Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are the primary cause of rising average temperatures on the planet, leading to an acceleration of climate change. This specific problem has been clearly stated by the scientific community for decades, especially by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change – in the synthesis report of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which was published in March 2023.
Climate scientists unequivocally agree on the cause of such change: human activities. The IPCC points out that ongoing climate change poses a serious threat to the well-being of humankind, as well as to our societies and nature. The past decade has been the hottest period in the last 125,000 years as global temperatures are increasing at an unprecedented rate, at least in the last 2,000 years. This past summer was Earth’s hottest since global records began in 1880.
Following the Paris Agreement, the private sector and civil society organisations must track their emissions to allow the planning of reduction measures to achieve climate neutrality (the European Union aims to be climate-neutral by 2050). In this regard, the GHG Protocol works to establish a comprehensive global standardised framework for measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions. It is the most used protocol for corporate accounting and reporting emissions. The protocol includes all major greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change – such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) – as defined by the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris.
The protocol enables the reporting of various types of emissions. These are classified into three macro categories: Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.
- Scope 1 emissions refer to all those sources of direct emissions produced by an organisation. In the case of an oil company, these are the emissions from oil and gas production and transportation activities.
- Scope 2 refer to those emissions caused by the production of electricity, steam, or heat which are used by a company, even when these are produced at a different location from that of the consumption. In the case of an oil company, these are emissions from the purchase and use of electricity, steam or heat purchased from third parties.
- Scope 3 emissions and indirect emissions related to upstream or downstream activities of the company’s processes. This category includes emission sources that are not under the direct control of the company, but whose emissions are indirectly created due to its companies’ activities, thus including emissions from the activities of its consumers. A petroleum company’s scope 3 emissions are emissions from the end use of products sold by the company, for instance fuels such as diesel and petrol.
Photo by Chris LeBoutillier