Updated Greenhouse Gas Emissions Factors Published

by Jamie on August 6, 2010

Here’s one for those who like to calculate their own carbon footprint. Defra has just published this year’s update to the Annex to the Company Reporting Guidelines.

This annex contains factors which allow you to work out the emissions generated when you consume a quantity of fuel or electricity, travel a distance or ship a quantity of freight (amongst many other things), and are the best numbers out there for carbn footprinting purposes. These factors form the basis of the UK’s carbon footprint calculators.

It’s a very simple calculation:

Energy (kWh) x Carbon Factor (kgCO2/kWh) = CO2 Emissions (kgCO2)

By way of example, the average house consumes about 3,900kWh of electricity each year and the UK average electricity carbon factor is 0.541kgCO2/kWh so the CO2 emissions generated by electricity consumption in the average UK homes amount to 2,100kgCO2 or 2.1 tonnes of CO2. But the above calculation just looks at the CO2 generated and does’t tell the whole story.

Last year, emissions of the two other main greenhouse gases, methane and NOx which are released when fuels are burnt, were included for the first time. The new addition this year are the indirect emissions associated with the extraction, transport and refining of fuels (sometimes referred to as upstream emissions). These emission are an important addition to the data.

The upshot of all this is that the total climate change impact of electricity consumption is 14% higher than the impact of just the CO2 emitted, while the total emissions for petrol and diesel are 18% and 20% greater than that of the CO2 alone.

In the accounting of greenhouse gas emissions, these indirect emissions are attributed to industry, not ourselves and as a result, making substantial cuts in our energy consumption can lead to significant carbon emission reductions in other sectors and even other countries too.

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