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What Are The Carbon Emissions Scopes?

Why Should You Understand Carbon Emissions Scopes?

It is important to know about carbon emissions scopes because they provide a framework for understanding and measuring an organization's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and for identifying opportunities for reducing those emissions. Understanding an organization's GHG emissions is important because GHGs, such as carbon dioxide, contribute to climate change, which is a major global environmental challenge. Reducing GHG emissions can help mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The three scopes of GHG emissions - scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 - provide a way to differentiate between different sources of GHG emissions and to understand their relative importance for an organization.

Scope 1

Scope 1 emissions refer to direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of an organization. These emissions are under the control of the organization and are a result of its own operations. Examples of scope 1 emissions include emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, in company-owned facilities or vehicles.

Scope 1 emissions are one of three categories of GHG emissions that are commonly used in GHG accounting and reporting. The other two categories are scope 2 emissions, which refer to indirect GHG emissions that result from the generation of electricity, heating, or cooling that is consumed by the organization, and scope 3 emissions, which refer to all other indirect GHG emissions that result from the activities of the organization but are not included in scope 2.

Scope 2

Scope 2 emissions refer to indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from the generation of electricity, heat, or cooling that is consumed by an organization. These emissions are not directly released by the organization itself, but rather are a result of the organization's consumption of energy from external sources.

Examples of scope 2 emissions include emissions from the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity that is purchased by the organization from a utility company, or emissions from the production of steam or hot water that is used for heating or industrial processes.

Scope 2 emissions are one of three categories of GHG emissions that are commonly used in GHG accounting and reporting. The other two categories are scope 1 emissions, which refer to direct GHG emissions that are released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of an organization, and scope 3 emissions, which refer to all other indirect GHG emissions that result from the activities of the organization but are not included in scope 1 or scope 2.

Scope 3

Scope 3 emissions refer to all other indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from the activities of an organization, but are not included in scope 1 (direct GHG emissions) or scope 2 (indirect GHG emissions from the consumption of energy). These emissions are not under the direct control of the organization, but rather result from the organization's value chain or supply chain activities.

Examples of scope 3 emissions include emissions from the use of products or services that the organization sells, emissions from business travel, emissions from the transportation and disposal of waste, and emissions from the extraction and processing of raw materials used by the organization.

Scope 3 emissions are one of three categories of GHG emissions that are commonly used in GHG accounting and reporting. The other two categories are scope 1 emissions, which refer to direct GHG emissions that are released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of an organization, and scope 2 emissions, which refer to indirect GHG emissions that result from the generation of electricity, heat, or cooling that is consumed by the organization.

Overview of GHG Protocol scopes and emissions across the value chain. Source: https://www.epa.gov/climateleadership/scope-1-and-scope-2-inventory-guidance


Measuring and reporting on GHG emissions using the scopes can help organizations identify opportunities for reducing their GHG emissions and set goals and targets for reducing those emissions. It can also help organizations understand the impact of their operations on the environment and identify ways to improve their sustainability. GHG reporting programs, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), often require organizations to report on their GHG emissions using the scopes.

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