Why Should You Commit
to Carbon Neutrality?


In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) proposed a Net Zero Emissions (NZEs) control of a temperature rise of 1.5°C by 2050. This became the new goal of the Paris Agreement, which led to the European Union taking the lead by proposing a roadmap towards NZEs. With carbon neutrality now the aim of authorities and companies all over the world, how can businesses benefit from more efficient energy management as they work toward NZEs?  

Businesses operating today need to think not only about the present but also the future. Climate change is just one of many environmental issues making headlines as their impact on our daily lives becomes more apparent. Responsible companies are taking the initiative by reducing their carbon footprint. They are finding that even small changes can have a major positive effect not only on their carbon footprint but also the viability of their business.

According to NASA, the Earth’s temperature has risen by 1° Celsius since 1880 and two-thirds of that increase has occurred since 1975. That is a warming effect of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade. 97% of scientists attribute this increase to human activity and an expansion in the “greenhouse effect” – the trapping of heat inside the atmosphere. Gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect include water vapor, nitrous oxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and carbon dioxide.

Modern civilization is built upon industrial activities that rely on the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide – rising from 280 parts per million to 412 parts per million in the last 150 years.

The IPCC has set a safe temperature increase threshold of 1.5°C. This figure was accepted by the 195 countries signing the Paris Agreement in 2016. Countries signed up to the agreement are setting themselves ambitious targets to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.

Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between the emission of carbon and the absorption of atmospheric carbon in carbon sinks. According to ISO 14064-1 Clause 2.3, carbon sinks are systems that absorb carbon – for example, soil, forests and oceans. It is estimated these systems remove between 9.5 and 11 Gt of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. Currently, there are no artificial carbon sinks available that can fight global warming.

It should be noted, the annual global carbon dioxide emission level reached 37.1 Gt of carbon dioxide in 2017. Therefore, to reach carbon neutrality there needs to be greater efforts in both reducing emissions and counterbalancing that with more carbon sequestration – removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in sinks. Of course, practices such as deforestation reduce the effectiveness of these carbon sinks, and forest fires release trapped carbon back into the atmosphere.

Another approach to carbon neutrality is offsetting emissions in one area with reductions in another. To achieve this, manufacturers might turn to renewable energy sources, introduce low carbon technologies, and/or improve the energy efficiency in their organization.

Electrical and Electronics: Carbon Emission Rates

According the US Environmental Protection Agency, electricity production accounted for 27.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US in 2017 –­ the second largest source after transport. Approximately 62.9 percent of that electricity comes from the burning of fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas. Carbon dioxide makes up the ‘vast majority’ of these emissions, although small amounts of methane and nitrous oxide are also emitted.

Running counter to the desire for carbon neutrality is an increasing reliance on digital technology. It is not just the manufacturing and operation of electronic devices that should be considered but also the energy use associated more broadly with our digital societies. For example, 70% of the world’s online traffic goes through a single US county every day – Loudoun County, Virginia. This is home to the data centers of over 3,000 companies and part of the reason for this is competitive electricity pricing, but the generation of that electricity is mostly from the burning of fossil fuels. It is estimated data centers will soon have a larger carbon footprint than the entire aviation industry. A major influence on this the movement towards Internet of Thing (IoT) technologies.

Looking to the Future

Globally, societies are more than ever dependent on technologies that require energy. Simply reducing energy production is not an option if we are to maintain our standard of living. But there are options which individuals and companies can adopt to work towards carbon neutrality.

Small changes can have a large impact. In addition to introducing more efficient methods for generating power from our existing fossil fuel-fired power plants, using less carbon-intensive fuels, and shifting generation from high-emitting to lower-emitting power plants, companies can also make a few, very simple changes. For example, changing communication habits by switching to texting, as a low carbon option, or using landlines. If both callers use landlines, it uses only one-third of the energy in comparison to both parties being on mobile networks.

Many companies around the world are already committed to reducing their carbon footprint. The policies they have introduced include the adoption of ambitious targets for the use of renewable energy, reductions in water use, the introduction of smart buildings, reducing paper use and increasing recycling. They are finding ways to not only reduce their carbon footprint but also increase efficiencies in the organizations, lower costs, and improve reputations.

ISO 50001

ISO 50001 helps organizations improve the efficiency of their energy management system. It is the ideal starting point for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

The standard provides a framework to help them:

• Develop an effective energy efficiency policy
• Fix targets and objectives to meet the policy
• Use data to better understand and make decisions about energy use
• Measure the results
• Review the effectiveness of the policy
• Continually improve their energy management system

The benefits of adopting ISO 50001 include:

• Develop an effective energy efficiency policy
• Fix targets and objectives to meet the policy
• Use data to better understand and make decisions about energy use
• Measure the results
• Review the effectiveness of the policy
• Continually improve their energy management system

SGS offers a comprehensive range of services to help organizations improve the efficiency of the energy management systems. Our global network of experts can help organizations in all industries adopt ISO 50001. In addition, they can help businesses to measure, quantify and verify the short- and long-term benefits achieved using energy saving measurement and verification (M&V) services. M&V services utilize the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP), a globally accepted standard for quantifying the results of energy savings.

Learn more about ISO 50001

Learn more about M&V Services



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