Tag Archives: carbon accounting

Setting targets for community emissions – Part 5



This is part 5 of our blog post series on community emissions. The first four articles investigated the development of a community GHG inventory. This article analyses community targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

What is greenhouse gas emissions community target?

A target for a city or community relates to a desired future GHG emissions result for a local government administration boundary.

Introduction

Humans and communities are at the centre of climate change. Reducing emissions is a shared responsibility of governments, businesses and of cities and communities. Moreover, in the absence of strong national leadership, local governments need to step in and act. Setting targets enables efforts to be directed towards achieving that target, rather than letting emissions grow unchecked.

However, setting an appropriate target can be confusing. What percentage reduction should you choose? What target year shall you select? Should the target revolve around renewables or carbon emissions, or should you instead focus on tangible measures like solar PV installations in your community?

What targets are in line with science? What target will get accepted by the community? What kind of targets are other cities and communities setting themselves? Should the local government drive the target setting or shall efforts be community-driven?

Before we try to answer these questions, let’s have a look at the underlying problem first.

Rising carbon emissions and the Paris Agreement

Due to all historical and current carbon emissions, global temperatures have already increased by ~1°C from pre-industrial levels, with even higher increases being experienced on land. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen to above 400 ppm, which exceeds the ‘safe’ level of 350 ppm. Moreover, the IPCC predicts that without additional efforts, there will be further growth in emissions due to increased economic activity and population growth.

The main driver of long-term warming is the total cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases over time. As shown by Climate Action Tracker in Figure 1, without additional efforts, human-caused carbon emissions may increase to over 100 billion tonnes annually by 2100, which is double current global emissions. The resulting increase in global temperatures could be up to 4.8°C (as per the IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report).

However, with current climate policies around the world, global temperatures are projected to rise by about 3.2°C.

To prevent dangerous climate change by limiting global warming, close to 200 of the world’s governments signed the landmark Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement forms the basis of science-based targets to limit global temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2050. With current pledges, and if all countries achieved their Paris Agreement targets, it could limit warming to 2.9°C.

The Climate Action Tracker’s warming projections for 2100, various policy scenarios
Figure 1: The Climate Action Tracker’s warming projections for 2100, various policy scenarios

However, to limit warming to well below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, current Paris pledges made by countries are not enough[1]. Carbon emissions need to decline at a much steeper rate in the near future and reach net-zero by mid-century to have a 50% chance of keeping warming below 1.5°C.

Achieving net-zero by 2038 improves this chance to two thirds, but global emissions would have to fall by up to 70% relative to 2017 levels by 2030. For every year of failed action, the window to net-zero is reduced by two years[2].

So how many greenhouse gases can still be emitted? This concept is encapsulated in the term ‘carbon budget’.

What is a carbon budget?

Just like a financial budget sets a ceiling on how much money can be spent, a carbon budget is a finite amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere before warming will exceed certain temperature thresholds.

The concept of a carbon budget emerged as a scientific concept from the IPCC’s 2014 Synthesis Report on Climate Change and relates to the cumulative amount of carbon emissions permitted over a period. Given that the carbon budget is not annual, but cumulative, it means that once it is spent, carbon emissions have to be held at net zero to avoid exceeding temperature targets.

Higher emissions in earlier years mean that there can only be lower emissions later on. You can compare this concept to your own budget. If your yearly budget was $120,000, and you spent $30,000 in each of January and February, you would only have $60,000 left to spend between March and December, or $6,000 per month. Conversely, if you are careful with what you buy and only spend $5,000 every month, then your budget will last twice as long (2 years).

The carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C is smaller than the carbon budget for limiting warming to 2°C.

Please have a look at the following two carbon budgets we developed for a local government client. The ‘blue budget’ shows a 2°C pathway, whereas the ‘orange budget’ shows a 1.5°C scenario.

Example of 2°C carbon budget

Example of a 2°C carbon budget
Figure 2: Example of a 2°C carbon budget for a community greenhouse gas emissions target

Example of 1.5°C carbon budget

Example of a 1.5°C carbon budget
Figure 3: Example of a 1.5°C carbon budget for a community greenhouse gas emissions target

The area of the carbon budget is much smaller in the ‘orange’ graphic. And while both carbon budgets trend towards net zero in 2050, there are much steeper reductions earlier on in the 1.5°C scenario.

How can you set a target/carbon budget based on science?

Targets are considered science-based if they are in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global average temperature increase well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures, as described in the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC. All science-based target setting methods use an underlying carbon budget.

There is no universally accepted method of how to calculate carbon budgets at the city level and many cities have worked hard at developing a fair carbon budget. As per the C40 Deadline 2020 report, the three principles that dominate the debate on the allocation of carbon budgets are:

  1. Equality, based on an understanding that human beings should have equal rights
  2. Responsibility for contributing to climate change, linked to the ‘polluter pays’ principle
  3. Capacity to contribute to solving the problem (also described as capacity to pay).

Specific considerations include the current global carbon budget[3], adjusting it to an appropriate time frame, adjusting it from carbon dioxide to carbon dioxide equivalents, and then deriving a fair and equitable national budget. Once there is a national budget, it needs to be apportioned fairly to the city by using factors such as population and potentially adjusting it based on the sector representation in the community.

A simpler method to arrive at a carbon budget that is tracking towards net-zero is to follow a science-based target-setting method by adopting a target which is proportional to the overall world’s target using the contraction approach and to scale emissions down linearly. There are two science-based temperature scenarios you can align with, a 2°C and a 1.5°C scenario. The minimum annual linear reduction rates aligned with 1.5°C and 2°C scenarios are 4.2% and 2.5%, respectively.

Example method for calculating your science-based target

The following method, which you can use as an example, shows six steps on how to set a community emissions target based on science.

Step 1: Calculate your GHG inventory

Your carbon inventory should be aligned to GPC. Please read our article on calculating community carbon footprints if you are unsure about this step.

Step 2: Project emissions

Once you have a fully developed carbon inventory, project your emissions into the future to get an idea of where your emissions will be in the absence of any abatement measures

Step 3: Decide on carbon budget allocation method

Choose an approach that is suitable for your circumstances. The simplest method is to contract to net-zero by 2050.

Step 4: Choose a pathway

You need to choose whether you want your emissions trajectory to align with a 1.5°C or a 2°C scenario.

Step 5: Choose a target year

While you are aiming to track towards net zero by mid-century, it will help to establish interim targets, based on your chosen degree scenario.

Step 6: Validate your decisions

Consult your community to get feedback.

Six steps to set a science-based community emissions target
Figure 4: Six steps to set a science-based community emissions target

What kind of targets are there?

There are two main categories of targets, top-down and bottom-up ones.

Top-down targets

With top-down goals, you set the goal first, and then determine actions to get there. Top-down targets can be informed by science (‘science-based targets’) or by a community’s aspirations. Each of these approaches effectively gives the community a carbon budget to stay within for any chosen pathway.

Externally set top-down target – science-based:

An external top-down target is informed by science. Science-based targets are aligned with either a 2°C or 1.5°C pathway and lead to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Internally set top-down target – aspirational:

Aspirational targets express the vision of a community and where it would like to be in future. They often relate to a target year earlier than 2050.

Bottom-up targets

With bottom-up targets, you analyse the carbon footprint first and then develop abatement actions. Carbon reduction actions are modelled to investigate the amount of carbon reduction that can be achieved and the cost to facilitate and fund them. Based on the level of carbon reduction that is feasible, you set a corresponding target.

Top-down and bottom-up targets can work in tandem. For instance, you can decide to set a science-based target, and then translate this target into tangible, staged and evidence-based bottom-up targets. Examples of such tangible targets are the number of solar PV installations on houses, or the rate and amount of electric vehicle take-up in a community.

Who sets a community target?

Targets can come directly from the community, or they can be driven by the local government authority. If they are driven by the local government, it is a good idea to undertake community consultation, present the facts and then get feedback on the proposed target(s).

What does a net-zero target mean?

A net-zero target means that by (and from) the target date, there must be no greenhouse gas emissions on a net basis. Within the geographic boundaries of a city, a ‘net zero city’ is defined as:

  1. Net-zero GHG emissions from stationary energy consumption such as natural gas use (scope 1)
  2. Net-zero GHG emissions from transport activities (scope 1)
  3. Net-zero GHG emissions from electricity consumption (scope 2)
  4. Net-zero GHG emissions from the treatment of waste generated within the city boundary (scopes 1 and 3)
  5. Where a city accounts for additional sectoral emissions in their GHG accounting boundary (e.g. IPPU, AFOLU), net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from all additional sectors in the GHG accounting boundary

Table 1: Definition of a net-zero target for a city

Definition of a net-zero target for a city

Once you have achieved carbon neutrality, it needs to be maintained year after year. For further information, please refer to the C40 paper, ‘Defining Carbon Neutrality For Cities And Managing Residual Emissions’.

