ICT Sustainability

Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

An Online Graduate Course & Book by Tom Worthington MEd, FACS CP

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This is an extract from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency National Carbon Offset Standard (2010). For terms and definitions, see the Glossary in separate appendix:

Introduction

The Australian Government has committed to introduce an emissions trading scheme in the form of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). The CPRS is designed to meet Australia's emissions reduction targets in a flexible and cost effective manner while supporting an effective global response to climate change.

The CPRS will impose a carbon price across most of the economy which will drive emissions reductions over time to achieve the targets set by the Government. The Government recognises that many businesses and individuals will wish to voluntarily do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The National Carbon Offset Standard ('the Standard') is intended to ensure that consumers have confidence in the voluntary carbon offset market and the integrity of the carbon offset and carbon neutral products they purchase. It provides guidance to businesses who wish to make their organisation carbon neutral or develop carbon neutral products in a way that achieves emissions reductions, through the purchase and retirement of carbon offsets that are beyond those achieved by the CPRS and achievement of Australia's national emissions reduction targets.

To be carbon neutral commonly means that the net emissions associated with a product or an organisation's activities are equal to zero. For an organisation or product to become carbon neutral, it is generally accepted as best practice that an organisation would:

  1. measure its carbon footprint;
  2. reduce emissions; and
  3. offset any residual emissions.

Through this approach a company's investment in measurement of its carbon footprint can serve multiple goals. When greenhouse gas emissions are measured and reported, they are generally better managed.

Best practice also requires that an organisation make transparent to the public steps taken to measure, reduce and offset emissions so that any carbon neutral claims can be objectively assessed.

The Standard specifies:

A robust and transparent audit model is fundamental to provide confidence in offset projects and carbon neutral claims. Independent audit validates the eligibility and robustness of offset project methodologies, the amount of emissions reductions offset projects achieve, and the accuracy and completeness of carbon footprint calculations.

The Standard has been designed to be program neutral. The administrative framework for supporting the Standard will stipulate specific process and reporting requirements associated with the generation of offsets and the certification of carbon neutrality.

Normative reference

The Standard contains provisions which are based on existing Australian and international standards and Australian legislation. The editions of these documents, as referenced below, were current at the time of publication.

All standards and legislation are subject to revision. Where referenced by the Standard, organisations should ensure that they apply the most recent edition.

Carbon offsets

3.1 Eligible offset units

Voluntary retirement of the following units will be accepted under the Standard for the purposes of voluntary carbon offsetting:

  1. Australian Emissions Units (AEUs);

  2. Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) except long term (lCERs) and temporary (tCERs);

  3. Emission Reduction Units (ERUs);

  4. Removal Units (RMUs);

  5. Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VERs) issued by the Gold Standard*;

  6. Voluntary Carbon Units (VCUs) issued by the Voluntary Carbon Standard*;

  1. Offsets generated from emissions sources in Australia not counted toward Australia's Kyoto Protocol target, where they meet eligibility criteria and use a methodology that has been approved under the Standard.

The Government reserves the right to amend eligible offset units as required to reflect carbon market developments both internationally and domestically. The list of eligible offset units will be reviewed regularly and is expected to change over time.

Further information on processes for having methodologies approved will be provided under the supporting administrative framework for the Standard.

3.2 Generation of domestic offsets

Proponents may propose methodologies for offset projects and develop offset projects within Australia from emissions sources not counted toward Australia's obligations under the Kyoto Protocol target.

Emissions sources currently not counted toward Australia's obligations under the Kyoto Protocol target and eligible for the generation of domestic offsets under the Standard are:

Emission sources not counted toward our International Target will be subject to outcomes in international negotiations and, similar to domestic arrangements, are likely to change over time.

3.2.1 Domestic offset eligibility criteria

In order for domestic offset methodologies and projects to be considered eligible under the Standard they are required to occur within Australia and be:

  1. Additional

Greenhouse gas emissions reductions generated by the project must be beyond what would be required to meet regulatory obligations under any Australian laws or regulations or undertaken as part of 'business-as-usual' investment. The level of additional emissions reductions generated by an offset project is the difference between the emissions associated with the project ('project emissions') and emissions under a business-as-usual scenario.

