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Glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
A
Absolute GHG Emissions Target
A target defined by a reduction in absolute (or total) emissions over time (e.g., reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below 2007 levels by 2015).
Additionality
A key criterion applied to emissions reduction projects for the purposes of offset development, additionality indicates that the project would not have occurred under the ‘business as usual scenario’.
Anthropogenic
Made by people or resulting from human activities. Commonly used in reference to greenhouse gas emissions that are produced as a result of human activities.
Baseline GHG Emissions Inventory
A comprehensive, quantified list of an organization’s greenhouse gas emissions and sources for the initial reporting year (base year). The baseline GHG inventory is the level of greenhouse gas emissions against which future GHG inventories are compared.
B
Boundaries
The inventory boundaries determine which emissions are accounted for and reported by the organization. Boundaries can be determined by organizational structure, operational control, or geography.
C
Carbon Dioxide
A naturally occurring gas, and also a by-product of burning fossil fuels and biomass and a by-product of land-use changes and other industrial processes. It is the principal greenhouse gas resulting from human activities that affects the Earth’s radiative (heat) balance. As such, it is also the reference gas against which other greenhouse gases are measured, and therefore has a global warming potential of 1.
Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e)
The universal unit for comparing the emissions from various greenhouse gases. The carbon dioxide equivalent for a gas is derived by multiplying the mass of the gas by the associated GWP. For example, the global warming potential for methane is 21. This means that emissions of one metric tonne of methane are equivalent to the emissions of 21 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. (Emissions are commonly reported in metric tonnes.)
Carbon Intensity
The amount of carbon by weight emitted per unit of energy consumed. A common measure of carbon intensity is metric tonnes of carbon emitted per Megawatt hour (MWh) of energy used.
Carbon Neutral
A state of zero net greenhouse gas emissions within a predefined system with clear boundaries. Carbon neutral companies commit to measuring their GHG emissions annually, reducing emissions as much as possible within their own operations, then purchasing enough carbon offsets (certified emission reductions made by another entity) to account for all emissions that they couldn’t reduce. Credible carbon neutral claims must be based on an inventory that includes all material direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and the organization must continually offset all emissions accounted for in its inventory (i.e., annually).
Carbon Offset
A project or activity that results in a given amount of greenhouse gases being avoided or reduced in one place, that is used to ‘balance out’ another’s total GHG emissions. Emission reductions that are real, additional (beyond business as usual), measurable, permanent, and verified can generate offset credits. Credits are tradable certificates that can be purchased to help achieve a carbon neutral status, meet voluntary emission reduction goals, or, under certain climate policy approaches, to meet mandatory emission reduction requirements.
Climate Change
A significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). Climate change can result from both natural changes (such as changes in the sun’s intensity or oceanic circulation) and human activities that alter the gaseous composition of the atmosphere (such as fossil fuel burning or deforestation).
Control
A company’s ability to direct the policies of another operation. More specifically, a company is said to have operational control over a space if the company has the full authority to introduce and implement its operating policies at that facility.
Control Approach
An emissions accounting approach for defining organizational boundaries in which the company/ organization reports 100 percent of the GHG emissions from operations under its financial or operational control.
D
Direct Emissions
GHG emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the reporting company or organization.
E
Emission Factor
A factor that converts activity data to GHG emission values. (e.g., lbs of carbon dioxide emitted per barrel of fossil fuel consumed).
F
Fugitive Emissions
Uncontrolled emissions including emissions from the production, processing, transmission, storage, and use of fuels and other substances, not emitted through an exhaust pipe, stack, chimney, vent or other functionally equivalent opening. Examples include releases of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) from electrical equipment, hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) releases during the use of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, process equipment leaks, etc.
G
Global Warming Potential (GWP)
The ratio of radiative forcing (degree of warming to the atmosphere) that would result from the emission of one unit of a given GHG relative to one unit of CO2. The global warming potential of CO2 is one, with the GWP of all other greenhouse gases provided in reference to CO2. For example, GWP of methane is 21, meaning that a given mass of methane is approximately 21 times more damaging to the atmosphere than an equivalent mass of CO2.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
Naturally occurring and human-made gases that trap infrared radiation as it is reflected from the earth’s surface, trapping heat and keeping the earth warm. The six main GHGs whose emissions are human-caused are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
GHG Protocol
A set of common standards and calculation tools for measuring and reporting corporate GHG emissions. Developed by a multiple-stakeholder group convened by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
GHG Source
Any physical unit or process that releases GHGs into the atmosphere.
GHG Target
The level of emissions that a company intends to reduce by a specific date as part of its commitment.
H
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
Compounds containing only hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon atoms. They were introduced as alternatives to ozone depleting substances in serving many industrial, commercial, and personal needs. HFCs are emitted as byproducts of industrial processes and are also used in manufacturing. They do not significantly deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, but they are powerful greenhouse gases with global warming potentials ranging from 140 (HFC-152a) to 11,700 (HFC-23).
I
Indirect Emissions
GHG emissions that are a consequence of the reporting company’s operations but occur at sources owned or controlled by another company.
Intensity-Based GHG Target
A target defined by a reduction in GHG emissions relative to a measurement of business activity, for example, reduce CO2 per square foot of office space by 8% between 2007 and 2010.
M
Methane (CH4)
A hydrocarbon that is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential approximately 21 times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is produced through anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of waste in landfills, animal digestion, decomposition of animal wastes, production and distribution of natural gas and petroleum, coal production, and incomplete fossil fuel combustion.
Metric Tonne Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCO2e)
Common international measurement for a quantity of greenhouse gas emissions.
N
Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
A powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 296 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Major sources of nitrous oxide include soil cultivation practices, especially the use of commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production, and biomass burning.
P
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
A group of human-made chemicals composed of carbon and fluorine only. These chemicals (predominantly CF4 and C2F6) were introduced as alternatives, along with hydrofluorocarbons, to the ozone depleting substances. In addition, PFCs are emitted as by-products of industrial processes and are also used in manufacturing. PFCs do not harm the stratospheric ozone layer, but they are powerful greenhouse gases: CF4 has a global warming potential (GWP) of 5,700 and C2F6 has a GWP of 11,900.
S
Scope 1 Emissions
The reporting company’s direct emissions.
Scope 2 Emissions
The reporting company’s indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heat, and steam.
Scope 3 Emissions
The reporting company’s indirect emissions other than those covered in scope 2. Examples include upstream and downstream emissions, emissions resulting from the extraction and production of purchased materials and fuels, transport-related activities in vehicles not owned or controlled by the reporting entity, use of sold products and services, outsourced activities, recycling of used products, waste disposal, etc.

Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6)
A very powerful greenhouse gas used primarily in electrical transmission and distribution systems and as a dielectric in electronics. The global warming potential of SF6 is 22,200.