The CarbonNeutral Protocol Index

The term ‘carbon neutral’ and many of the concepts associated with it have been in common usage for over 20 years. However, they may still mean different things to different audiences.

This Glossary sets out the definitions of key terms and concepts as they apply to The CarbonNeutral Protocol to support the award of the CarbonNeutral certifications and the use of the associated CarbonNeutral certification logo. Over time, we seek to reference definitions that are brought into common usage by respected independent third-party standards and by recognised scientific, academic and civil society organisations and coalitions.

Glossary of Terms

A

Abatement: See Internal emission reductions

Additional (also additionality): A criterion applied to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction projects, stipulating that project-based GHG reductions should only be quantified if the project activity “would not have happened anyway”. I.e. the project activity (or the same technologies or practices it employs) would not have been implemented and, that with the project, emissions will be lower than without the project (Ref: The GHG Protocol for Project Accounting). An Emission Reduction Project is said to be additional when it can be demonstrated that in the absence of the availability of Carbon Finance the project activity would not have occurred (the “baseline” scenario); and, such a baseline scenario would have resulted in higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Each eligible carbon accounting standard under The CarbonNeutral Protocol provides tools for how additionality at a project level is tested and demonstrated. For further discussion of this topic, see Guidance 4.4.

AIC: Aircraft (or aviation) induced clouds which have a potential climate warming affect. See Guidance 2.5 for further discussion of this topic.

Assessment: The process of quantifying the GHG emissions for a given subject, using robust and transparent methods that can be replicated.

Available (referring to data): Applied to primary data, “available” means readily collectable, at reasonable cost. Applied to secondary data, “available” means readily found in reputable, published sources such as those issued by government departments, academic institutions, specialist research bodies and the secretariats of leading GHG standards and protocols.

Aviation Impact Factor (AIF): A term used in The CarbonNeutral Protocol for the multiplier applied to the GHG emissions from aviation in order to take account of the wider impacts of aviation on climate. This includes but is not limited to short or long-term impacts; from GHGs alone and others with global warming influence (for example, soot particles and aviation induced clouds); and, direct and indirect impacts (for example, the interaction of NOx with methane gases and ozone at high altitudes). See Guidance 2.5 for further discussion of this topic.

Avoided emissions: The impact, measured in tCO2e, of specific mitigation actions or projects to avoid GHG emissions to the atmosphere calculated against a reference baseline (See Mitigation and Mitigation outcomes and Guidance 4.5).

B

Baseline (also Baseline scenario): A hypothetical description of what would have most likely occurred in the absence of any intervention to mitigate the impact of GHG emissions. The baseline for a project activity is the projected GHG emissions that are calculated to occur in the absence of the intervention. Baselines are established to determine Additionality, and to calculate emission reductions associated with emission reduction projects. For further discussion of this topic, see Guidance 4.4.

Baseline Procedures: Methods used to estimate baseline emissions. The GHG Project Protocol presents two optional procedures: the project-specific procedure and the performance standard procedure. (Ref: The GHG Protocol for Project Accounting).

Boundary: The physical or spatial extent of the subject – the entity, product or activity – i.e. the sites (including mobile sites such as vehicles) involved. By way of example, the boundary might encompass the office and vehicles of an entity, or the sites used for the manufacture, storage and transportation of a product. See Technical Specification 1.1 for further information of this topic with respect to CarbonNeutral? certifications.

C

Carbon: Shorthand term for all greenhouse gases recognised under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Carbon credit: A transactable, intangible environmental instrument representing a unit of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) – typically one metric tonne – created either by regulatory schemes promoted by governments (e.g. cap & trade schemes) or by projects which are validated to a recognised carbon standard. Carbon credits are typically ultimately used to compensate for or neutralise unabated emissions occurring elsewhere by retiring or cancelling them in a registry.

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e): A unit of measurement that describes for a GHG the amount of CO2 in tonnes that would have the same global warming potential, when measured over a 100-year timescale.

Carbon finance: Finance delivered to emission reduction projects derived from the sale of carbon credits from the project.

Carbon markets: Carbon markets are used for voluntary or compliance purposes. Voluntary carbon markets refer to the collective transactions of carbon credits used by non-state entities to achieve voluntary climate goals. Compliance carbon markets refer to the governmental or sectoral schemes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which enable regulated entities to obtain and surrender emission permits (allowances) or eligible carbon credits to meet compliance targets.

Carbon neutral: A current state which is achieved when the GHG emissions associated with an entity, product or activity are reduced and offset to zero for a defined duration.

Carbon neutrality: Carbon neutral and carbon neutrality are used interchangeably.