Using carbon offsets to reach net-zero

Even after you have reduced your emissions as much as possible, there may be a residual carbon footprint. It may not be technically or economically possible to achieve zero emissions for all inventory sources, in which case you can consider carbon offsets.

As per the C40 paper Defining Carbon Neutrality for Cities, possible approaches for carbon offsets you can consider include:

  1. Developing carbon offset projects outside of the city GHG accounting boundary (including local/regional projects that may or may not generate tradeable carbon credits) and taking responsibility for managing the project for the duration of its lifetime;
  2. Investing in carbon offset projects outside of the city GHG accounting boundary (e.g. provide funding to enable a project to get underway or commit to purchasing a set quantity of future vintages, thereby providing upfront funding for credit registration costs), and
  3. Purchasing carbon offsets from outside of the city GHG accounting boundary (local, national, or globally-sourced projects that generate tradeable carbon credits) from a registered/credible/established carbon credit provider.

As with any carbon offset purchase, your carbon credits should be credible and of high quality. Criteria that your carbon offset projects should achieve are that they are real, additional, permanent, measurable, independently audited and verified, unambiguously owned and transparent.

Using Carbon Dioxide Removal and Negative Emissions Technology to reach net-zero

Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) means that you are removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in addition to what would happen anyway via the natural carbon cycle. Because you are removing carbon emissions, this is also called ‘negative emissions’, or ‘negative emissions technology’ (NET).

You can draw out excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by enhancing natural carbon sinks (trees and soil) or using chemical processes, such as extracting carbon dioxide from the air and storing it somewhere suitable (e.g., underground).

Negative Emission Technology (NET) is at various stages of commercial development and differs in terms of maturity, scalability, costs, risks, and trade-offs. To date, none of these technologies has been adopted at large scale.

As a side note, in IPCC modelling, all pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C include CDR measures. If we cannot reduce emissions fast enough, global temperatures will overshoot 1.5°C, which means that we need NET to bring global temperatures back down.

A city that plans on utilising NET is Oslo. The single biggest carbon reduction measure in Oslo’s Climate and Energy Strategy is the implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) at its Klemetsrud waste incineration facility.

Target setting under the Global Covenant of Mayors and C40

Target setting under the Global Covenant

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) is the world’s largest alliance of cities and local governments with a shared long-term vision of promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat climate change and move to a low emission, climate-resilient future. As of October 2019, 26 local governments in Australia have joined the GCoM.

Through the GCoM, cities and local governments are voluntarily committing to fight climate change, mirroring the commitments their national governments have set to ensure the goals of the Paris Agreement are met.

Local governments committed to GCoM pledge to implement policies and undertake measures to:

  • Reduce/limit greenhouse gas emissions
  • Prepare for the impacts of climate change
  • Increase access to sustainable energy
  • Track progress toward these objectives

When you join the Global Covenant of Mayors, you need to submit a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target(s) within two years upon joining. The target boundary needs to be consistent with all emissions sources included in your GHG emissions inventory. The target year needs to be the same (or later than) the target year adopted nationally under the Paris Agreement. The national target is called the ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDC).

If you set a target beyond 2030, you also need to set an interim target. The target needs to be at least as ambitious as the unconditional components of the NDC. You are only allowed to use carbon offsets if your target’s ambition exceeds the NDC.

Target setting under C40

C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. Cities that commit to being part of C40 need to have a plan to deliver their contribution towards the goal of constraining global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C. In Australia, Sydney and Melbourne are members.

To remain within a 1.5°C temperature rise, average per capita emissions across C40 cities need to drop from over 5 t CO2-e per capita to around 2.9 t CO2-e per capita by 2030. Every city needs to diverge considerably from its current business-as-usual pathway and cities with a GDP over USD15,000 per capita must begin to reduce their per capita emissions immediately, which results in an immediate and steep decline of emissions.

C40 recommends that the trajectory for emission reduction follows the typology as introduced in Deadline 2020.

  • Steep Decline – Cities with a GDP per capita over $15,000 and emissions above the average for C40. Emissions need to be immediately and rapidly reduced and the city is sufficiently developed to do so.
  • Steady Decline – Cities with a GDP per capita over $15,000 but emissions lower than the average for C40. The city is sufficiently developed to immediately reduce emissions, but a less rapid rate of reduction is required than for the Steep Decline group.
  • Early Peak – Cities with GDP per capita below $15,000 and higher than average emissions per capita. An early emissions peak is required, although the city’s development status means that decline cannot be immediate.
  • Late Peak – Cities with a GDP per capita below $15,000 and lower than average emissions per capita. A slightly later emissions peak is possible.

The following table shows the current and reduced science-aligned and C40 per capita emissions for scopes 1, 2 and 3.

Table 2: Average per capita emissions figures for C40 cities in 1.5- and 2-degree trajectories

Average per capita emissions figures for C40 cities in 1.5- and 2-degree trajectories

Examples of city targets

The following list shows examples of ambitious targets for cities across five continents.

EThekwini Municipality, Africa

The eThekwini municipality includes the city of Durban, South Africa and surrounding towns. It is the first city in Africa to develop a 1.5°C climate action plan with the support of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. The target is to reach a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 and 80% reduction by 2050.

Hong Kong, Asia

In May 2019, Hong Kong achieved CDP’s top ‘A’ score for its climate strategy, among 7% of cities reporting to the CDP. Hong Kong’s targets are as follows:

  • Reduce carbon intensity by 65% to 70% by 2030 compared with the 2005 level, which is equivalent to an absolute reduction of 26% to 36%
  • Resulting in per capita emission of 3.3 to 3.8 tonnes in 2030
  • Carbon emissions to peak before 2020

The 2030 Climate Plan includes objectives, such as phasing down coal for electricity generation and replacing it with natural gas by 2030, saving energy in the built environment, focusing on rail as a low-carbon public transport backbone and encouraging active transport modes, such as walking.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australia

The ACT is a federal territory of Australia containing the Australian capital city of Canberra and some surrounding townships. The ACT’s first targets were introduced in 2010, revised in 2016 to increase ambition and again in 2018. The current targets are to reduce emissions (from 1990 levels) by:

  • 40% by 2020
  • 50-60% by 2025
  • 65-75% by 2030
  • 90-95% by 2040
  • 100% (net zero emissions) by 2045.

The ACT also set a target to peak emissions per capita by 2013. This was achieved in 2012-13 at 10.53 tonnes of CO2-e per person and has remained below this level ever since. In 2017-18, emissions were 8.09 t CO2-e per capita. The ACT’s targets were informed by considering the ACT’s share of the global carbon budget.

Oslo, Europe

Oslo has the objective to become a ‘virtually zero-emission city’. The current targets are as follows:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions should not exceed 766,000 tons of CO2-e by 2020 (applicable to all emission sectors except agriculture, aviation and shipping)
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels)

The second goal depends on the successful removal of emissions from a major waste incineration plant.

In 2016, Oslo introduced a climate budget, which sets a ceiling on the volume of carbon dioxide that can be emitted in the city in a given year. The climate budget is fully integrated with the financial budget of the city. The climate budgets show measures implemented or planned for Oslo to reach its climate targets and become a low-carbon city.

San Francisco, North America

In its Focus 2030: A Pathway to Net Zero Emissions, San Francisco defines the following targets:

  • Supplying 100% renewable electricity from 2030
  • 68% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2030
  • 90% reduction by 2050

San Francisco identified that emission reduction must come from three primary sectors, being buildings, transportation and waste. The city also defined sub-targets for these sectors.

Transportation:

  • Shift 80% of all trips taken to walking, biking and transit by 2030.
  • Electrify 25% of private cars and trucks by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

Buildings:

  • Electrify space and water heating with high-efficiency products such as heat pumps
  • Increase building energy efficiency
  • Power buildings with 100% renewable electricity

Waste:

  • Reduce generation by 15% by 2030
  • Reduce disposal to landfill or incineration by 50% by 2030

Conclusion

Cities and communities should consider setting themselves targets in line with science. To avoid catastrophic climate change, emissions need to start falling now and reach net zero by 2050. Interim targets will help to stay under an allocated carbon budget.

Both vision and leadership are needed to enable steep cuts to our emissions, which translates into unprecedented, rapid change across the globe to limit global warming. The way electricity is generated needs to change to clean energy. The way we transport people and goods and the way we produce everything needs innovation. Land use planning plays a big part, and different economic models need to be adopted that will makes such a transformational shift possible. In the next part of this series, we will look at community carbon abatement measures in greater detail.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations, communities/LGAs and councils determine suitable targets, be they science-based, aspirational or bottom-up/action-based. Our community inventories align with the GPC and targets can be based on IPCC global carbon budgets. If you need help with your community inventory, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Footnotes

[1] For instance, Australia’s commitment under the Paris Agreement is 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030

[2] https://www.c40.org/researches/defining-carbon-neutrality-for-cities-managing-residual-emissions

[3] The Global Carbon Budget website provides annual updates of the global carbon budget and trends.

