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Posts Tagged ‘Scope 3’

By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
(This article appears in the September, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerScope 3, or indirect emissions not covered by Scope 2, are a challenging set of categories to gather data for in greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting, but are essential for campuses to fully account for their upstream and downstream climate footprint.  Greenhouse gas reporting for the ACUPCC requires signatories to submit two categories of Scope 3 emissions: regular daily commuting to and from campus by students, faculty, and staff and air travel paid for by or through the institution. The

ACUPCC encourages signatories to go beyond these requirements and submit additional indirect emissions categories. An analysis of ACUPCC GHG reports demonstrates that many signatories have chosen to report additional scope 3 emission categories.  Of the 93% of the signatories that have submitted at least one GHG report, 65% have included information on their solid waste emissions and 20.6% have elected to report custom scope 3 emissions.

Custom Scope 3 Sources for ACUPCC GHG Reporting

ACUPCC signatories had reported these custom Scope 3 sources in publicly submitted greenhouse gas inventories as of August 2012 (Data taken from rs.acupcc.org)

Taking a closer look at the GHG custom scope 3 sources, it becomes clear that institutions report on areas of both common concern and programmatic significance, with sources ranging from standard (paper procurement) to the highly specific (animal husbandry).  Over 180 unique scope 3 sources have been reported, but further analysis shows that the majority of these sources fall under four main categories: Travel, Paper, Water, and electricity Transmission & Distribution Losses.  An additional 12% of these custom sources can be categorized as “Other” with more specific accounting.

Transmission & distribution losses, or T&D losses, make up the largest reporting category, accounting for 36% of custom scope 3 sources.  Essentially, T&D accounts for the energy lost during electricity transmission, which is a known grid inefficiency.  According to US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, national, annual T&D losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States, making T&D losses a logical first step for those concerned with fully accounting upstream indirect emissions.

The ACUPCC hosted a webinar Expanding Scope 3 Emissions Tracking and Reporting on September 5, 2012 in partnership with Clean-Air Cool Planet, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and the New College of Florida.  Panelists discussed the possibilities for campuses to expand their Scope 3 emissions sources in order to account for a fuller emissions baseline by using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s newly revised Scope 3 Reporting Standard as a framework for submitting additional custom scope 3 sources, such as T&D, which is considered an “upstream activity” or “investments,” from the college’s endowment, as a “downstream” activity.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s 15 Scope 3 Reporting Standard emissions categories

 The GHG Protocol has just ended a public comment period (July 2012) on an amendment that revises the Corporate, Scope 3 and Product Life Cycle Standards to require the reporting of all UNFCCC GHGs and the use of a more consistent set of Global Warming Potentials (GWP). The update does not affect ACUPCC Scope 3 required reporting, but signatories that are looking at their supply chain emissions should read up on the amendment.

For many of the custom sources reported outside of the ACUPCC requirements for scope 3, there is some question as to whether categories are being double-counted, or belong in a different component of the report.  (For those unfamiliar with the requirements of the ACUPCC reports, the Instructions for Submitting a Greenhouse Gas Report may be useful).  Additionally, some campuses may be choosing to segment scope 3 or other emissions categories for their own projects or accounting purposes, causing some inconsistencies in reporting.  For instance, Biogenic sources created by the combustion of biomass and biomass-based fuels may already accounted for as a Scope 1 source (stationary and/or mobile combustion) in the GHG report, and Study Abroad Air Travel is already included under Scope 3 Air Travel accounting.

ACUPCC Custom Scope 3 sources

Click for an expanded version of the custom scope 3 sources, by category, in ACUPCC public greenhouse gas reports

Categories involving emissions related to water (potable, waste, thermal), food procurement, and investment are of particular interest to campuses and student groups, but with few examples of successful and long-term accounting are currently present to act as leadership models.

For instance, a new study by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCI) and Tellus Institute, “Environmental, Social and Governance Investing by College and University Endowments in the United States: Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Relations,” found that college and university endowments’ environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investments are “less prevalent than often believed, particularly given their history as sustainable investing pioneers dating back to 1970s anti-apartheid campaigns.”  Watch a webinar on the report findings here, or read the press release.

In future GHG reports and the development of reporting for higher education, the role of scope 3 emissions may grow to include accounting for some of these areas in a more formal and ongoing manner as new resources and tools become available.  The streamlined reporting in Clean Air-Cool Planet’s soon to be released web-based Campus Carbon Calculator will be among these tools: look for a first release in Fall 2012.

Additionally, the GHG Protocol is working on the development of a reporting standard for assessing the impact of downstream endowment emissions, a tool which, when completed, could provide an essential new tool for students and campuses to assess the climate impact of their endowments.

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By Christie-Joy Hartman, Executive Director, Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability, James Madison University; Linda Petee, Sustainability & Risk Management Coordinator, Delta College; Jennifer Andrews, Director of Program Planning & Coordination and Tim Ryder, Undergraduate Climate Fellow, Clean Air-Cool Planet; Rita Alison, National Senior Manager Sustainability & Environmental Stewardship, ARAMARK

(This article appears in the September, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Food consumption is a potentially significant Scope 3 source not currently included in many universities’ emissions inventories. Faithful readers of The Implementer, may recall an article from 2010 discussing the development of the CHarting Emissions from Food Services (CHEFS) calculator that estimates food-related climate impact. CHEFS is a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) tool that accounts for emissions associated with the production, use, and disposal of campus food-related products. The CHEFS tool, developed by Clean Air-Cool Planet with initial support from ARAMARK, is currently completing a beta test following successful pilot testing in 2011. The beta test entails four campus sustainability coordinators working with ARAMARK staff to collaboratively detail and tally a semester’s worth of campus choices in menu planning, purchasing, and dining-related operations.  The data is entered into the CHEFS web-based interface, producing the food-related carbon dioxide equivalent emissions for each campus.