Carbon offsetting: The act of purchasing a carbon credit and retiring or cancelling the unit to compensate for one tonne of GHG emissions released to the atmosphere elsewhere. When the subject is said to be offset, the emissions associated with the subject equal the exact amount of carbon credits retired/cancelled.

Carbon removals: See Removals.

Carbon (or climate, or net) positive: A term indicating that an entity is taking action beyond carbon neutrality by removing GHGs from the atmosphere or reducing emissions to the atmosphere such that the aggregated reductions and removals exceed the unabated emissions from the subject. Read more about the various definitions in Guidance 3.4.

CarbonNeutral?: The registered trademark of Natural Capital Partners licensed for use by entities which have achieved CarbonNeutral certification.

CarbonNeutral? certification: The process by which a client receives recognition that it has met the provisions of The CarbonNeutral Protocol for a specific subject. CarbonNeutral? certifications can only be awarded by a CarbonNeutral certifier.

CarbonNeutral? certifier: The organisation providing CarbonNeutral? certification in accordance with the requirements of The CarbonNeutral Protocol. Natural Capital Partners awards the CarbonNeutral? logo to entities that are in compliance with the requirements of The Protocol.

CarbonNeutral? certification logo: A logo incorporating the CarbonNeutral? trademark that is licensed to a client upon the successful completion of a CarbonNeutral? certification. See Technical Specification 5.1 for further information.

CarbonNeutral? certification logo guidelines: Natural Capital Partners’ requirements and guidelines governing the application of CarbonNeutral? certification logos. See Technical Specification 5.1 for further information.

Certification period: See Duration.

Client: The organisation, individual or group of individuals entering into a contract with a CarbonNeutral certifier for the purposes of a CarbonNeutral? certification.

Climate finance: A source of funding to mitigate or adapt to climate impacts. Includes terms such as: carbon finance, green finance, green bonds.

Compensation: A term used by the Science Based Targets initiative to specify the retirement of carbon credits. from mitigation projects that avoid or reduce the emission of GHGs (see Avoided emissions and Reduced emissions) when redressing the impact of unabated emissions.

Cradle-to-customer: A particular boundary for product subjects. The cradle- to-customer
boundary includes the extraction and processing of raw materials (including any packaging materials), manufacture, storage and distribution to first customer. See Guidance 1.4 for further information.

Cradle-to-grave: A particular boundary for CarbonNeutral? product class subjects. The cradle-to-grave boundary includes extraction and processing of raw materials (including any packaging materials), manufacture, storage, distribution to first customer, further distribution and storage, retail, use and end-of-life disposal.

D

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA): Ministry of the United Kingdom Government, which has provided GHG measurement guidance that is referenced and applied internationally.

Delivery (referring to carbon credits): Refers to the receipt of legal title and ownership of verified and issued carbon credits by the provider of such reductions. Delivery can occur on a third-party external registry, or through written agreement.

Duration: The period of time during which a CarbonNeutral certification is valid. For entities this is commonly a specified twelve month period; for products, a specified twelve month period during which the product is produced for sale; and, for activities, the period during which the utility of the activity is delivered.

E

Embodied carbon: The sum of the GHG emissions associated, directly or indirectly, with a material, often measured with the boundaries of Cradle-to-customer.

Emission factor: An emission factor is a coefficient which enables the conversion of activity data into GHG emissions expressed as tonnes of CO2 equivalent (e.g MWh consumed into tCO2e emitted). CarbonNeutral certifications require emission factors published by reputable and independent sources that are up-to-date and which are most relevant to the subject’s location and activities.

Emissions sinks: See Removals.

Emissions sources: The specific GHG-emitting activities or processes within the boundary of a Subject.

EN 15804: Refers to the European standard on “Sustainability of construction works – Environmental Product Declarations – core rules for the product category of construction products.” It provides core product category rules for type III Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for any construction product and construction service.

Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs): Transactable, energy tracking instruments representing proof that a unit (e.g. 1 megawatt- hour (MWh)) of energy was generated from an eligible renewable energy source and delivered through a shared power distribution system to serve power consumers. EACs provide a mechanism for power consumers to associate their purchased power with renewable energy delivered to the distribution system. Examples include Guarantees of Origin (GOs), Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), International Renewable Energy Certificate (I-RECs) and Tradable Instruments for Global Renewables (TIGRs), which are recognised in The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Scope 2 Guidance as eligible instruments for documenting and tracking electricity consumed from renewable sources.

Environmental instruments: The broad category of transactable instruments that includes carbon credits, energy attribute certificates, and all other instruments designed to track the environmental attributes of project-based activities.