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Calculating your GPC community inventory – Part 4

In our first blog post in this series, we introduced community emission inventories. In the previous articles, we examined categories and scopes of the Global Protocol for Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) and looked at the differences between a BASIC, BASIC+ and a territorial inventory. In this article, we discuss how you can calculate your community’s emissions.

Introduction

Calculating versus measuring carbon emissions

It is possible to measure carbon emissions. Examples are monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from a coal-fired power plant or measuring the emissions from exhaust pipes in vehicles. In most cases, however, you will calculate emissions by applying a so-called ‘emissions factor’.

How are greenhouse gas emissions expressed?

Greenhouse gas emissions are expressed in tonnes of CO2-e (carbon dioxide equivalent).

When reporting under the GPC, you need to record greenhouse gas emissions of every gas, plus the tonnes of CO2-e.

What is CO2-e?

Every greenhouse gas has a different global warming potential (GWP) over 100 years. The GWPs are determined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The most current assessment of GWPs was released in 2013 in IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).

When reporting your community inventory, you should use the latest IPCC Assessment Report or the version used by your country’s national inventory body.

Australia, as an example, uses the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) when converting different greenhouse gases to CO2-e. Carbon dioxide is assigned a GWP of 1. Methane has a GWP of 25 and nitrous oxide has a GWP of 298. These GWPs are used to convert greenhouse gases into one single measure, CO2-e.

As an example, if 1,000 tonnes of methane emissions are emitted in your community, this would translate to 25,000 tonnes of CO2-e.

Activity data and emission factors

Calculations are based on converting data that you have available into emissions using a ‘conversion’ or an ‘emissions factor’.

GHG emissions = Activity data x emissions factor

Activity data measures a level of activity that leads to greenhouse gas emissions. Examples of activity data are:

  • Electricity consumption
  • Natural gas consumption
  • Litres of fuel used in a car
  • Tonnes of waste sent to landfill
  • Number of sheep

An emissions factor converts your activity data into a mass of greenhouse gas emissions.

Example of calculating emissions associated with electricity consumption

Say your city consumed 1,000 MWh of electricity. The emissions associated with your electricity use differ depending on how this electricity is generated. If mostly fossil fuels like coal are used to produce electricity, then this will produce more emissions compared to renewables.

Let’s take a look at the emissions resulting from the same electricity consumption in three different English-speaking countries by applying the relevant emission factors.

Figure 1: GHG emissions of different countries with the same underlying electricity consumption

The emissions for Australia are higher than for the USA and the UK with the same underlying consumption due to most of the electricity being produced from fossil fuel sources.

Note on emission factors:

The factors for Australia and the USA are averages across all regions for 2019.

Factor sources:

Selecting an appropriate calculation methodology

Selecting a calculation methodology depends on several things:

  • The purpose of your GHG inventory. Considerations here include whether you are reporting internally or to your community, or whether you are participating in programs like the C40, or the Global Covenant of Mayors.
  • Availability of data. Some data may be easily obtainable, whereas, with others, you may need more comprehensive data gathering methods.
  • Consistency with your country’s national inventory reporting programs. You may need to select a specific calculation methodology to fit in with how your country reports its national inventory.

No matter what calculation method you choose, you need to make sure to document the calculation method you have used.

Data collection

A big (and the most time consuming) part in calculating a community’s inventory is data collection.

If you are lucky, you have existing data for your selected inventory boundary and the reporting level you have selected. If not, you will have to generate new data (which involves surveying your community) or adapt existing data.

Examples of data sources

The following shows a list of possible data sources you could use (as described in the GPC):

  • Government departments
  • Statistics agencies
  • Your country’s national GHG inventory report
  • Universities and research institutes
  • Scientific and technical articles in environmental books, journals and reports
  • Sector experts/stakeholder organisations

Identifying emission factors

Your first choice of emission factors should be local, regional, or national factors published by the Government. If these are not available, you can use IPCC default factors or data from the Emission Factor Database, or other standard values from international bodies that reflect national circumstances. Table 2.2 of the 2006 IPCC Guidelines provides a comprehensive guide to identifying potential sources of emission factors.



Quality assessment of activity data and emissions factors

Ideally, you would want the most accurate activity data and emissions factors you can get. However, this will not always be possible, and sometimes, you need to trade-off between accuracy and completeness of your inventory. Generally speaking, you would prefer your data and emissions factors to be:

  • Reliable
  • Peer-reviewed
  • Reputable
  • Robust
  • Recent
  • Specific to your area
  • Publicly available

To be compliant with the GPC, you need to evaluate both the quality of your activity data as well as that of your emission factors. The quality can be low, medium or high as shown in the graphic below.

Figure 2: Assessing the quality of activity data and emissions factors

How to calculate the most common emissions in a GPC inventory

The following section provides more guidance on how you can calculate the most common emission sources in your GPC inventory.

Calculating emissions from stationary energy consumption

Examples of stationary energy consumption are electricity and natural gas use.

Step 1 – Gather activity data

Obtain activity data for each fuel type, ideally disaggregated by sub-sector (e.g. residential buildings, commercial buildings, etc.). Ideally, you would get this data from the network provider or utility. If this is not possible, you can survey your community, or model the energy consumption by determining energy intensities by facility type.

If you cannot disaggregate the data into sub-sectors, you can apportion the total consumption information to each sub-sector or building type. If data is not available for your city, you can use regional or national consumption data scaled down to your population size.

Step 2 – Calculate emissions:

Multiply the fuel/electricity consumption with an appropriate emissions factor.

Calculating emissions from transportation

Emissions from transportation can be difficult to calculate. Transportation consists of the sub-sectors on-road, railways, water transport, aviation and off-road transportation. In this article, we are focusing on on-road transport. Please refer to the GPC for guidance in calculating other transportation-related emissions.

When it comes to on-road transportation, there is a large variation in available data, and the GPC does not prescribe a specific method. Most cities start with a top-down method that uses fuel consumption as a proxy for travel behaviour. It’s fairly easy to calculate emissions this way and does not require a high level of technical capacity, but it makes it difficult to track emission reduction actions.

With more accurate or relevant information available over time, cities tend to change their method to a more detailed, bottom-up approach. Bottom-up methods use detailed activity data, such as vehicle km travelled per mode and vehicle fuel intensity.

Step 1 – Choose calculation method:

The GPC encourages cities to calculate emissions based on four common methods and recommends the induced activity approach.

  1. Fuel sales method (top-down)
  2. Induced activity method (bottom-up) – transportation emissions induced by the city, including trips that begin, end, or are fully contained within the city (usually excluding pass-through trips).
  3. Geographic or territorial method (bottom-up) – emissions from transportation activity within city boundaries
  4. Resident activity method (bottom-up) – emissions from transportation activity undertaken by city residents

Step 2 – Gather activity data:

If you have chosen the fuel sales method, you can obtain data from fuel dispensing facilities or tax receipts. Where this is not possible, data may be available at a regional scale, which can be downscaled based on vehicle ownership data.

If you have chosen a bottom-up method, you need to obtain data from models or surveys.

Step 3 – Calculate emissions:

Multiply the fuel/electricity (electric vehicles) consumption with an appropriate emissions factor.

Calculating emissions from waste

Here, you calculate waste that is not being recycled, and ends up in landfill, biological treatment or incineration. Biological treatment refers to composting and anaerobic digestion of organic waste.

Step 1 – Choose calculation method:

Choose the calculation method

  1. First order of decay (FOD) – emissions are calculated based on actual emissions during the calculation year
  2. Methane commitment (MC) – emissions are calculated based on waste disposed in the calculation year

Step 2 – Gather activity data:

Obtain activity data from waste collection services and weigh-ins at the landfill site. Alternatively, you can multiply the per capita waste generation rate by the population. If you have chosen the FOD method, you will also need to collect historical waste data.

Step 3 – Calculate emissions:

Depending on the method chosen, calculate emissions based on guidance given in the GPC.

Calculating emissions from wastewater

Step 1 – Gather activity data:

Obtain the quantity of wastewater generated in your community, how it is treated (aerobically – in presence of oxygen, or anaerobically – in absence of oxygen), the wastewater’s source and its organic content.

Step 2 – Calculate emissions:

Calculate emissions for methane and nitrous oxide based on guidance given in the GPC.

Conclusion

It is challenging to develop carbon footprints that are in alignment with the GPC. Sometimes, it is easier to get the help of an expert who can guide you through the process. Here at 100% Renewables, we are certified City Climate Planners, proving our experience in community-level GHG emissions inventory accounting.

If you need help with developing community emissions inventories or pathways for emission reduction, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Reporting your GPC inventory – BASIC versus BASIC+ – Part 3

In our first blog post in this series, we introduced community emission inventories. In the previous article, we examined categories and scopes of the Global Protocol for Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) in greater detail.  In this blog post, we will look at the differences between a BASIC, BASIC+ and a territorial inventory.