The administrative framework supporting the Standard will provide further guidance on how to apply additionality principles.

  1. Permanent

Greenhouse gas emission reductions must be permanent. In the case of sinks, this requires that the carbon stored is sequestered and will not be released into the atmosphere in the future.

  1. Measurable

Methodologies used to quantify the amount of emissions reductions generated must be robust and based on a defensible scientific method. Methodologies must clearly define a boundary for the emissions reduction project, emissions sources and emissions factors and activity levels. They must specify the calculation of a baseline emissions forecast reflecting business-as-usual and the means of comparing it to expected emissions from the project to determine the carbon offsets generated. The methodology must specify the uncertainty associated with the calculation of offsets generated. It should also specify the risks associated with achieving the forecast abatement and how they will be managed.

  1. Transparent

Consumers and other interested stakeholders must be able to examine information on domestic offset projects, including the applied methodology, emissions calculations and project monitoring arrangements, by accessing a publicly available website.

The information provided should clarify data sources, exclusions, inclusions and assumptions.

  1. Independently audited

Eligibility of methodologies, offset projects and greenhouse gas emissions reductions generated must be audited by an independent third party. Existence of a conflict of interest should be determined.

Further information on audit requirements is provided under the Audit section.

  1. Registered

Emissions reduction units generated must be registered and tracked in a publicly transparent registry.

Carbon footprint calculation

4.1 Carbon footprint calculation principles

The calculation of the carbon footprint of an organisationor product should be performed in accordance with the following principles, which are based upon those outlined in the GHG Protocoland adopted under the NGER System. These principles are consistent with those outlined under the other Australian and international standards referenced throughout the Standard, including the AS ISO 14064 and ISO 14040 series.

  1. Relevance: Ensure the greenhouse gas inventory of an organisation, or the carbon life cycle assessment of a product, appropriately reflect the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to that organisation or product.

  2. Completeness: Account for and report all greenhouse gas emissions sources and activities within the defined boundary of the organisation or product. Disclose and justify all exclusions.

  3. Consistency: Use consistent methodologies to allow for meaningful comparisons of greenhouse gas emissions over time. Transparently document any changes to the data, boundary, methods, or any other relevant factors.

  4. Transparency: Greenhouse gas information should be compiled, analysed and documented clearly and coherently so that auditors may evaluate its credibility. Disclose any relevant assumptions and make appropriate references to the calculation methodologies and data sources used.

  5. Accuracy: Ensure that the quantification of greenhouse gas emissions is systematically neither over nor under actual emissions, as far as can be judged, and that uncertainties are reduced as far as practicable. Where uncertainty is high use conservative values and assumptions. Achieve sufficient accuracy to enable users to make decisions with reasonable assurance as to the integrity of the reported information.

4.2 Carbon footprint calculation of an organisation

An organisation should apply the following steps in order to calculate its carbon footprint.

  1. Prepare a greenhouse gas inventory following the guidance outlined in sections 4.2.1 to 4.2.5 and in accordance with current domestic and international standards.

  1. Prepare a greenhouse gas emissions inventory report, which contains the following components:

4.2.1 Defining the boundary of an organisation

The boundary of an organisation defines the activities that an organisation should include in its carbon footprint calculation. The organisation may choose to measure the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the whole organisation or only a part of the organisation. In all cases, the organisation boundary chosen should be transparently documented and disclosed when making assertions relating to the achievement of carbon neutrality by the organisation.

If an organisation wishes to calculate the carbon footprint for the entire organisation, it could choose to use the following definition of an organisation's boundary, based on the definition used in the NGER Act:

  1. An entire organisation's boundary includes:

    • all corporate group members; and

    • all facilities under the operational control of corporate group members.

  2. An organisation's corporate group members include:

    • the controlling corporation;

    • subsidiaries;

    • joint ventures; and

    • partnerships.

  3. A corporate group member will have operational control over a Facility if it has the authority to introduce or implement any or all of the following for that Facility:

    • operating policies;

    • health and safety policies; or

    • environmental policies.