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): An independently verified document that reports environmental data of products based on life cycle assessment and other relevant information and in accordance with the international standard ISO 14025. See Guidance 2.8 for further discussion on this topic.

EPD Type III declaration: A specific type
of Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) to enable comparisons between products fulfilling the same function, as defined by Product Category Rules (PCR).

Ex ante: As applied to carbon credits are emission reductions which are planned but which have not been verified under an accepted standard and listed in the related registry, which means they cannot be retired to compensate for unabated emissions.

Ex post: As applied to carbon credits are emission reductions which have been verified under an accepted standard and listed in the related registry, which means they can be retired to compensate for unabated emissions.

G

Geographically relevant: Pertaining to the specific location of the emissions-generating activity in question. In order of preference, emission factors and secondary data should be applied first from local, sub-national datasets; then from national datasets; and then from regional datasets. In the absence of available data from these datasets, available global factors and data may be applied.

Greenhouse gas (GHG): Gases identified in Protocols and Agreements established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which when emitted to the atmosphere cause global warming and which are targeted for reduction. Recognised GHGs include: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur-hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Green Gas (or biogas): A generic term for calorific gas produced by the breakdown of organic matter, through anaerobic digestion or fermentation. Feed stocks include biodegradable materials such as manure, sewage, municipal water, green waste and plant material. Biogas is primarily methane and carbon dioxide and may have small amounts of hydrogen sulphide, siloxanes and moisture which make it corrosive. Before biogas is introduced to a gas distribution grid it is dried and the hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide is removed and the upgraded gas is known as biomethane.

GHG inventory: An accounting of the amount of GHGs discharged into the atmosphere from sources and removed from the atmosphere by sinks within a specified boundary.

GHG Protocol Corporate Standard: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard (Corporate Standard). The GHG Protocol Corporate Standard is the most commonly used organisational GHG accounting methodology. It defines emissions reporting under three key scopes, ensuring comprehensive reporting.

GHG Protocol Product Standard: The WBCSD and WRI’s Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard (Product Standard). This document allows an entity to measure the GHG associated with the full life cycle of products including raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, storage, use and disposal.

GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance: Guidance published by the World Resources Institute as an complement to the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Standard, providing updated requirements and best practices on Scope 2 accounting and reporting. It introduces the concepts of ‘location-based’ and ‘market-based’ accounting for Scope 2 emissions from purchased energy.

Guarantee of Origin (GO): An Energy Attribute Certificate (EAC) defined in Article 15 of the European Directive 2009/28/EC issued per MWh of energy generated from eligible renewable sources.

Global Warming Potential (GWP): An index of the potency of a GHG, referenced to carbon dioxide (which therefore has a GWP of 1) over a given time horizon. As an illustration of this, over a 100 year horizon, methane has a GWP of 34 (Ref: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), 2013, p714).

I

ICROA: The International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance is a non-profit organisation within the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). It’s primary aim is to deliver quality assurance in carbon management and offsetting through adherence to its Code of Best Practice.

Independent qualified third party (referring to GHG assessment providers): An individual or organisation expert and experienced in GHG accounting that has no conflict of interest or financial gain in the outcome of the assessment and is approved by the CarbonNeutral certifier.

Insetting: A specific application of offsetting when mitigation projects located within a corporate’s supply chain and sphere of influence generate mitigation outcomes under recognised carbon standards which are used by the corporate to compensate for its unabated emissions. The focus on location-specific mitigation actions enables the corporate to gain multiple benefits, often delivering against both commercial and sustainability objectives.

Internal emission reduction: A reduction or abatement of GHG emissions made within the boundary of a subject (through for example, undertaking energy efficiency projects, on-site renewable energy or fuel substitution) which is accounted for in the subject’s GHG inventory.

International Renewable Energy Certificate (I-REC): An Energy Attribute Certificate (EAC) defined by the International REC Standard issued per MWh of energy generated from eligible renewable sources.

ISO 14025: International Organisation for Standardisation’s specification for “Environmental labels and declarations – type III environmental declarations – principles and procedures.” It establishes the principles and specifies the procedures for developing type III environmental declaration programmes and type III environmental declarations. It specifically establishes the use of the ISO 14040 series of standards in the development of type III environmental declaration programmes and type III environmental declarations.

ISO 14040: International Organisation for Standardisation’s specification for “Environmental management – life cycle assessment – principles and framework.” It describes the principles and framework for life cycle assessment (LCA).

ISO 14064-1: International Organisation for Standardisation’s specification for quantification and reporting of GHG emissions and removals
at the organisation level. Its approach is similar to the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard.