We recommend that you read our introductory article first to get a basic understanding of GPC inventories.

Reporting emissions under the GPC

As per our previous article, emissions have to be classified by scope and (sub)sector, but there are two different ways you report these emissions.

  1. Scopes framework – territorial accounting
  2. City-induced framework

These two frameworks sum and report carbon emissions differently.

Under the territorial, or ‘scopes’ framework, you report all carbon emissions occurring within the city boundary (scope 1 emissions sources). Emission sources outside the city boundary are classified as scope 2 and scope 3.

However, if you only report on scope 1 emissions, you leave out the details of other emission sources that a city/LGA is responsible for. Therefore, the GPC also requires reporting under the ‘city-induced’ framework. Under this framework, carbon emissions due to activities taking place within a city are calculated, which takes selected scope 1, 2 and 3 emission sources into account.

Figure 1: The territorial and city-induced ways of reporting a GPC inventory

All emissions a city is responsible for are counted, no matter whether they occur within or outside the city. There are two options to report under the ‘city-induced’ framework, BASIC and BASIC+. The BASIC level allows you to report on standard emission sources in a city.

The BASIC+ level covers more emission sources. This means that a community has to report the most common scope 1, 2 and 3 emission sources. Cities should try and report as many emission sources as possible – this is usually constrained by what data sources are available.

Territorial reporting

One of the advantages of using the GPC in compiling your city’s or LGA’s carbon inventory is that it allows you to add all discrete inventories up to a national level. The way this works is that the boundaries of each inventory must not overlap and that you only count scope 1 emission sources.

If you only total scope 1 (‘territorial’) emissions, then you are reporting emissions occurring within the geographic boundary of a city, or LGA. This way of reporting community emissions is consistent with national-level greenhouse gas reporting.

When you are reporting under the territorial reporting level, you need to include the following scope 1 emission sources:

  • Energy (both stationary and in-boundary transport)
  • Waste and wastewater
  • IPPU (only under BASIC+)
  • AFOLU (only under BASIC+)

Emissions from grid-supplied energy are calculated at the point of energy generation. This means that you are reporting energy generation supplied to the grid within your city boundaries under scope 1, but you would not include this source in your BASIC/BASIC+ totals.

Emissions from waste are calculated at the point of waste disposed. This means that waste imported from outside the city but treated inside the city will be part of the scope 1 total under the territorial approach.

BASIC reporting

The BASIC level of reporting covers scope 1 and scope 2 emission sources from energy (both for stationary as well as transport purposes), as well as scope 1 and scope 3 emissions from waste.

If you are reporting under the BASIC reporting level, you need to include the following emission sources:

  • Energy (both stationary and transport), scopes 1 and 2
  • Waste and wastewater, scopes 1 and 3

You will need to report all carbon emissions from stationary energy sources such as natural gas consumption, in scope 1, and those from the use of grid-supplied electricity in scope 2.

You will also need to report fugitive emissions associated with coal, oil and natural gas systems under scope 1.

You need to report all carbon emissions from transportation fuels occurring within the city boundary in scope 1, and carbon emissions from grid-supplied electricity used for transportation within the city boundary in scope 2 (e.g., electric vehicle charging).

Emissions from grid-supplied energy are calculated at the point of energy consumption and emissions from waste at the point of waste generation. This means that under the city-induced framework, carbon emissions from the disposal or treatment of waste generated within the city boundary is accounted for, no matter whether the waste is treated inside (scope 1) or outside (scope 3) the city boundary.



BASIC+ reporting

The BASIC+ level requires communities to cover a broader range of emission sources in addition to the ones under the BASIC level. These emissions cover sources such as industrial processes (e.g., steel production), product use (e.g., paraffin use), agriculture, forestry and land use, and transboundary transportation.

BASIC+ also requires you to report scope 3 emissions associated with energy consumption (both stationary and transport). In the case of electricity consumption, these are emissions associated with transmission and distribution losses. For natural gas, petrol or diesel consumption, these are emissions attributable to upstream emissions in the production and transportation of the fuel.

Because scope 3 emission factors for energy consumption are readily available in most cases, cities that only report under BASIC also tend to report on these emission sources as part of an extended BASIC inventory.

Not all communities will have big industries or many agricultural emissions in their city/LGA. However, for the ones that do, they should be striving to report under BASIC+.

If you are reporting under the BASIC+ reporting level, you need to include the following scope 1, 2 and 3 emission sources:

  • All BASIC emission sources
  • Scope 3 emissions from electricity consumption (T&D losses)
  • Scope 3 emissions from transboundary transportation
  • IPPU
  • AFOLU

Summary of differences between BASIC and BASIC+ level reporting

The following table summarises the main differences between the two reporting levels.

Figure 2: Summary of differences between BASIC and BASIC+ level reporting

What is the minimum information you will need to report?

As a minimum, you need to report the following information:

  • Geographic area of the inventory boundary
  • Time span of the inventory (typically one year)
  • City information (population, GDP)
  • Emission sources across stationary (scope 1 and 2), in-boundary travel (scope 1 and 2), waste (scope 1 and 3)
  • Total emissions in tonnes of CO2-e, but also per constituent gas (CO2, CH4, N20)
  • Activity data, emission factors, data sources, assumptions and methodologies
  • Data quality assessment

It is challenging to develop carbon footprints that are in alignment with the GPC. Sometimes, it is easier to get the help of an expert who can guide you through the process. Here at 100% Renewables, we are certified City Climate Planners, proving our experience in community-level GHG emissions inventory accounting.

If you need help with developing community emissions inventories or pathways for emission reduction, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Categorising your GPC inventory into sectors and scopes – Part 2

In our previous blog post, we introduced community emission inventories. In this article, we are examining the Global Protocol for Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) in greater detail. Specifically, we will look at how you need to categorise your emissions into sectors and scopes.

We recommend that you read our introductory article first to get a basic understanding of GPC inventories.

Categorising emission sources

When you develop a GPC inventory, you need to make sure to report emissions under the right sector and sub-sector.

Main sectors

According to the GPC, carbon emissions from city activities are categorised into six main sectors. Sectors are the topmost categorisation of city-wide carbon emission sources. The sectors are as follows:

  1. Stationary energy
  2. Transportation
  3. Waste
  4. Industrial processes and product use
  5. Agriculture, forestry and other land use
  6. Other scope 3 emissions

Sometimes, it can be tricky to decide whether an emission source goes under waste or stationary energy, or whether it goes under stationary energy or industrial processes. It can also be tricky to know where to account for the electricity used to charge electric vehicles and making sure that this is not double-counted under both the stationary and transportation sectors. The GPC provides guidance around these issues.

Sub-sectors

Sub-sectors are divisions that make up a sector (e.g., residential buildings, or transport modes such as on-road or railways). The following lists show the sub-sectors supporting the main sectors.

Stationary energy

Stationary energy is emission sources like electricity and natural gas consumption. This sector is divided into:

  • Residential buildings
  • Commercial and institutional buildings
  • Manufacturing industries and construction
  • Energy industries
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing activities
  • Fugitive emissions

Transportation

Transportation comprises emissions from private and public transport on land, sea or in the air. This sector is divided into:

  • On-road
  • Railways
  • Waterborne navigation
  • Aviation
  • Off-road

Waste

Waste emissions come from the decomposition of organic materials when waste goes to landfill, is being composted/anaerobically digested or incinerated. Greenhouse gases from waste also include emissions from wastewater. The waste sector is divided into:

  • Solid waste disposal (waste going to landfill)
  • Biological treatment (like composting or anaerobic digestion)
  • Incineration and open burning
  • Wastewater

Industrial processes and product use (IPPU)

This sector is particularly important for cities with a lot of industry. This sector is divided into:

  • Industrial processes (comprises of carbon emissions not associated with energy use, e.g. production of mineral products, chemicals or metals)
  • Product use (entails the usage of products that emit greenhouse gases, like air conditioning equipment that releases refrigerants during its operation and when dismantled improperly, or using lubricants and oils)

Agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU)

Emissions from AFOLU are the most difficult to estimate. This sector is divided into:

  • Livestock (digestion and manure of animals like cows and sheep)
  • Land (e.g. clearing of forests)
  • Aggregate sources (e.g. rice cultivation, fertiliser usage)


Other Scope 3

A limited number of scope 3 emission sources are included in the five sectors listed above. However, this particular sector encompasses all other scope 3 emissions, like embedded emissions in consumed goods and services.

You can report on other scope 3 emission sources optionally but must not include it in BASIC/BASIC+ totals (Part 3 of this blog series goes into the details of BASIC and BASIC+). It is expected that additional guidance will be released at a later date on how to account for other scope 3 emissions.

This sector contains mainly:

  • Embedded emissions in consumed products and services produced outside of the city boundary

Sub-categories

You can use sub-categories to further split up sub-sectors, such as vehicle types within the sub-sector of each transport mode (e.g. passenger vehicles) or building types within the stationary energy sector. Sub-categories can help you improve the quality of your inventory and identify suitable mitigation actions.

