CARBON FOOTPRINT - what it is and how to measure it
Climate change is of high concern, driving growing demand for carbon footprint information. This leaflet is designed to help your organisation get started with an efficient and effective approach to address this topic, building on existing international standards and European reference data; further information and datasources including links to service providers are included. We recommend to maximise the benefits of work on Carbon footprints to “get the most out of this”. This includes providing customers and other stakeholders with broader life cycle information related to your products and for internal purposes such as for identifying hot-spots along the supply-chain, potential risks, opportunities for relatedimprovements, to avoid shifting burdens to other types of environmental impacts as well as to anticipate upcoming demands in the context of “Sustainable Consumption and Production”, a core commitment of the European Commission. This can all be achieved using existing, well-established approaches.
What is a carbon footprint? Carbon footprint (CF) – also named Carbon profile - is the overall amountof carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (e.g. methane, laughing gas, etc.) associated with a product 1 , along its supply-chain and sometimes including from use and end-of-life recovery and disposal. Causes of these emissions are, for example, electricity production in power plants, heating with fossil fuels, transport operations and other industrial and agriculturalprocesses. The carbon footprint is quantified using indicators such as the Global Warming Potential (GWP). As defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2 , a GWP is an indicator that reflects the relative effect of a greenhouse gas in terms of climate change considering a fixed time period, such as 100 years (GWP100). The GWPs for different emissions (see Table 1) can then beadded together to give one single indicator that expresses the overall contribution to climate change of these emissions. How can I measure the carbon footprint of my product? The carbon footprint is a sub-set of the data covered by a more complete Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is an internationally
standardized method (ISO 14040, ISO 14044) 3 for the evaluation of the environmental burdens andresources consumed along the life cycle of products; from the extraction of raw materials, the manufacture of goods, their use by final consumers or for the provision of a service, recycling, energy recovery and ultimate disposal. One of the key impact categories considered in an LCA is climate change, typically using the IPCC characterization factors for CO2 equivalents. Hence, a carbon footprintis a life cycle assessment with the analysis limited to emissions that have an effect on climate change. Suitable background data sources for the footprint are therefore those available in existing LCA databases. These databases contain the life cycle profiles of the goods and services that you purchase, as well as of many of the underlying materials, energy sources, transport and other services.Table 1: Global warming potentials of some Greenhouse Gases (source: IPCC, 2007)
Species Carbon dioxide Methane Nitrous oxide HFCs Sulphur hexafluoride PFCs
Chemical formula CO2 CH4 N2O SF6 -
GWP100 1 25 298 124 - 14800 22800 7390 - 12200
ISO 14040 defines the term “product” as both “goods” (e.g. consumer goods, intermediate goods) and “services” (even complex services like events,conferences and exhibitions). 2 www.ipcc.ch
ISO 14040:2006 Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment –Principles and Framework. ISO 14044:2006 Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Requirements and Guidelines.
Why the evaluation must be broadened to avoid misleading results and wrong decisions? Although building upon a life cycle approach, carbon footprints...
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