ISO 14065: International Organisation for Standardisation’s requirements for the accreditation of entities that validate or verify resulting GHG emission assertions or claims.

ISO/TS 14067: International Organisation for Standardisation’s specification for “Greenhouse gases – carbon footprint of products – requirements and guidelines for quantification and communication.” It specifies principles, requirements and guidelines for the quantification and communication of the carbon footprint of a product, based on international standards on LCA (ISO 14040 and ISO 14044) for quantification and on environmental labels and declarations (including ISO 14025) for communication.

ISO 21930: International Organisation for Standardisation’s specification for “Sustainability in building construction – environmental declaration of building products.” It provides a framework and the basic requirements for product category rules as defined in ISO 14025 for type III environmental declarations of building products. Where this international standard contains more specific requirements, it complements ISO 14025 for the EPD of building products.

Issuance: The delivery of a specified quantity of carbon credits into a specified account on a registry. Issuance allows carbon credits to be transferred and retired in that registry.

L

Licensee: Entity awarded the right to use the CarbonNeutral? certification logo.

Life Cycle Assessment: The systematic analysis using internationally accepted standards (e.g. ISO 14040) of the potential environmental impacts of products or services across their supply-chain and during their lifecycle (typically, from Cradle to grave).

Location-based: An accounting concept introduced in the GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance. It is a method to quantify the Scope 2 GHG emissions of an entity based on average energy generation emission factors for defined geographic locations, including local, subnational, or national boundaries.

M

Market-based: An accounting concept introduced in the GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance. It is a method to quantify the Scope 2 GHG emissions of an entity based on GHG emissions emitted by the generators from which the entity contractually purchases electricity bundled with Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs), or EACs on their own.

Mitigation: Actions that reduce emissions of GHGs to the atmosphere; that reduce the global warming potential of other constituents in the atmosphere; or, which remove or stabilize heat-trapping GHGs or other constituents from the atmosphere.

Mitigation Outcomes: Impact of mitigation activities, measured in CO2e, including those that avoid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere and those that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Transactable mitigation outcomes (see Carbon Credits) are generated by mitigation projects established under recognised third-party standards. Retirement of carbon credits (see Carbon Offsetting) enables entities to compensate or neutralize unabated emissions.

N

Net zero: The Paris Agreement introduces the concept of net zero when it says: “The balance of GHG emission sources and sinks within and across a nation or the global economy such that the global warming impact from anthropogenic activities is zero.”

For net zero at a company level, we refer to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), which states the following: “To reach a state of net-zero emissions for companies consistent with achieving net-zero emissions at the global level in line with societal climate and sustainability goals implies two conditions: 1) To achieve a scale of value-chain emission reductions consistent with the depth of abatement achieved in pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot and; 2) To neutralise the impact of any source of residual emissions that remains unfeasible to be eliminated by permanently removing an equivalent amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide.” For more on net zero at a company level refer to Guidance 3.3.

We use the term: A state which is achieved when the global warming impact across all scopes of an entity is zero, achieved through a balance of sources and sinks for a defined duration.

Neutralization
: A term used by the Science Based Targets Initiative to specify the retirement of carbon credits from mitigation projects that remove GHGs from the atmosphere (see Removals) when redressing the impact of unabated emissions.

O

Offsetting: The act of compensating for unabated GHG emissions by retiring (cancelling) carbon credits.

P

PAS 2050: British Standards Institution's (BSI) Publicly Available Specification for the assessment of the life cycle GHG emissions of goods and services. The general principles of PAS 2050 are similar to the GHG Protocol Product Standard, both of which are appropriate for use within The CarbonNeutral Protocol.

PAS 2060: British Standards Institution (BSI)’s Publicly Available Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality. It specifies requirements to be met by any entity seeking to demonstrate carbon neutrality through the quantification, reduction and offsetting of GHG emissions from a uniquely identified subject.

Product Category Rule (PCR): Documents that define the rules and requirements for EPDs from a certain product category. They are vital for the concept of environmental declarations as they enable transparency and comparability between different EPDs based on the same PCR.

Primary data: Data collected or directly measured which has not been subjected to processing or any other manipulation. Examples of primary data sources include direct measurement of the quantity of natural gas burnt in a heating system (Scope 1) or metered electricity (Scope 2) before the application of conversion factors used to determine CO2e emissions.

Q

Quality assurance: Independent review conducted by an expert third party to check that: the input data for GHG inventories; or use of a CarbonNeutral? certification logo meets the requirements of a CarbonNeutral? certification and is in line with the approach and principles of The CarbonNeutral Protocol. See Guidance 2.3 for further guidance on quality assurance and verification.

