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Date: 2019-09-17 Page is: DBtxt001.php L0700-MA-CARBON-ACCOUNTING


Environmental Accounting Open L0M00-ENVIRONMENTAL-ACCOUNTING
Sustainability Accounting Open L0M00-SUSTAINABILITY-ACCOUNTING


An 10 page paper ... from the conclusion: 'Use of carbon accounting has become a common method for government, private industry, and commercial enterprises to showcase their environmental stewardship. Accounting for GHG emissions can be a daunting task, but this process can be focused by ensuring the system boundary properly aligns with project goals and scope. A basic understanding of carbon accounting can assist the public with making informed decisions related to “green” products.'

Open PDF ... Carbon-accounting-description-and-methodology-NC-State.pdf
Carbon Accounting

Carbon accounting refers generally to processes undertaken to 'measure' amounts of carbon dioxide equivalents emitted by an entity. It is used inter alia by nation states, corporations, individuals – to create the carbon credit commodity traded on carbon markets (or to establish the demand for carbon credits). Correspondingly, examples for products based upon forms of carbon accounting can be found in national inventories, corporate environmental reports or carbon footprint calculators. Likening sustainability measurement, as an instance of ecological modernisation discourses and policy, carbon accounting is hoped to provide a factual ground for carbon-related decision-making. However, social scientific studies of accounting challenge this hope,[1] pointing to the socially constructed character of carbon conversion factors[2] or of the accountants' work practice[3] which cannot implement abstract accounting schemes into reality.[4]
While natural sciences claim to know and measure carbon, for organisations it is usually easier to employ forms of carbon accounting to represent carbon.[5] The trustworthiness of accounts of carbon emissions can easily be contested.[6] Thus, how well carbon accounting represents carbon is difficult to exactly know. Science and Technology Studies scholar Donna Haraway's pluralised concept of knowledge, i.e. knowledges, can well be used to understand better the status of knowledge produced by carbon accounting: carbon accounting produced a version of understanding of carbon emissions. Other carbon accountants would produce other results.

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Greenhouse gas emissions accounting

Greenhouse gas emissions accounting is a method of calculating the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by a region in a given time-scale. A National Emissions Inventory (NEI) measuring a country’s GHG emissions in a year is required by the UNFCCC to provide a benchmark for the country’s emission reductions, and subsequently to evaluate international climate policies such as the Kyoto protocol (although the original has now expired, extensions have been agreed) as well as regional climate policies such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).[1]

There are two conflicting ways of measuring GHG emissions: production-based (sometimes referred to as territorial-based) or consumption-based. Production-based emissions take place “within national territory and offshore areas over which the country has jurisdiction”.[2] Consumption-based emissions encompass those emissions from domestic final consumption and those caused by the production of its imports.[3][4] This means the importing country takes responsibility for emissions related to production of the exporting country’s exports. By these definitions production-based emissions include exports but exclude imports and emissions embodied in international trade, whereas consumption-based emissions refer to the reverse (Table 1).

Which technique is applied by policymakers is fundamental as each can generate a very different NEI.[4] Different NEIs would result in a country’s choosing different optimal mitigation activities, the wrong choice based on wrong information being potentially damaging.[5] The application of production-based emissions accounting is currently favoured in policy terms, although much of the literature favours consumption-based accounting. The former method is criticised in the literature principally for its inability to allocate emissions embodied in international trade/transportation and the potential for carbon leakage.[3]

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Carbon dioxide equivalency

Carbon dioxide equivalency is a quantity that describes, for a given mixture and amount of greenhouse gas, the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming potential (GWP), when measured over a specified timescale (generally, 100 years). Carbon dioxide equivalency thus reflects the time-integrated radiative forcing of a quantity of emissions or rate of greenhouse gas emission—a flow into the atmosphere—rather than the instantaneous value of the radiative forcing of the stock (concentration) of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere described by CO2e.

The carbon dioxide equivalency for a gas is obtained by multiplying the mass and the GWP of the gas. The following units are commonly used:

By the UN climate change panel IPCC: n×1012 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2eq).
In industry: million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (MMTCDE).
For vehicles: g of carbon dioxide equivalents / km (gCDE/km).

For example, the GWP for methane over 100 years is 25[1] and for nitrous oxide 298. This means that emissions of 1 million metric tonnes of methane and nitrous oxide respectively is equivalent to emissions of 25 and 298 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.[2]

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Global warming potential

Global warming potential (GWP) is a relative measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere. It compares the amount of heat trapped by a certain mass of the gas in question to the amount of heat trapped by a similar mass of carbon dioxide. A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval, commonly 20, 100 or 500 years.

GWP is expressed as a factor of carbon dioxide (whose GWP is standardized to 1). In the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane has a lifetime of 12.4 years and with climate-carbon feedbacks a global warming potential of 86 over 20 years and 34 over 100 years in response to emissions.

User related choices such as the time horizon can greatly affect the numerical values obtained for carbon dioxide equivalents. For a change in time horizon from 20 to 100 years, the GWP for methane decreases by a factor of approximately 3.[1]

The substances subject to restrictions under the Kyoto protocol either are rapidly increasing their concentrations in Earth's atmosphere or have a large GWP.

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