Emission reduction refers to lowering the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by an individual, organisation or country. These gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and are the ones responsible for trapping heat and warming the planet.
When talking about emission reduction, you are likely to come across the terms ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’. These mean that an organisation has balanced out their emissions with carbon offsets, emissions reductions, or a combination of both. There is a difference between the two terms - you can read more about emissions reduction language in our article: carbon neutral vs net zero.
Whilst on your emissions reduction journey, you may also hear the similar term ‘carbon emission reduction’. This refers solely to the reduction of an individual, business or country’s CO2 emissions, not other greenhouse gases.
It is worth noting that the metric CO2e (CO2 equivalent) is often used when talking about emissions reduction and carbon offsets, to measure other greenhouse gases in terms of CO2.
Emissions reduction is essential to meeting our international climate targets, achieving net zero and limiting the effects of climate change. When you reduce your carbon footprint and its negative impact on the environment, you are helping to ensure your children will have a liveable planet to grow up on.
Scientists predict that we have a very limited ‘carbon budget’ - the amount of carbon that can be released into the atmosphere - remaining before warming of over 1.5 degrees celsius (the target set out in the Paris Agreement) becomes inevitable.
Some studies are predicting that this carbon budget might be even less than originally thought (up to 40% less!). We must recognise the urgency and reduce GHG emissions fast - which means at least halving them by 2030, not thinking we can just gradually reduce them until 2050. The more we reduce emissions now, the more time we buy ourselves!
Emissions reduction remains the publicly preferred tactic for tackling climate change, above other potential policies such as releasing particles to atmospherically block warming, storing carbon underground, or adapting to a warmer climate.
There can also be significant benefits to your business. Reducing your emissions is essential to achieving a net-zero target and can assist with the environmental part of an application to become a B Corp-certified business. Find out more about how becoming carbon neutral and reducing your emissions relates to becoming a B Corp.
Transparency in emissions reduction is increasingly important and will appeal to customers, employees and stakeholders. Companies can opt to participate in reports such as the Corporate Emissions Reduction Transparency report, which uses a standardised framework for businesses to communicate their climate targets, actions and achievements.
Businesses may also use the widely-accepted SBTi Net-Zero Standard, which provides corporations with the tools and guidance they need to set net zero targets in line with climate science. To reach net zero under the framework, most companies will require rapid emissions reduction resulting in decarbonisation of 90 - 95%.
To answer this, you must first calculate your carbon footprint and identify where your emissions are coming from. Trace can help with this. Some primary sources of emissions include fuel combustion to make electricity, transport, industrial processes, and waste.
Once you have measured and analysed your business’s emissions, you can create a credible plan to reduce them. This is likely to involve things like switching to renewable energy alternatives and improving the energy efficiency of your operations. Examples of specific actions may include:
· Replacing lighting with LED lightbulbs
· Installing high-performance insulation to reduce heat loss
· Switching your fleet to electric vehicles
· Adding solar panels to your buildings to generate clean energy
· Encouraging employees to work from home to reduce transport emissions
· Reducing business-related air travel
As significant changes and investments are often required, emissions reduction is a long-term strategy. In the interim, you can use carbon offsets to compensate for any remaining emissions.
Carbon offsetting involves funding additional, emissions-reducing projects in other parts of the world. These projects must be certified to be credible, by either governments or specialist organisations, such as Gold Standard or VCS.
An example of a carbon offsetting scheme is the UN-run Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – part of the Kyoto Protocol – which promotes clean development in developing countries. To find out more about using carbon offsets to compensate for your emissions, check out our step-by-step guide on how to become a carbon neutral business.
You should also bear in mind that you are not alone in wanting to reduce your emissions. Governments around the world have employed policies to promote emissions reduction. In Australia, the government previously established a carbon pricing mechanism, which was replaced with the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), among other policies.
The Emissions Reduction Fund is a voluntary scheme that aims to incentivise domestic emissions reduction. It provides incentives to individuals, businesses and communities to reduce their emissions, including by funding new technologies. The goal of the fund is to help Australia meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
Participants in the fund can earn Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) for emissions reductions – one ACCU equals one tonne of CO2 or equivalent greenhouse gas avoided or sequestered. These can be sold to generate income and are playing an increasingly significant role in Australia’s carbon market, as demand from businesses increases.
There are undoubtedly pros and cons of the ERF, but it has been faced with significant accusations of greenwashing. The main concern is that it is flooding the market with low-quality offsets from ineffective projects, which are being purchased by heavy polluters, and ultimately not reducing emissions at all. This is why if you’re looking to purchase offsets as part of your journey to net-zero, it’s important to work with credible partners, like Trace, to help you source only high-quality carbon credits.
It is clear that Australia – and the rest of the world – needs a bold, long term emissions reduction plan that involves a widespread move to clean energy and sustainable development. This will be supported by businesses and citizens because it is the morally correct course of action and the only one that leaves us with a habitable planet.
If you agree, contact Trace to start taking climate action and reduce your emissions today.