Quality assurance statement: A written statement by an expert third party with demonstrated experience declaring the results of a quality assurance exercise.

Quality control: A management process used by an entity to ensure its data management provides a true and fair representation of the GHG emissions associated with the subject of the certification.

R

Radiative Forcing Index (RFI): A factor used to quantify non-CO2 warming effects of air travel. RFI is the ratio of total radiative forcing (RF) of all GHGs to RF from CO2 emissions alone for aircraft emissions (IPCC, 1999). RFI does not account for the different residence times of different warming factors. See Appendix 2.5 for further discussion of this topic.

RE100: A global collaborative initiative led by The Climate Group that brings together influential and multinational businesses that are committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity. (See Guidance 5.3 for further information about communicating 100% renewable electricity).

Reduced emissions: The impact, measured in tCO2e, of specific mitigation actions to reduce GHG emissions to the atmosphere calculated against a reference baseline (See Mitigation and Mitigation outcomes and Guidance 4.5).

Registry: A database of carbon credits and their transactions used to assign legal title through a unique identifier, and where credits are retired (cancelled) upon being sold to offset an equivalent amount of GHG emissions.

Removals: The impact, measured in tCO2e, of specific mitigation actions that remove GHG emissions from the atmosphere (See Mitigation and Mitigation outcomes and Guidance 4.5).

Renewable Energy Certificate (REC): An Energy Attribute Certificate (EAC) defined in North American regulations issued per MWh generated from eligible renewable energy sources.

Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO): An Energy Attribute Certificate (EAC) administered by the United Kingdom regulatory agency OFGEM, issued per MWh of energy generated from eligible renewable sources.

Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin (RGGO): An Energy Attribute Certificate (EAC) administered by the Renewable Energy Association in the UK, issued per kWh of energy generated from eligible biogas sources.

Retire (Retirement): Refers to the permanent cancellation of carbon credits from future use in a third-party registry.

S

Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi): A collaborative initiative by CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) that champions science-based internal abatement target setting to encourage and support companies in the transition to a low-carbon economy. See Guidance 3.2 for further guidance.

Scopes: The three “classes” of emissions sources identified in the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard, relevant to assessing and reporting the GHG emissions of entities.

Scope 1 emissions: Those GHG emissions directly attributable to the subject that occur from sources that are owned, leased or controlled by the entity seeking CarbonNeutral? certification, principally from the following types of activities: the combustion of fuels for the generation of electricity, heat, or steam; processing and/ or manufacturing of materials or chemicals; transportation in company owned/controlled mobile combustion sources; and fugitive emissions from intentional or unintentional releases (e.g. equipment leaks and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning equipment).

Scope 2 emissions: Those emissions indirectly attributable to the subject from the generation of electricity, heat, steam or cooling that is acquired and consumed in owned, leased or controlled equipment or operations.

Scope 3 emissions: All non-Scope 2 indirect emissions from upstream and downstream sources. The most common examples are emissions from: transport-related activities; transportation of purchased materials, goods or fuels; employee business travel; employee commuting to and from work; transportation of sold products in third-party owned vehicles; and the transportation and disposal of waste and sold products at the end of their life.

Secondary data: Data collected or measured which has been subjected to processing or additional calculations to arrive at a usable output. Examples include applying emission factors to flight distances or fuel consumption to produce a value for GHG emissions.

Simplified Estimation Method (SEM): Rough, upper bound estimation developed and implemented as necessary and appropriate to a subject’s GHG assessment. SEMs are intended to be used for GHG emissions sources that represent less than 2% of the subject’s total GHG emissions. Collectively SEMs should total no more than 5% of the subject’s GHG emissions.

Short Lived Climate Forcers (SLCF): Emissions with a short atmospheric residence time which have the potential to affect climate.

Subject: The entity, product or activity to which CarbonNeutral? certification is applied.

T

Tradable Instrument for Global Renewables (TIGR): A global Energy Attribute Certificate (EAC) administered by APX in the US issued per MWh generated from eligible renewable energy sources.

V

Verification: Independent evaluation conducted by an expert third party with demonstrated experience to the requirements of an independent verification standard (such as ISO 14064:3 or ISAE 3410) to check that the quality of input data, a GHG assessment, or that the use of a CarbonNeutral? certification logo meets the requirements of a CarbonNeutral? certification and is in line with the approach and principles of The CarbonNeutral Protocol. See Guidance 2.3 for further guidance on quality assurance and verification.

Verification statement: A written statement by an expert third party with demonstrated experience declaring the results of a verification exercise.

Z

Zero emissions: Applies to the state of a subject when GHG emissions are fully abated and there are zero GHG emissions to the atmosphere.

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