Posted on 4th June 2021


Confused about the language and terminology around climate change, sustainability and all things green? We know it can get a little overwhelming - Fear not, our glossary should help you out.

Carbon Footprint – the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by our actions. They are calculated using emission factors, these tell us the amount of emissions associated with a set unit of activity e.g. travelling 1000 km in a train in the UK emits 44 kgCO2e. 

Carbon Neutral – When the amount of emissions (GHGs) released on an annual basis is zero, through annual measurement and calculation and offsetting the emissions produced.

CO2e  – this is the standard unit of measurement for emissions, it stands for carbon dioxide equivalent, incorporating the impact of the seven main GHGs that contribute to climate change covered by the Kyoto Protocol: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Carbon Offset – A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere

Climate Change – The long-term changes in the Earth’s climate, or a region on Earth, including variations in sea levels, amounts of snow and sea ice.

Emissions – emissions are the cumulative name for the 7 main Greenhouse gases are recognised as contributing to global climate change.

Global Warming – A gradual increase in Earth’s overall temperature caused by increased levels of greenhouse gases such as CO2, CFCs and other pollutants that absorb infrared radiation

Net Zero – a target that is aligned or more ambitious than global targets set at Paris Agreement (“Net Zero by 2050”), companies set base year targets through annual measurement and from this implement credible strategies to reduce emissions that is aligned with the science to a certain level by a date e.g.  halving emissions by 2030 and then be zero or thereabouts by 2050. 

Paris Agreement – A legally binding international agreement aiming to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels, while pursuing the means to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.

Scope – when reporting emissions we talk about scopes to separate what is controlled and what isn’t controlled by a business. Just because it’s not in your control it is a service that you use and therefore contribute to your overall footprint. 

Scope 1 (direct emissions) emissions are those from activities owned or controlled by your organisation. Examples of Scope 1 emissions include emissions from combustion of owned or controlled boilers, vehicles, etc. 

Scope 2 (energy indirect) emissions are those released into the atmosphere that are associated with your consumption of purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling. These indirect emissions are a consequence of your organisation’s energy use, but occur at sources you do not own or control. 

Scope 3 (other indirect) emissions are a consequence of your actions that occur at sources you do not own or control and are not classed as Scope 2 emissions. Examples of Scope 3 emissions are business travel by means not owned or controlled by your organisation, waste disposal, and materials or fuels your organisation purchases.

Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) – The Social Cost of Carbon is the estimate, in dollars, of the economic damages that would result from emitting one additional ton of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere on the world and how it will therefore effect people. It is primarily used by policy makers so that they can understand the effects climate and environmental policy will affect the economy and can quantify the cost of their policies that affect greenhouse gas emissions. It works based on the current prediction for cost of climate change by 2100 which is currently set at $5 trillion, it is then backdated to now based on the value of money in 80 years so the Social Cost of Carbon is currently valued at $100 per tonne.