Carbon Management - Reduce
Written by: Beth McLachlan, EPA Victoria
Over the past few editions of Carbon Matters, we have included a regular article about applying the EPA Carbon Management Principles to businesses. This article focuses on the fourth Carbon Management Principle: reduce.
EPA's Carbon Management Principles have helped many companies recognise business opportunities within the challenges presented by climate change and reduce their carbon footprint.
The principles comprise eight steps:
- measure emissions
- set objectives
- avoid emissions
- reduce emissions
- switch to alternative energy sources
- sequester emissions
- assess residual emissions
- offset what you can't avoid.
The Carbon Management Principles give preference to 'avoidance' actions over 'reduction' actions. The difference between 'avoidance' and 'reduction' is, 'avoidance' is not undertaking a carbon generating activity at all, such as not turning on the light in a sufficiently lit room. See Carbon Matters 'avoid' article for more information. Whereas a 'reduction' activity is undertaking the same activity in a way which produces less greenhouse gas emissions, for example replacing the globe with an energy efficient one, but still having the light on. While 'avoidance' actions prevent any emissions from occurring, it may not always be a practical activity, for example if the room is not sufficiently lit, lighting will be required. In these situations, 'reduction' is the next appropriate carbon management activity.
Reducing emissions is an essential step in your carbon management strategy. 'Reduction' involves implementing initiatives which result in emitting less carbon while you undertake the same activity, with the same outcome. Implementation of such initiatives typically results in a decreased cost for your organisation as energy inputs and expenses, such as electricity, decrease as activities become less carbon intensive. Reduction activities also reduce your business risk as you will not be exposed to higher costs as the price of carbon increases. 'Reduction' opportunities generally involve either using a more efficient system (e.g. light globe or new production technology), using alternative system (e.g. catching public transport rather than driving or transporting materials by boat rather than plane or train rather than truck), or carrying out an action in a slightly different way (e.g. driving a vehicle in an efficient manner). There exists a range of new practices and technologies which allow for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, such as fuel efficient vehicles, and advice on driving your vehicle in an efficient manner. It is important to stay abreast of any opportunities which may be applicable to your organisation.
A solid understanding of what emissions you are generating, how you are generating them is an important first step to 'reduction' (see 'measure' article). Initially it is best to investigate opportunities to decrease your most significant emissions source, as this is where you will likely have the most ability to decrease on your total emissions profile. It also makes business sense to assess the financial payback periods of all identified opportunities and implement the most cost effective reductions first. A range of reduction opportunities may exist but may not be financially viable; however, it is important to keep a lookout of all opportunities, as many will become more viable as the price of carbon increases.
Resources for assessing climate change risk and opportunity as well as information to assist businesses in reducing their emissions are available on EPA's website. EPA's up-to-date carbon management inventory can also be found on this site.Visit http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/climate-change/
Read on to see how 'reducing' GHG emissions in your business will be affected by the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
'Reduce' & Australia's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS)
The CPRS, if introduced in its current form*, will affect many organisations current approach to carbon management. For a start, the introduction of a carbon price will affect businesses' cost structures. This will impact directly (either enhancing or decreasing) businesses' individual ability and willingness to implement reduction activities.
From an environmental standpoint, the CPRS will also affect the benefits of reduction activities. Greenhouse gas emissions will be capped across the Australian economy. Therefore actions taken by individual businesses will generally not change the overall net emissions being released by Australia. This may 'reduce' (pardon the pun) the incentive for businesses to take steps to avoid and reduce emissions for environmental reasons, as these reductions will be balanced some where else in Australia.
However, there remain significant business benefits associated with 'reduction' actions, which is why it is still important to prioritise reduction actions. EPA through its own carbon neutral strategy will still prioritise reduction actions due to the significant businesses benefits associated with such actions.
* as of 1st June 2009