The Business Guide to Carbon Accounting
Why should a business account for its carbon?
What is carbon accounting?
What are greenhouse gas emissions?
The Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty committing countries to reduce GHG emissions, identifies six types of greenhouse gases, of which three are most common for companies: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O).
Greenhouse gases trap heat, which sustains life on Earth by allowing the sun to warm the planet and prevent the warmth from escaping into space. However, an increase in GHG emissions, largely caused by human activity, is disrupting the atmospheric balance that maintains our climate, resulting in extreme global effects on ecosystems, economies, and communities. These negative impacts include extreme heat, major wildfires, mega-storms, and rapidly rising sea levels.
The world uses the common unit CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, to simplify discussion around GHG emissions. The EPA defines CO2e as the number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential as one metric ton of another GHG. In other words, CO2e refers to the impact from all GHGs, normalized and described in terms of CO2 impact. By referring to the impact of all GHGs in terms of CO2e, we can make direct comparisons among various GHGs.