An organisation requiring further guidance on using this definition to set its organisation boundary should refer to the NGER Act and associated subordinate legislation and guidelines.

Other boundary approaches consistent with the NGER Act are described in the NGER Guidelines. These include:

The GHG Protocol outlines additional corporate level boundaries not covered by the NGER Act that are also suitable for calculating a carbon footprint for carbon neutrality purposes. They are the equity share and financial control approaches.

4.2.2 Emissions sources associated with the organisation boundary
  1. An organisation should calculate all direct emissions (scope 1) and indirect emissions from the use of electricity, heating, cooling or steam (scope 2) attributable to sources within its chosen boundary. Scope 1 emission sources are outlined in the NGER (Measurement) Determination and comprise:

Scope 2 emissions result from activities that generate electricity, heating, cooling or steam that is consumed by a Facility, but do not form part of the Facility.

  1. An organisation should consider calculation of other indirect (scope 3) emissions, which occur outside the boundary of a Facility as a result of activities at a Facility. This provides the organisation with a more comprehensive view of the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to its activities.

At a minimum, an organisation should include scope 3 emissions from the following sources:

Other scope 3 emissions to be considered include:

In considering the calculation of scope 3 emissions, an organisation should refer to the GHG Protocol which provides the following guidelines for determining the relevance of scope 3 emissions sources:

An organisation should transparently document and disclose which scope 3 emissions have been included in its carbon footprint when making any assertions about emissions reductions.

  1. An organisation should calculate emissions of the six greenhouse gases included under the Kyoto Protocol.

4.2.3 Emissions factors and calculation methodology
  1. An organisation should collect activity data relating to the greenhouse gas emissions sources related to its boundary.

  2. An organisation should calculate the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the emissions sources associated with its boundary. Greenhouse gas emissions from scope 1 and scope 2 emissions sources should be calculated in accordance with the methods and guidance provided in the NGER (Measurement) Determination. Options for calculating scope 1 emissions include:

Some guidance on calculation of scope 3 emissions for limited categories of emissions sources is provided in the National Greenhouse Account Factors and GHG Protocol.

  1. An organisation should assess the uncertainty of its direct (scope 1) greenhouse gas emissions estimates in accordance with the NGER (Measurement) Determination.

4.2.4 Emissions attributable to the organisation
  1. An organisation should apply the calculation approaches set out in 4.2.3 (b) to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to emissions sources associated with its boundary during a specified period of time (e.g. a 12 month period).

  2. Collectively, the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to each emissions source will provide an estimate of the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the organisation boundary during the specified period of time.

4.3 Carbon footprint calculation of a product

The following steps should be applied to calculate the carbon footprint of a product.

  1. Undertake a carbon life cycle assessment (LCA) with reference to the guidance provided in sections 4.3.1 to 4.3.4 and in accordance with current international standards.

  1. An organisation should prepare a LCA report for its product, which contains the following components:

4.3.1 Defining the scope, including the system boundary
  1. The scope of the LCA report should include a description of:

the acquisition of raw materials and their transport to the production stage;

the production of the product;

transport, warehousing distribution and sale;

use of the product (including maintenance); and

product reuse, recycling, incineration and landfill disposal.

4.3.2 Emissions sources within the system boundary
  1. An organisation should consider the following sources of greenhouse gas emissions from within the system boundary of the product, with reference to the potentially relevant stages of the life cycle listed above:

  1. An organisation should calculate emissions of the six greenhouse gases included under the Kyoto Protocol.

4.3.3 Inventory analysis
  1. Life cycle inventory analysis should provide the following information:

4.3.5 Emissions attributable to the life cycle of the product
  1. An organisation should apply the apply the data collection and calculation approaches set out in the inventory analysis to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to each stage of the life cycle of the product. Results are expressed in the chosen functional unit.

  2. An organisation should assess the uncertainty of its direct (scope 1) greenhouse gas emissions estimates in accordance with the NGER (Measurement) Determination.

  3. Collectively, the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to each stage of the life cycle will provide an estimate of the emissions attributable to the full life cycle of the product.

