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August 11, 2021

Question Time: Here's this month's climate questions and answers!

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Aleena Dewji

As the importance of businesses acting on their carbon usage grows, the need to first understand the workings of the carbon industry is critical. The Pathzero Question Time, in collaboration with our regular blog posts, aim to arm our readers with the information needed to act now, efficiently and effectively.

In this month's August Question Time release, we tackle a variety of questions, some technical and others more generic. Continue below to read the answers to this month's most submitted questions!

Why is it important to use actual data and not estimated data in an emissions inventory? 

The true value of an emissions inventory lies in the data that underlies it. Once this data has been collected and analysed, organisations have a powerful tool which can be used to drive further sustainability action. Creating an emissions inventory not only allows organisations to identify and understand their baseline emissions but also identify opportunities for efficiencies and reductions within their top emission sources.

In order for meaningful action to be taken, it is imperative to ensure that your emissions inventory is both accurate and representative of actual operations. Using actual data is the best way to ensure this. An emissions inventory is only as good as the data that is used to create it. 

This means that when emission sources are estimated, there is a possibility that these sources may not be representative of what is actually occurring through an organisation's operations. Of course, not all data may be readily available as you complete your first few emissions inventories. However, by understanding data requirements as well as the value that comes from this process, updating data management procedures to collect relevant data will strengthen your inventory over time. 

In order to develop a strong signal to stakeholders and position yourself as a leader in sustainability, having an understanding of your emissions is imperative. Quite simply, the more actual data that goes into your inventory, the more representative your inventory is. 

What is Climate Active Certification?

Climate Active is an Australian government-administered carbon neutral certification program. It is the only government-sanctioned carbon neutral certification in the world and is, therefore, a highly reputable and globally recognised certification scheme.

Climate Active certification is available for Organisations, Products & Services, Events, Buildings, and Precincts. The certification process follows the strict requirements set out in the Carbon Neutral Standards published by Climate Active and includes the requirement for third-party validation. This ensures that the carbon neutral claim is accurate and representative. 

To attain Climate Active certification, a Climate Active registered consultant can complete the emissions inventory and a technical assessment and/or the third-party validation. Generally, consultants are engaged to complete the emissions inventory and a separate consultant is engaged to complete the third-party validation process. Consultants can further support organisations in developing an emission reduction strategy and provide assistance through the third-party validation process. 

Pathzero's Climate Active registered consultants are available within the Pathzero platform to assist organisations wishing to attain Climate Active Certification. Our platform also closely aligns with the requirements of Climate Active, making it easier to attain certification. Learn more. 

What is the difference between staff commuting emissions and employee travel from non company owned vehicles? 

Staff commuting emissions are those that arise from employees commuting from their place of residence to their usual place of work. This can include employees travelling to a company office, warehouse, retail shop, or facility. Emissions from this source arise from commuting through various modes including by bus, train, car, etc. Best practice to obtain staff commuting data is through the completion of a staff commuter survey.

Emissions from non-company owned vehicles occur from staff travelling for work purposes. This can include staff travelling to client sites, meetings, between office locations, etc. This category includes only those emissions from employees travelling in a vehicle that is either rented or owned by the employee, where the organisation has compensated the employee for use of this vehicle. This can include through reimbursement for kilometres travelled, fuel purchased, or the cost of a rental vehicle. This emission source does not include staff commuting by a car or other vehicle to their usual place of work.  

Why do I need to create an emissions reduction strategy when working towards carbon neutral or net zero?

To be certified as Carbon Neutral or deemed as reaching a state of net zero emissions, reducing your carbon emissions as much as feasibly possible before turning to carbon offsets as compensation is a mandatory requirement. There are a few key reasons for this: 

  1. Carbon credits are limited - The amount of verified offset projects available is limited. As more organisations start implementing carbon neutral or net zero commitments, availability of verified carbon offsets will be stretched even more. The rate at which we are emitting carbon is significantly higher than the total amount of carbon credits available. 
  2. Walking the walk - Measuring and offsetting carbon emissions is a straightforward process that any organisation can undertake. However, real change and impact comes from when organisations look inward and work through their entire value chain to minimise and reduce emissions as much as possible. This sends strong signals to stakeholders that the organisation takes their part in reducing emissions seriously and is looking for real change. 
  3. Greenwashing - Without showing actual commitment to changing operations, organisations may face greenwashing accusations when purchasing un-verified carbon offsets as a strategy for reduction. Although carbon offsets can represent real avoidance, reduction, or removal of carbon emissions from the atmosphere, not all offsets are created equal
  4. Ongoing Improvement - As organisations continue to measure emissions year over year, the success of emission reduction opportunities becomes apparent. Ongoing reductions and efficiencies can allow for emissions to decrease over time. This demonstrates that an organisation is not just purchasing offsets as a compensation mechanism while continuing to produce high amounts of carbon emissions. 

Creating an emissions reduction plan or strategy allows for your organisation to tangibly demonstrate your commitment to reducing environmental impacts. Without a strategy, including assignment of targets, deadlines, and responsible individuals, initiatives can fall under the radar. A documented policy ensures that a plan is set to target an organisation's largest emissions sources, as well as the emission sources with the greatest room for improvement. This can lead to meaningful and measurable carbon reductions over time. 

If you're new to Question Time, head to our submission page here to learn more about how it works and how it can benefit you!

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