Carbon Accounting and the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Balance Sheet

Maxime Bouché & Nathalie Worthington

11/30/2020

A greenhouse gas (GHG) assessment is a necessary tool in the fight against climate change.

Today, 85% of energy sources in the world are not renewable. These are petroleum (40%), coal (20%), natural gas (19%) and uranium (6%). Our dependence on fossil fuels is significant, as is the damage they cause to the environment.

Awareness of this dependence through the carbon accounting process makes it possible to take action to reduce our use of fossil fuels in the immediate and short terms, as well as to anticipate future constraints (price increases, difficulty in accessing energy, market tension, etc.) that will need to be considered in the medium and longer terms.

In order to quantify the impact of human activities on climate change, various methods of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions have been developed. These methods change depending on the focus: geographical area, organization, product, etc. The generic term “GHG assessment” covers all of these approaches. In the context of the JBC’s approach, we will talk about our carbon inventory, or carbon footprint (in French, called le Bilan Carbone®).

The GHG assessment is essentially a type of diagnosis. It allows an organization to create an inventory over one year of activity, of all of its greenhouse gas emissions broken down by emission items. Once this balance is tallied, we can then identify big and small interventions to reduce and offset our emissions.

In short, carbon accounting is the “snapshot” of greenhouse gas emissions and the GHG balance is the tool – the camera – we use to capture the images of the emissions. The GHG report makes it possible to record the direct or indirect greenhouse gas emissions of an activity or a site based solely on easily accessible data (such as invoices). The principle of carbon accounting consists of multiplying an activity data by an emission factor to obtain a GHG emission linked to the activity.

This calculation is applied to all the data of the company to make an inventory, the balance sheet. Carbon accounting classifies greenhouse gas emissions into three categories: Scope 1 (direct emissions), Scope 2 (indirect emissions associated with the consumption of electricity, cold and heat) and Scope 3 (other indirect emissions). It looks like this:

In 2020, greenhouse gas emissions were expected to decline by approximately 6% in 2020 due to travel restrictions and slowing economic activities linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this improvement is only temporary. Climate change knows no respite. Once the global economy begins to recover from the pandemic, emissions will return to higher levels. To save lives and livelihoods, urgent action is needed to tackle both the pandemic and the climate emergency.

In other words, we must decarbonize by all possible means. Through taking stock of GHGs, the Juno Beach Centre is demonstrating our willingness to be an actor in the necessary global action toward decarbonization.