Categorising emissions by scope

Categorising emissions by scope is similar to the framework used in the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard. While the Corporate Standard classifies emission sources into scopes depending on the operational boundaries of an organisation, the GPC classifies emissions sources depending on whether they occur within or outside city boundaries.

Like the GHG Protocol, the GPC classifies scopes into scope 1, 2 or 3. Table 1 below shows the definition of the scopes and gives examples.

Table 1: GPC emission scopes 1, 2 and 3

It is challenging to develop carbon footprints that are in alignment with the GPC. Sometimes, it is easier to get the help of an expert who can guide you through the process. Here at 100% Renewables, we are certified City Climate Planners, proving our experience in community-level GHG emissions inventory accounting.

If you need help with developing community emissions inventories or pathways for emission reduction, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

An introduction to community carbon footprints – Part 1

Many local governments have had great success in monitoring, tracking and reducing emissions in their own operations. Now, more and more councils are starting to look outside their operations to help reduce emissions in their communities.

Local action across communities is needed to help reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to keep global warming to under 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels (please refer to an earlier article on science-based targets).

In this blog post, we introduce the basics about community emissions carbon footprints, including emissions sources, examples and methods.

Why is it important to develop greenhouse gas inventories for communities?

Tracking emissions on a national level helps with tracking our performance against the Paris Agreement as a country. However this information tends not to be tangible to many people and communities. Developing greenhouse gas emission inventories at a local level has many benefits, and can help you:

  • Understand how many tonnes your community is emitting – to have a starting point from which you can plan what you can do as a community to reduce emissions
  • Project your community’s emissions into the future – if your population is growing then new housing and business may see your emissions grow as well
  • Compare your community’s emissions to other similar communities, so there is a basis for collaboration (and competition) to reduce emissions
  • Know where the biggest sources of emissions are and which sectors contribute the most, so that plans and support measures you develop with your community are relevant and have the best chance of success
  • Set targets – to know what you are working towards. These may be overall aspirational goals, or they may be more targeted
  • Track and communicate emissions levels and the success of reduction measures to your community

What is the Global Protocol for community emissions (GPC)?

To enable communities and cities to report under one globally acceptable standard, the Global Protocol for Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) was developed. It was launched in December 2014 by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and is the most widely used framework to account for carbon emissions in a community.

The GPC outlines requirements and provides guidance to account for and report emissions, but it is up to you to choose a suitable methodology to calculate emissions for your community.

Developing a community carbon footprint aligned to GPC

Local governments are typically experienced in developing carbon footprints for their own operations, but may be new to developing footprints for their communities.

The GPC provides two approaches to developing community carbon inventories, a “territorial” approach and a “city-induced” approach. Within the city-induced approach two reporting levels are available, called “BASIC” and “BASIC+”. The differences between approaches and reporting levels, and the pros and cons of these will be the subject of a future blog post.

Whatever approach you use to develop a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for a community, it is important to set a geographic boundary first. In most cases, the geographical boundary of a Local Government Area (LGA) will be suitable, though in some cases developing estimates of emissions at a suburb level may be desirable – for example where the mix of land use, single houses, flats and business changes across a locality.

The next step is to pick a baseline year for which you want to develop an inventory. A recent calendar or financial year is typically selected, and provides a period of time against which you intend to monitor your community’s emissions going forward.

The main emission sources reported in your community GHG inventory will include:

  • Electricity consumption in the LGA (stationary energy)
  • Natural gas consumption in the LGA (stationary energy)
  • Private and public transportation
  • Waste
  • Wastewater

Other emissions that you can consider for a city-wide carbon footprint include:

  • Refrigerant losses
  • Fugitive emissions from industrial activities (production and use of mineral products and chemicals, production of metals)
  • Lubricants, paraffin waxes, bitumen, etc. used in non-energy products
  • Fluorinated compounds used in the electronics industry
  • Emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU)
  • Other Scope 3 emissions

 

Example of a community inventory – Adelaide

The City of Adelaide emitted 951,000 tonnes of CO2-e in 2015. The graph below is reproduced from https://www.carbonneutraladelaide.com.au/about/how and shows the breakup of the city’s carbon footprint by sector. The biggest emissions come from stationary energy consumption, followed by transport, followed by waste.

Figure 1: The City of Adelaide’s carbon footprint

Example of a community inventory – Melbourne

The City of Melbourne reported emissions of 4,678,194 tonnes of CO2-e in 2017. The graph below is reproduced from https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/sitecollectiondocuments/climate-change-mitigation-strategy-2050.pdf  and shows the breakup of the city’s carbon footprint by sector. Like the City of Adelaide, the biggest emissions come from stationary energy consumption, followed by transport, and then waste.

Figure 2: The City of Melbourne’s carbon footprint

Can an inventory ever be perfect?

It is unlikely that your inventory will be perfect. When you develop a carbon footprint, there will be trade-offs between accuracy and completeness. The more emission sources you include, the more complete your inventory will be. However, it is not always easy to have accurate data at a local level for some emission sources, particularly transport and waste.

It’s safe to say that there will probably be gaps in your data, and you may have to make assumptions or use appropriate analytic methods to fill these gaps, which we described in this blog post. Just make sure you document your assumptions and aim to improve your inventory quality over time.

Can you set targets for community-wide emissions?

Over the last decades, many local governments have set emission reduction targets for their own operations.

It is also possible to set emission reduction targets for community-wide emissions and having a robust GHG inventory at the community level can help you to do this.

Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to target setting can be effective. A top-down target can set out an overall goal to aim for and signals your community’s intent to act to mitigate climate change – for example “net zero emissions by 2030”.

However, bottom-up targets can complement this and provide your community with some tangible metrics that are aligned with achieving the overall goal. For example, “doubling solar PV in the community by 2022”, or “installing 50 electric vehicle charging points in public spaces by 2025”.

Part 5 of this blog post series examines targets that local councils can develop to help their communities reduce their carbon footprint.

Considerations for councils developing community GHG inventories

Based on our experience working with local councils, we have identified some key factors that councils should consider when looking to develop an emissions profile of their community. These include:

  • Repeatability and cost – are the data inputs to your community inventory readily accessible or able to be estimated using a repeatable method or data set, or will you have to pay to access some or all of your data?
  • Comparability – if you are comparing your inventory with that of other cities and communities, be sure that you understand the boundaries and approaches used by others, so you are comparing ‘apples with apples’. We find this to be particularly important when looking at emissions estimates for transport and waste.
  • Alignment & frequency – local councils report on sustainability issues and efforts in a variety of ways, such as annual sustainability reports and periodic State of the Environment reporting. When planning when and how often to measure and report on community emissions within other reports, you should try to ensure that you can develop an inventory in a timely manner aligned with the timing of these.
  • Effort v impact – the overarching purpose of a community inventory is to help the community reduce their GHG emissions, so some consideration should be given to the level of effort required to estimate emissions sources based on their significance, data accessibility and abatement potential.


Need help with developing the carbon footprint of your community?

It is challenging to develop carbon footprints that are in alignment with the GPC. Sometimes, it is easier to get the help of an expert who can guide you through the process. Here at 100% Renewables, we are certified City Climate Planners, proving our experience in community-level GHG emissions inventory accounting.

If you need help with developing community emissions inventories or pathways for emission reduction, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

How to fill gaps in your sustainability data

A standard part of our work is the calculation of energy and carbon footprints. For an energy or carbon footprint, you need to collect sustainability activity data like electricity, natural gas, fuel consumption or waste.

In a perfect world, all required historical and current data would be available in easily accessible form and would always be accurate. Unfortunately, as you may have experienced yourself, this is not always the case. In this blog post, we will show you 3 common ways how you can fill missing sustainability data gaps.

Problems with collecting sustainability data

Common problems with collecting sustainability data include the following:

  1. Incomplete time series: Data may only be available for a few months of the year, it may be available for one year but not another, or the most recent data is not yet available.
  2. Out-dated data: You may require a data set annually, but the data may only be available less frequently. An example for this is waste data based on audits, which are performed infrequently.
  3. Partial data: You may be able to get one data set easily, but not another, or you may only have data for part of your organisation, but not another.
  4. Unreliable data: Data may available, but with obvious inconsistencies.

Three common techniques to overcome sustainability data gaps

In this blog post, we will show you three ways to overcome sustainability data gaps:

  1. Interpolation
  2. Extrapolation
  3. Scaling

You need to carefully evaluate your specific circumstances and determine the best option for your particular case. You may also be able to use more than one method for a specific problem and then make a final decision as to what method gives you the best result.

Interpolation of sustainability data

You can estimate missing data in a timeseries by interpolating between those periods. The method for interpolation can be linear or more sophisticated. Linear interpolation means that you are drawing a straight between the edges of your data gap. More sophisticated methods will allow you to account for more subtle features in your trend.

