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How WatchWire Tracks Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Recently, we wrote an article answering the most commonly asked questions about our energy and sustainability management platform, WatchWire. However, we felt that one of the questions deserved its own article. That question is (you guessed it!) how WatchWire tracks greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Why is tracking GHG emissions so important? For starters, check out these statistics from a recent Porter Novelli study:
- 80% of Americans believe companies have a responsibility to help combat climate change
- 75% want to hear more from companies on what they are doing to combat climate change
Reducing your organization’s GHG emissions is perhaps one of the biggest ways your organization can combat climate change (and respond to consumer wishes). However, you can’t reduce emissions without tracking them first.
There are many platforms that can help you track your organization’s GHG emissions. We can’t tell you exactly which one may be right for you – only you can make that decision based on your organization’s specific requirements. What we can do, however, is describe how WatchWire tracks GHG emissions. Whether you are actively looking for a platform to track your GHG emissions or just starting to browse, we hope this article will help guide you in what to look for.
- The WatchWire platform is essentially an emissions calculator like that of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
- WatchWire’s carbon accounting/emissions calculation follows the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol’s Corporate Standard.
- By default, WatchWire uses EPA E-Grid subregion emissions factors in the U.S. and IEA factors internationally. (For reference, an emissions factor is a representative value that relates the quantity of a pollutant released to the atmosphere with an activity associated with the release of that pollutant, e.g., burning fuel oil. Emissions factors facilitate estimation of emissions from various sources of air pollution.)
- Scope 1 commodities like natural gas, fuel oil, propane, etc. are all based on the EPA’s Inventory for Greenhouse Gasses.
Market-Based and Location-Based Emissions Factors
WatchWire can handle both market-based and location-based emissions factors.
A location-based factor represents the emissions your organization is releasing into the air with nothing else (like renewable energy credits or power purchase agreements) to offset those emissions. Market-based factors, however, represent the emissions that result from the choices your organization makes, e.g., deciding to purchase renewable energy credits, participate in power purchase agreements, etc. Market-based factors are always the same number or lower than location-based factors.
Global Warming Potential
WatchWire also tracks your organization’s global warming potential (GWP). The GWP is an index developed to compare the global warming impacts of different gases.
When you have a commodity that you are using for fuel, like natural gas, for example, it has a CO2 factor, a CH4 factor, and an N2O factor. These factors usually get rolled up into a CO2 equivalent. The CO2 equivalent is a metric measurement used to compare the emissions from greenhouse gases other than CO2 on the basis of their GWP. Amounts of other gases are converted to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide with the same GWP.
The amount of GWP is determined by global warming potential values, which are in turn specified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports. Each report, e.g., Second Assessment Report (SAR), Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), and Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), give different global warming potential values for CO2, CH4, and N2O.
WatchWire users can define the global warming potential values they want to use, e.g., AR5, AR4, or something else. WatchWire automatically defaults to AR5. WatchWire also allows its users to enter their own CO2, CH4, and N2O factors for commodities.
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