With finite resources and a myriad of environmental project possibilities, campus sustainability coordinators need to consider and often justify measuring and reporting yet another set of metrics. The intent of CHEFS is to help determine the relative significance of Scope 3 food-related emissions by quantifying the magnitude and effect of the food product lifecycle. For example, preliminary results from one of the beta-testing schools indicate that meat represents 55% of that campus’ total food-related carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and removing one day’s worth of meat reduces approximately 8% of those emissions.  These kinds of results could provide valuable information for prioritizing institutional and individual food purchasing actions. James Madison University (JMU) and Delta College, two of the higher education institutions who are participating in the CHEFS beta test, are investing time in CHEFS with the goals of not only enhancing institutional decision making and informing consumer choice, but also enhancing education.

Delta College, which has a self-run dining service program, has collaborated with pilot projects in the past and found them to be mutually beneficial, and it approached the CHEFS project with the goal that it would serve as the campus food operations base year data.  Delta’s institutional strategic planning leads it to benchmark its programs, to assess progress, and to set measurable goals for continuous improvement.  With the purchasing data Delta collected through the CHEFS pilot, it now has a solid foundation of information from which to identify objectives toward more sustainable dining.  As a start, Delta’s office of sustainability is now developing data entry forms so their food service staff can more easily capture their inventory for a seamless transfer to the CHEFS software moving forward.  They found that CHEFS provided them a template and pointed them in the right direction to start tackling the climate impact of their dining services!

Delta College administrators can utilize the results in the context of their broader institutional emissions profile.  For example, the purchasing data that Delta collected for the beta test, while still quite preliminary, suggests that in some instances food purchases alone have more impact than the total of Scope 1 emissions and nearly half of all Scope 2 emissions.

JMU’s dining services is using CHEFS to obtain a preliminary estimate of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from food-related operations for 2011. A JMU graduate assistant is exploring employing CHEFS to analyze a variety of possible future paths, such as adding more vegetarian dishes, developing seasonal menus, and simply operating more efficiently.  Ideally, the results would be used by ARAMARK in combination with cost and feasibility information to reduce emissions.

JMU’s Office of Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability also hopes to use the results to help achieve one of its main goals–challenging citizens to think critically about their roles as environmental stewards. Dining is a focal point at JMU (where on campus dining is ranked by The Princeton Review in the top 10 in the nation) that presents an opportunity to connect with consumers not necessarily already actively engaged in sustainability conversations.  JMU is exploring conducting a second scenario analysis in CHEFS that focuses on individual behaviors such as throwing away less food, utilizing less take-out packaging, and eating less meat. Results could then be communicated to consumers via methods such as the qualitative labeling system that is being developed as part of CHEFS.  The analyses itself could provide opportunities for scholarly articles by students and faculty members as well as material for interdisciplinary undergraduate environmental issues courses.

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Through the ACUPCC, institutions agree to reduce and eventually eliminate their net greenhouse gas emissions from specified sources – including some indirect “Scope 3” sources, specifically: regular commuting to and from campus, and air travel paid for by the institution.  These Scope 3 emissions can be tricky to measure, and in fulfilling the ACUPCC schools have come up with creative and effective ways for doing so, from estimates based on zip codes to campus-wide surveys.

Now, initiatives like the ACUPCC are helping to drive innovations and new solutions to help organizations tackle these challenges more effectively.  A few years ago, students at Middlebury College, conceived of Brighter Planet – and recently they’ve partnered with MasterCard to help organizations track travel emissions by calculating and reporting emissions from flights, hotel stays, car rentals, etc. based on purchases with corporate cards.

Learn more about the program in this article.

What kinds of solutions has your institution been considering to manage Scope 3 emissions?  Would this service be relevant for school and its systems?  What other kinds of innovations would you like to see companies develop to help you meet your climate goals?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(Thanks to Inside Higher Ed’s “Getting to Green” blogger, G. Rendell, for bringing this project to our attention in the recent post, “In Praise of Plastic“). 

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by Niles Barnes, Projects Coordinator, AASHE
(This article appears in the May, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCAs readers of The ACUPCC Implementer know all too well, signatories are required to report on their greenhouse gas emissions within a year of signing the ACUPCC, and then every other year thereafter. After the Climate Action Plan is submitted, the GHG reports alternate with bi-annual progress reports which provide the opportunity to compare actual results to the initial goals laid out. Many campuses find the task of doing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory fairly straightforward, and there are a number of resources available to assist them, including Clean Air – Cool Planet’s Campus Carbon Calculator, The Climate Registry, and hundreds of other campuses to look to for examples. The process itself typically results in a great final product and a valuable educational experience, particularly when students are involved. Usually, the only area that tends to cause heartburn and anguish is measuring those often elusive Scope 3 emissions sources.

Campuses participating in the ACUPCC are required to include emissions from Scopes 1 and 2 in their inventories as well as two types of Scope 3 emissions: air travel paid for by or through the institution and regular commuting to and from campus by faculty, staff and students – as laid out in the ACUPCC Implementation Guide, which references the current version of the WRI/WBCSD “GHG Protocol.” The GHG Protocol, developed by World Resources Institute (WRI) in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is the most widely used international accounting tool for quantifying GHG emissions, and it provides the accounting framework for most GHG management programs and initiatives.

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