Achieving carbon neutrality

5.1 Emissions Management Plan

Organisations that calculate their carbon footprint and purchase offsets to become carbon neutral should develop an Emissions Management Plan. The Emissions Management Plan should demonstrate that appropriate systems are in place to monitor and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the organisation or product, and to purchase and retire carbon offsets. An Emissions Management Plan must identify:

5.2 Retirement of eligible offsets

Organisations should voluntarily surrender and retire into a registry the equivalent number of eligible units to offset the total emissions associated with any product or organisation (or specified part of an organisation).

5.3 Reporting

A periodic report should be made publicly available on a website to communicate progress on emissions reduction activities and carbon offsetting of carbon neutral organisations and products. The periodic report should be made against an Emissions Management Plan and should include the following:

  1. The total carbon footprint of the activities of the organisation (or specified part of the organisation) or the product sold in the given period, including any actions taken to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions before offsetting;

  2. A statement on the emissions reduction activities undertaken in accordance with the emissions reduction strategy and the resulting quantity of emissions reduced;

  3. Records to prove that sufficient eligible offsets have been acquired to offset the proportion of the total carbon footprint associated with the activities of the organisation (or specified part of the organisation) or products committed to be offset;

  4. Details of the quantity and type of offset units purchased and register into which they have been retired, or cancelled.

5.4 Use of the National Carbon Offset Standard logo

Following independent audit of the calculation of the carbon footprint for an organisation or product and development of an Emissions Management Plan, the proponent may complete an agreement to use the National Carbon Offset Standard logo to state that the organisation or product is carbon neutral in accordance with the requirements of the Standard.

Completion of this agreement will require the proponent to make publicly available information about the organisation or product, including those details listed under section 5.3.

Audit

A robust and transparent audit model is fundamental to provide confidence in offset projects and carbon neutral claims. Independent audit validates the eligibility and robustness of offset project methodologies, the amount of emissions reductions offset projects achieve, and the accuracy and completeness of carbon footprint calculations. Audits of offset methodologies, projects and carbon footprint calculations required under the Standard should be undertaken by a suitably qualified auditor.

Suitably qualified auditors may include individuals or bodies that:

  1. Are registered under the greenhouse and energy audit framework currently being established by the Department of Climate Change for the NGER Act and CPRS;

  2. Have demonstrated knowledge and expertise in the relevant Australian and international and standards, specifically AS ISO 14064 and ISO 14040 series; or

  3. Are accredited to the international standard ISO 14065:2007 or recognised international standards based on ISO 14040.

Once offset projects are established or carbon neutrality is achieved for an organisation or product, emissions reductions and offsetting activities should be reported and independently audited on a regular basis. Audited progress reports should be made publicly available.

Project proponents and organisations making carbon neutral claims are responsible for having activities independently audited and bearing the associated costs. Appropriate records must be maintained to allow emissions reductions and carbon neutral claims to be audited.

Version 1 - November 2009

From: Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency National Carbon Offset Standard (2010).

Next: Assessment.


About the book: ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

Edition Notice

ICT Sustainability is about how to assess, and reduce, the carbon footprint and materials used with computers and telecommunications. These are the notes for an award winning graduate course on strategies for reducing the environmental impact of computers and how to use the Internet to make business more energy efficient.

Copyright © Tom Worthington, 2017

Second edition.

ISBN: 978-1-326-96794-9. (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-326-95850-3. (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-326-95849-7. (ePub eBook)
ISBN: 978-1-326-96791-8. (PDF eBook)

Cover shows Power on-off symbol: line within a circle (IEC 60417-5010).

These notes have been used for the courses:

  1. Green Technology Strategies: offered in the Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society (first run as "Green ICT Strategies" in February 2009),
  2. ICT Sustainability (COMP7310), in the Graduate Studies Select program, Australian National University (first run July 2009), and
  3. Green ICT Strategies (COMP 635), Athabasca University (Canada). Adapted for North America by Brian Stewart.

Course materials available free on-line, under at Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license at http://www.tomw.net.au/ict_sustainability/