UK development charity, has just released a report that claims British companies are under-reporting their carbon emissions. They say that companies are failing to include the emissions from their outsourced manufacturing operations around the world.

This should not be a big surprise.

The standard that Carbon Clear uses to measure a company's emissions footprint, ISO 14064, breaks it down into three categories:
  1. Direct Emissions - resulting from activities under management control. This includes fuels burned in company owned factories, vehicles and offices.
  2. Energy Indirect Emissions - resulting from energy purchased by the company from third parties.  This includes electricity, district heating and cooling water.
  3. Other Indirect Emissions - resulting from activities by the company's customers and suppliers. This includes business flights, outsourced manufacturing, shipping and freight, service contractors, and customers who drive to a company's store across town, or who use a company's products in polluting ways.
Most companies focus first on their "direct emissions" and "energy indirect emissions". After all, this is the pollution that they can do the most to control. So Christian Aid is correct that company reporting usually only tells part of the story.

The British Government defends this reporting approach, saying that the country where the pollution occurs should be responsible for reporting it. Britain, they argue, should not be responsible for emissions from a factory in China when that factory isn't bound by British environmental rules.

At Carbon Clear, we feel that companies can do better. Knowledge is power, so we work to give our business customers a complete picture of their carbon exposure. We will always recommend ways to reduce the climate pollution - whether from their operations, from their suppliers, or from their customers.

Armed with this information, more and more of them are taking steps to reduce their entire carbon footprint.
Offsets are a useful tool in carbon management, in part because companies now see the cost of carbon on their balance sheet. This provides a strong incentive to lower their offset bill by reducing their own emissions, their suppliers' emissions, and their customers' emissions. As always, reduce what you can, and offset the rest.

How Much Is a Billion Tonnes?

(First published on the Carbon Clear website 12 February 2007)

Richard Branson is in the news - again.

Last week he announced a $25 million (£13 million) prize to the person or organisation who could come up with a commercially viable way to remove a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere each year and keep it locked away for at least ten years.

So is that a lot or a little? How much polluting activity does a billion tonnes of CO2 represent?

More importantly, can it be done, and will Richard's $25 million make a difference?

Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions totaled just over 25 billion tonnnes in 2003, and are projected to grow to 30 billion by 2010. The UK's share of this was just over half a billion tonnes.

So Richard's billion tonnes of greenhouse gases is twice the UK's annual emissions. That's a lot, but at 4% of total emissons, not enough to solve the problem completely.

Can it be done? Yes, at a cost. Replacing half the cars in the United States with electric vehicles charged by renewables would save a billion tonnes of CO2. So would planting a few billion trees in the world's rapidly shrinking rainforests. In fact, there's no shortage of practical, real-world solutions that we already know about.

Will $25 million (£13 million) make a difference? I'm not so certain about that. That's enough money to buy a handful of large wind turbines, not the thousands that would be needed. A billion tonnes of carbon reductions on the European carbon exchange is worth more than UK £3 billion. That's already a strong incentive for people to find effective approaches.

On the other hand, Branson has a reputation for out-of-the-box thinking. If his announcement spurs people to come up with new and cost-effective solutions, then that's a good thing. The danger with such a grand gesture is if it lulls people into thinking the problem will be solved by a handful of billionaires.

The truth is that it is all of our individual daily decisions that have caused the global warming problem. And the only way we will solve it is if all of us, rich and not-so-rich, work together to reduce our emissions.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Part 3

(First published on the Carbon Clear website 06 Ferbuary 2007)

We'll finish off our travel emissions mini-series by discussing what you can do about the carbon footprint (or is it the tyre-print?) of driving.

Automobiles are popular for a reason - they provide fast, door-to-door transport, at a cost per mile that is usually comparable to taking the train or flying. What's more, you don't have to share your car with strangers.

Looked at a different way, though, driving alone in an automobile means setting fire to one and a half tonnes of polluting fuels each year, in order to hurl over a tonne of steel and plastic down the road at high speed -- just to move a single person. Driving 12,000 miles a year releases more CO2 than a return flight from London to Sydney, as much carbon as two years of household electricity use. And that's saying nothing about the costs of local air pollution, noise, and traffic accidents. Future generations may shake their heads in wonder at our car-centred lifestyle.

We've talked before about ways to reduce your driving-related climate pollution. Some measures are easier than others; try a few and see which you like best:

  • Leave the car at home twice a month. You'll reduce your driving related CO2 emissions by about 10%. If you work from home once every other week you could save £85 per year in fuel costs. That's enough to offsest the rest of your driving emissions with money to spare.
  • Drive a more efficient car. Hybrids produce less CO2 than a small diesel car with exactly the same fuel economy, and produce a lot less soot and other pollutants. You could easily reduce your emissions by around 20% - or even more depending on your driving habits.
  • Stick to the speed limit. A car driving at 70 mph produces 15% more pollution than one driving at 60 mph.
    Share a ride - carpooling with friends or using a rideshare scheme like Freewheelers means one less car on the road, and halves your per-person driving emissions.
    Stopped for more than two minutes? Switch off the motor. You could reduce your driving emissions by 10% or more.

With the state of Britain's transport system, few of us are ready to give up driving completely - at least not yet. But there's a lot we can do to use our cars less and reduce the impact of driving. The hints I've shared above are just the start. For those CO2 emissions that remain, there's a Carbon Clear offset package to cancel out your driving pollution. At least until we can all drive electric cars powered by wind energy.

Time to Take Action

(First posted on the Carbon Clear website 2nd February 2007)

The debate is over - again. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that humanity's impact on the climate is "unequivocal". The world is warming faster than scientists expected - and the decisions we take in our daily lives are the cause.

The IPPC report comes just a week after some of America's largest corporations sent an open letter to President Bush, urging the US Government to demonstrate leadership on climate change.

And these moves follow November release of the Stern Review, which found that the costs of dealing with global warming are much lower than the cost of doing nothing.

A major global push to tackle climate change is inevitable. The good news is that we know what needs to be done. Businesses and households can take straightforward measures to reduce their carbon footprint by 20% or more. We'll show you how.The way our economy is structured means it's hard to become "carbon neutral" on your own. We will help with that, too, with a Carbon Clear offset package.When you offset with us, we'll invest in fantastic low-carbon projects that balance out the unavoidable pollution from your business or household, and help improve lives in some of the countries on the front lines of climate change.