Figure 1: Using interpolation for data gaps

Please note that if your data fluctuates significantly, using interpolation will not give you the best result. It is good practice to compare interpolated estimates with surrogate/proxy data (see ‘Scaling’ section) as a quality control check.

Extrapolation of sustainability data

You will need to extrapolate your sustainability data to produce estimates for years after your last available data point and before new data is available. Extrapolation is similar to interpolation, but less is known about the trend.

Extrapolation can be conducted either forward (to predict future emissions or energy consumption) or backward, to estimate a base year, for instance. Trend extrapolation assumes that the observed trend during the period for which data is available remains constant over the period of extrapolation. If the trend is changing, you should consider using proxy data (see next section).

Figure 2: Using extrapolation for data gaps

When you use the simple linear method, you extend the line from the end of your known data line. You can also use more sophisticated extrapolation methods to account for more subtle features in the data trend.

The longer the extrapolation projects into the future, the more uncertainty is introduced. However, it is better to have an estimate, than not to have one at all.

It is good practice to update projected graphs with real data as this becomes available and to subsequently update your projections.

Please note that extrapolation is not a good technique when the change in trend is not constant over time. In this case, you may consider using extrapolations based on surrogate data.

Scaling

Scaling works by applying a ratio of known data to your data gap. The ratio is called a ‘scaling factor’. Known data is called surrogate, or proxy data. Surrogate data is strongly correlated to sustainability data that is being extrapolated and is more readily available than the data gap you are trying to fill.

For instance, emissions from transport are related to how many kilometres you travelled. Energy consumption in a building is related to how many people use the building. Emissions from wastewater are related to the population number.

Figure 3: Using scaling for data gaps

In some cases, you may need to use regression analysis to identify the most suitable surrogate data. Using surrogate data can improve the accuracy of estimates developed by interpolation and extrapolation.

Common scaling factors include:

  • number of employees, square metres, operating hours, or population (for community greenhouse gas inventories)
  • economic factors like production output, revenue, or GDP (for community greenhouse gas inventories)
  • weather-related factors like heating degree days or cooling degree days

Case example for extrapolation using scaling

One of our clients was evaluating the adoption of a science-based target. Given that a target is set some time in the future, they needed to find out how much carbon emissions would grow in the absence of abatement measures. Calculating this trend would show the size of the reduction task going forward.

We approached this task by following these steps:

  1. Extrapolation of the available historical greenhouse gas emissions into the future by applying an assumed year-on-year growth scaling factor.
  2. Refinement of the estimated trend by plotting known plant closures and other identified changes onto the timeseries.
  3. Application of estimated future emission factors. Since the grid is getting greener with new renewable energy projects feeding into it, the greenhouse gases associated with electricity consumption for the same underlying use reduce over time.
  4. Development of emission reduction scenarios. Once the baseline emissions growth was estimated, we developed emission reduction scenarios based on energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities.
  5. Development of a graph to communicate the findings to the management team.

As a result of this extrapolation, our client was able to make an informed decision as to the ambition level of their target, as well as a suitable timeframe.

Conclusion

Choosing the right method depends on an assessment of the volatility of the sustainability data trend, whether surrogate data is available and adequate, and the length of time activity data is missing. If you need help with filling in data gaps, you should consider getting expert advice.

100% Renewables are experts in dealing with data gaps and projecting trends. If you need help with managing your data, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

5 ways of visualising emission reduction pathways

Many of our services involve the development of emission reduction pathways, which greatly enhance climate change action plans. In this blog post, we will show you 5 common ways to visually display such a pathway. Seeing these different illustrations can help you to shape how you would like to present your own organisation’s pathway towards a low carbon future.

Introduction

What are emission reduction pathways?

Emission reduction pathways allow for the easy communication of

  • where your organisation is currently at in terms of greenhouse emissions (or energy consumption)
  • where you can be through the implementation of reduction measures that are feasible and cost-effective over time
  • where you would be in the absence of any measures to reduce emissions

Pathways usually start with your selected baseline year and end at some point in the future, typically at 2030, or when agreed or proposed targets are to be met.

What do emission reduction pathways cover?

Boundary:

Your emissions boundary will typically consider three things:

  • The level of an organisation or region you want to assess in terms of emissions reduction. This could be a single site, an asset class (e.g. community buildings), a Division in an organisation, a whole organisation, a town or community, and up to State and National levels.
  • The emissions and energy sources that you want to evaluate. For example, electricity, natural gas, petrol, diesel, refrigerants, waste, wastewater and so on.
  • The Scopes of emissions you want to include. Typically Scope 2 (electricity) is included, and material Scope 1 emissions (on-site combustion or direct emissions). Selected Scope 3 emissions may also be included, such as upstream emissions associated with energy usage and waste.

Units of measure:

The unit for reductions or savings to be modelled will typically be tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, or a unit of energy, such as kilowatt-hours or megajoules.

What greenhouse gas reduction measures are considered in abatement pathways?

For most organisations greenhouse gas reduction measures usually relate to six high-level carbon abatement areas as shown in Figure 1 below, being

  • Energy efficiency
  • Management of waste and other Scope 3 emissions sources
  • Sustainable transport
  • Local generation of renewable energy such as rooftop solar PV
  • Grid decarbonisation
  • Buying clean energy and/or carbon offsets

These high-level categories can be further broken down into as many subcategories as relevant within your selected organisation boundary.

Figure 1: 6 categories for carbon reduction opportunities

The need for a graphical representation of emissions pathways

For many people, it is hard to engage with complex data presented in a table or report. In our experience, it is most effective if abatement potential can be shown in a graph. The visual representation of a carbon abatement pathway allows people to better grasp the overall opportunity for abatement, where this will come from, and the timeframes involved.

It also helps organisations to better communicate their plans to their stakeholders, be they internal or external. Simple and well-presented graphics can also help when seeking decisions to budget for and implement cost-effective measures.

5 ways to graphically represent emission reduction pathways

There are many different ways you can display an emissions reduction pathway; some are more suited to specific circumstances than others. The five examples we are using in this blog post are:

  1. Line chart
  2. Waterfall chart
  3. Area chart
  4. Column chart
  5. Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC)

Let’s look at these examples in detail.



Example #1 – line chart

A line chart is a simple but effective way to communicate a ‘Business-as-usual’ or BAU pathway compared with planned or target pathways at a total emissions level for your selected boundary. Such a boundary could be comparing your whole-business projected emissions with and without action to reduce greenhouse gases.

This type of graph is also useful to report on national emissions compared with required pathways to achieve Australia’s Paris commitments, for example.

Figure 2: Example of a line chart

Example #2 – waterfall chart

A waterfall chart focuses on abatement measures. It shows the size of the abatement for each initiative, progressing towards a specific target, such as 100% renewable electricity, for example. It is most useful to highlight the relative impact of different actions, but it does not show the timeline of implementation.

Figure 3: Example of a waterfall chart

Example #3 – area graph

Area graphs show the size of abatement over time and are a great way to visualise your organisation’s potential pathway towards ambitious emissions reduction targets.

They do not explicitly show the cost-effectiveness of measures. However, a useful approach is to include only measures that are cost-effective now and will be in the future, so that decision-makers are clear that they are looking at a viable investment plan over time to lower emissions.

Figure 4: Example of an area chart that shows reduction actions and diminishing emissions

Another option of displaying an area chart is shown in Figure 5. In this area chart, the existing emission sources that reduce over time are not a focus, and instead, the emphasis is on emission reduction actions. You may prefer this version if there is a large number of reduction measures, or if you include fuel switching actions.

Figure 5: Example of an area chart which emphasises emission reduction actions



Example #4 – column graph

A column graph is similar to the area graph but allows for a clearer comparison between specific years compared with the continuous profile of an area graph. In the example column graph below, we are looking at Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, as well as abatement in an organisation over a 25-year timeframe covering past and future plans.

In the historical part, for instance, we can see Scope 1 (yellow) and Scope 2 (blue) emissions in the baseline year. The impact of GreenPower® (green) on emissions can be seen in any subsequent year until 2018.

Going forward we can see in any projection year the mix of grid decarbonisation (red), new abatement measures (aqua) including fuel switching and renewables purchasing, as well as residual Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

Figure 6: Example of a column chart

Example #5 – Marginal Abatement Cost (MAC) Curve

MAC curves focus on the financial business case of abatement measures and the size of the abatement. MAC curves are typically expressed in $/t CO2-e (carbon), or in $/MWh (energy), derived from an assessment of the net present value of a series of investment over time to a fixed time in the future.

The two examples below show MAC curves for the same set of investments across an organisation. Figure 6 shows the outcome in 2030, whereas, in Figure 7, it is to 2040 when investments have yielded greater returns.

MAC curves are a good way to clearly see those investments that will yield the best returns and their contribution to your overall emissions reduction goal.

Figure 7: Example of a Marginal Abatement Cost curve with a short time horizon

Figure 8: Example of a Marginal Abatement Cost curve with a longer time horizon

Please note that no one example is superior over another. It depends on your preferences and what information you would like to convey to your stakeholders.

100% Renewables are experts in putting together emission reduction and renewable energy pathways. If you need help with determining your strategy, targets and cost-effective pathways, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Carbon accounting for the energy use of streetlighting

This blog post is relevant for Councils who want to make sure they are reporting the energy consumption of streetlights in their Local Government Area under the right carbon accounting scope.

This blog post assumes prior knowledge of carbon accounting. If you would like to find out more about how to develop carbon inventories, we highly recommend you download the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting Standard, or talk to us about developing your carbon footprint.

The energy consumption of street lighting

Streetlighting is usually owned by network operators and is mostly unmetered. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) maintains the “National Electricity Market Load Tables for Unmetered Connection Points”, including street lighting. The NEM load tables list all tested street lighting devices, including their full wattage as tested in each state and territory in the NEM.

For every Local Government Area, network operators apply hours of operation (typically dusk to dawn) to the NEM load table wattage for all installed unmetered street lights to determine monthly electricity consumption.

Where street lighting is metered the Council will simply receive electricity bills that record the actual electricity consumed in each billing period.

The higher the power rating of a particular luminaire, the higher the energy consumption and the related charges. This is why it makes sense for Councils to consider bulk upgrades to LED lighting.

The carbon footprint of street lighting

Street lighting makes up a significant proportion of a Council’s carbon footprint, especially in metropolitan areas, where there are many streetlights. Upgrading to LED lighting makes sense from a financial perspective, but it also significantly lowers the carbon footprint of street lighting.

The carbon footprint of street lighting is made up of the energy consumption of the street lighting, as well as the transmission and distribution (T&D) losses in getting the energy from the power generators to the luminaires.

Accounting for street lighting from the network operator’s perspective

The energy consumption of the streetlights is classified as ‘Scope 2’ from the network operator’s perspective. The T&D losses are also classified as ‘Scope 2’ from the network operator’s perspective, as the network ‘consumes’ the electricity.

Accounting for street lighting from a council’s perspective

Under standard carbon accounting rules, one could assume that a council should classify street lighting as a Scope 3 emissions source to avoid double counting.

However, it depends on what approach is used to consolidate carbon emissions. According to the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting Standard, there are two approaches: the equity share and the control approaches.

Under the equity share approach, a council would report street lighting under Scope 3 if the network operator owns the street lights.

However, if a council is using an ‘operational control’ approach in their carbon accounting, it comes down to the question of what entity has the ‘operational control’.

The answer to this question determines whether a council would classify the energy consumption of streetlights as a ‘Scope 2’, or as a ‘Scope 3’ emission.

Some councils believe that the network operator has control. Others view that council has operational control, for the following reasons:

  • council pays for the asset through amortisation of the capital expenditure and for O&M expenses including electricity, and
  • council can decide whether they want a lighting upgrade or not.

Examples of how councils report their street lighting energy use

The following table shows a small selection of councils and how they account for the electricity consumption of street lighting.

CouncilScope classification of energy consumption of street lighting
Brisbane City CouncilScope 2 for Council-controlled streetlights
Scope 3 for third-party controlled streetlights
City of SydneyScope 2 (network-owned streetlighting deemed to be within the City’s financial control)
City of YarraScope 3
Moreland City CouncilScope 3
Randwick City CouncilScope 3

Under what scope should a council report its street lighting energy use?

Operational control is the most important consideration, but there are others you should be aware of. We have developed the following table which can help you make the right decision.

PreferenceResultant scope for the energy consumption of street lighting
Council deems street lighting to be under its operational controlScope 2
Council deems street lighting to be under the operational control of the network providerScope 3
Council wants to avoid double counting of emissionsScope 3
Council wants to report an NGER-compliant carbon footprint which includes street lighting (noting this may result in double counting)Scope 2
Council has a carbon reduction goal for scope 1 and 2 and is upgrading to LED street lighting Scope 2 (to capture the emissions reduction)
Council has a carbon reduction goal for scope 1, 2 and 3 and is upgrading to LED street lighting Scope 2 or Scope 3, depending on operational control

Example of how you would account for street-lighting

To show the implications of these decisions on how you actually calculate the carbon emissions, we are providing an example which is based on the emissions factor for NSW (July 2018 NGA factors).

Emission sourceScopeEmissions factor in t of CO2-e per MWh
Energy consumption20.82
T&D losses30.10
Total lifecycle emissions2 and 30.92

Based on these emission factors, the following graphic shows two scenarios. Option 1 classifies street lighting as Scope 2, and option 2 classifies it as Scope 3.

Options to account for street lighting in your carbon inventory
Options to account for street lighting in your carbon inventory

Under Option 1, where you classify streetlighting as Scope 2, you would account for the energy consumption of your streetlights as Scope 2, and for the T&D losses as Scope 3.

Under Option 2, where you classify streetlighting as Scope 3, you would account for both the energy consumption and T&D losses under Scope 3.

So under what scope should you report your street-lighting consumption?

First, determine your preferences and reporting needs as per table 2 above. Then adjust your carbon accounting accordingly. Please bear in mind that the carbon accounting software package you might be using may have a fixed Scope classification and may not provide you with a choice.

Carbon accounting can be complex, and it pays to get the help of experts. If you need help, please contact Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Claiming ‘zero emissions’ for the operation of your EVs [Part 3]

In our first blog post on electric vehicles, we analysed the carbon footprint of electric vehicles. In the second blog post of the series, we present three considerations for making zero-emissions claims for your electric vehicles. In the final blog post of this series, we are investigating ways you can safely claim ’zero emissions’ for the operation of your EVs.

There are many ways to ’green’ the energy supplied to charge your EVs at your own business premises. However, what if you charge your vehicles at shopping centres, other businesses, at home, on a freeway, or other locations? If seeking to use renewable energy or be ’zero emissions’ for your EV fleet, your strategy should include both ’onsite’ and ’offsite’ charging plans.

Claiming ‘zero emissions’ for the operation of your EVs

Strategies for claiming ’zero emissions’ when charging EVs at your business premises (‘onsite’)

The good news about charging EVs at your own locations is that you have complete control over the emissions-intensity of the electricity powering your charging stations. There are five basic options you can consider:

  1. Buy 100% GreenPower® for charge points
  2. Corporate Power Purchase Agreement
  3. Become carbon neutral
  4. Switch to carbon neutral electricity
  5. Solar panels (and batteries)

Strategy #1 – Buy 100% GreenPower®

An easy way to charge your electric car from clean energy is to purchase 100% GreenPower® for the account the charging point is connected to. All you would need to do is call your electricity provider and ask to be switched over to their 100% GreenPower® product.

For more information, please read the GreenPower for Businesses Guide that we developed for the National GreenPower Accreditation Scheme.

Strategy #2 – Corporate Power Purchase Agreement for renewables

If you are a large energy user, you could enter into a corporate Power Purchase Agreement and include sites/accounts that power your EV charging point(s).

You could either enter into a bundled PPA agreement where you purchase both the electricity and the green credentials (RECs/LGCs) or into an LGC-only PPA.

If corporate PPAs do not suit your circumstances, you can also buy LGCs directly from brokers, with 1 REC/LGC purchased and retired for each MWh of electricity consumed for your EVs or facilities including EV charging points. While this is a potentially more expensive strategy than strategy 3 or 4 (below), you can claim both ‘zero emissions’ and ‘fully renewable’ for your electric vehicles.

For further information for different PPA options, you can read our article on how you can make your organisation 100% renewable or our introduction to PPAs.

Strategy #3 – Carbon neutrality

If your organisation is carbon neutral, then your EV charging points would be included in your carbon footprint. You may pursue carbon neutrality for stand-alone buildings or events, and where EV charging forms part of the scope of these activities, then it can also be carbon neutral. You may simply wish to be carbon neutral for your EV charging stations if these have separate metering or sub-metering.  If this is data is not available, then you can get this information from your EVs, as most have the capability to track their energy consumption.

The basics steps for becoming carbon neutral are to measure your carbon footprint, reduce it as much as possible and offset the rest through the purchase of carbon credits. Australian organisations can consider becoming carbon neutral under the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS), or you may simply purchase offsets for emissions within the boundaries of your carbon neutrality claim.

Strategy #4 – Switch to carbon neutral electricity

There are currently three electricity providers in Australia that offer carbon-neutral electricity, Powershop, Energy Australia and Energy Locals. You could consider switching suppliers and selecting their carbon neutral products. You can find more information in our article about 10 ways to green your electricity supply.

You need to make sure that the charging point is connected to the account that you are switching over to carbon-neutral electricity.

Strategy #5 – Charging EVs from solar panels

Organisations are starting to put EV charging stations at locations where they also have solar PV installations. One of the first Australian examples is the Macadamia Castle on NSW’s Far North Coast which in 2014 installed a 45 kW solar system on its car park canopy. The solar installation powers both the main building and the EV charging station.

If your business is considering using solar to power electric vehicles, note that you are likely to also use grid power to supplement solar energy, so you should not simply assume that all charging from a solar array is ’green’. If at any point the power output from your solar array is less than the power draw to charge the vehicles, then you will be using grid energy to achieve the shortfall. There are chargers that will only use onsite solar generation to charge EVs, and have settings to slow or stop charging when there is insufficient solar power available (e.g. Zappi).

You could install batteries as well which could increase the amount of onsite solar electricity that charges the vehicles, though this technology is expensive at this time. Australian startup Chargefox, whose vision is that road transport will eventually be powered by renewable energy, is rolling out super-fast chargers for electric cars. The Chargefox network will feature sites powered by the world’s first solar, battery storage and 350kW charging combination.

Depending on the size of your solar system and the energy demand from cars or other equipment/facilities connected to the solar, you may achieve a ’net zero’ result, where you generate more solar energy than is consumed by connected equipment and vehicles over a set period of time.

Where there is a shortfall between electricity produced onsite and electricity consumed to power EVs, your business can use one or more of the above strategies to achieve zero emissions.

Note:

You can also use strategies #1, #2 and #5 for claims for ‘100% renewable’. You can find out more information about the difference between carbon neutral and 100% renewable in this article.

Claiming ’zero emissions’ when charging EVs at other locations (‘offsite’)

Your EVs may need to charge at locations outside your business premises. These could include charging stations on freeways or main roads, in shopping centres and public carparks, at clients’ premises, at schools, hospitals, hotels, and at home.

Unlike petrol and diesel fleet fuel consumption, which most organisations measure through fuel card systems, electric vehicle charging is far more distributed with varying availability of data.

The two key pieces of information your business needs to make credible ’zero emissions’ claims for your EV fleet charged ’offsite’ are energy consumption, and the sources of energy generation.

Measuring energy consumption

Most EVs have the capability to track their energy consumption, and if you know how much energy went into charging from onsite locations, you may be able to derive the energy consumed from offsite locations.

Another method is to estimate the energy consumption of your EVs based on kilometres travelled and applying known or estimated energy intensity – most EVs travel 3 km to 7 km per kWh of electricity consumed. Refer to information provided by the vehicle manufacturer to estimate consumption from your particular model.

 

Also, if you are charging and paying for power from the emerging and growing network of EV charging stations and management systems like Charge Star, ChargePoint, Tritium, or NRMA, energy consumption and cost data will become increasingly available to users and enable better reporting of EV energy demand.

Nonetheless, it is likely that the source of some of your offsite EV energy use will be unknown, and to support credible emissions/clean energy claims it may be necessary to make reasonable estimates of energy use.

Greening your offsite EV electricity use

Even if you estimate or calculate your EV energy consumption from external charging, do you know if the electricity came from a renewable energy source or just from the mix of generation in the grid?

For example, Tesla has a global policy that where possible they will use 100% renewable power for their supercharger installations, but this will likely happen over time and may not apply to all chargers at this time.

The charging stations of Queensland’s Electric Super Highway (for travel between Cairns and Coolangatta) use green energy either through direct green energy credits or offsets.

Similarly, if you are charging at another business that sources all or most of its electricity from renewables via rooftop and/or corporate PPAs (e.g. RE100 companies such as IKEA, CBA, Mars and PwC), then its source may be partially or wholly renewable.

Even at your employees’ homes electricity for charging may come from both grid and rooftop solar, or employees may purchase GreenPower® or carbon-neutral electricity. In short, it is currently very difficult to apportion the kind of energy that is being used to charge vehicles offsite.

Apply a cautious approach

Offsite charging presents challenges when you are looking to support claims for ’zero emissions’ for your EV fleet. A cautious approach would use one of the methods outlined above to offset emissions for all of your estimated electricity consumption.

100% Renewables can help with evaluating these options for you. Please contact Barbara or Patrick for further information.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Three considerations if making ‘zero emissions’ claims for your electric vehicles [Part 2]

Zero emissions for your electric vehicle
Zero emissions for your electric vehicle

In our previous blog post, we analysed the carbon footprint of electric vehicles. We distinguished between manufacturing emissions, emissions during the operations of the electric vehicle and emissions at the end-of-life. In this blog post, we will present three considerations for making zero-emissions claims for your electric vehicles.

Introduction

With increasing choices of electric vehicles and prices decreasing, more organisations are considering buying or have already purchased electric vehicles. By switching your passenger fleet to electric vehicles, you have the potential to contribute to a reduction in transport emissions, with passenger vehicles making up 8% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

We sometimes hear the claim that electric vehicles are ‘emissions-free’, or ‘zero emissions’, but this is not necessarily the case. In this blog post, we look at some things to consider if you are looking to make this claim in your communication materials.

Three considerations for ‘zero-emissions’ claims

With all the good environmental work you are undertaking, it is important to make the right claims about your efforts. Failing to do so may cause reputational damage. The most notable recent example was, of course, Volkswagen in 2015 with the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, which led to vehicle recalls, fines, loss of reputation and the resignation of senior executives.

What this means for your organisation is that you need to be careful about your environmental claims – the more precise your claims, the lower your reputational risk.

Consideration #1 – Thinking that because it is an electric vehicle, it will be ‘clean’

If you have purchased or are considering purchasing electric vehicles for your organisation’s fleet, you are reducing petroleum emissions. However, it is quite possible that you will charge your electric vehicles from the grid. As we discussed in our previous EV article, the grid is a mixture of fossil fuels and renewables. Whether this mix leans more towards renewable energy depends on what state you are charging your EV in.

Electric cars are only as clean as their energy supply. To make sure you are not replacing oil with coal and gas, you need to make a conscious choice to change the source of energy to emissions-free electricity.

Our next blog post will show you how you can change to emissions-free electricity.

Consideration #2 – Emissions from the manufacturing of electric vehicles

A common counterclaim to the view that electric vehicles are clean or will reduce emissions is that higher greenhouse gas emissions are created during the manufacture of electric vehicles, mainly due to the batteries that are being used.

For buyers of electric vehicles, one thing this highlights is the importance of clearly defining your claim – i.e. limiting claims to operational emissions rather than leaving claims open for others to query or challenge in this way.

In relation to embedded emissions, some car manufacturers have started to address this problem by changing the production of electric vehicles towards being carbon neutral and 100% renewable.

For example, Volkswagen has plans to make the production of its upcoming I.D. Neo hatchback carbon neutral to save one million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. They are targeting a carbon reduction across the whole lifecycle, including the sourcing of raw materials and batteries, to recycling at the end of life.

Because of the 2015 scandal, VW is also making sure that over the coming years its suppliers use renewable energy where possible to make their claim as credible as possible. To get the carbon footprint to zero, VW will purchase carbon offsets.

Another example is BMW i’s manufacturing plant in Leipzig, which is powered from 100% renewables. Daimler plans that from 2022, all its Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plants will be 100% renewable.

If your business is looking to purchase electric vehicles it is recommended you consider the upstream emissions embedded in the vehicle manufacture, and not just whether they will be powered with renewable energy during their use phase.

Consideration #3 – Extended reporting of the carbon footprint of electric vehicles in future

When organisations first started to report under Australia’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS), it was enough to report on Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and to include a limited set of supply chain emissions from waste, paper consumption and air travel. Over time, the acceptable boundary for Scope 3 emissions has shifted to include more embedded emission sources, like IT equipment, food and catering, telecommunications, advertising, cleaning services, legal fees or stationery.

While currently, it is a requirement to only report on the operational emissions of vehicles, in future you may be required to report on embedded emissions as well.

What claims CAN you make?

This blog post looked at things you should consider when making environmental claims about your electric vehicle. In the next blog post, we will be looking at how you can safely claim ‘zero emissions’ for the operations of your electric vehicles without incurring the risk of misleading the market.

If you need help with how your EV strategy fits in with your organisation’s energy strategy, please talk to  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.”

Appendix: Emissions from Australia’s transport sector

As per the Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: June 2018, in FY17/18, we emitted 555.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions in Australia, excluding LULUCF[1]. Of these, electricity production is responsible for 33% of our emissions, while the transport sector is responsible for 18%.

Breaking down the transport sector emissions further, we can see that cars are responsible for 8% of our overall emissions. This may not sound much, but emissions are four times larger than those from domestic aviation, and emissions from the transport sector are growing fast.

Australia's transport emissions
Australia’s transport emissions

By converting our existing car fleet to electric vehicle and running them on 100% renewable energy, we have the potential to eliminate 8% or roughly 46 million tonnes from our emissions inventory. By converting light commercial vehicles and buses to electric, we could save even more.

[1] Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) is defined by the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat as a ‘greenhouse gas inventory sector that covers emissions and removals of greenhouse gases resulting from direct human-induced land use such as settlements and commercial uses, land-use change, and forestry activities.’