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A little tweak to the broken carbon dashboard

- January 9, 2013 in Carbon Emissions, Featured, Private Sector Data

Reposted from

The broken dashboard

Over the past ten years it has become an almost universal requirement for major global companies to measure and report on their carbon emissions. Data has mounted up, awards have been made and rankings drawn up to sort the leaders from the laggards.

The quality of the data and its coverage is improving steadily.  But there is precious little sign that all this transparency is making a difference.  The most recent estimates are that to avoid climate change beyond 2°C, the emission intensity of the global economy needs to decrease by 5.1% a year, through energy efficiency, renewable energy and economically viable carbon sequestration. Over the past ten years the rate has stood at around 0.7%.

For carbon emission transparency to be effective it needs to support trillions of dollars of investment to shift out of ‘brown’ and into ‘green’ industries and solutions. Every investment decision drives the global economy either closer or further away from the carbon precipice, but the dashboard to show the direction of motion is broken.

There is now increasing focus not just on compiling more and better data, but on  doing smarter ‘climate maths’ to make information meaningful to investors and for the public debate. The most recent examples of this are the Carbon Tracker initiative, and Bill McKibben’s ‘Do the Math’ tour.

Making corporate carbon emissions data meaningful

A few companies (to date BT, Autodesk and EMC) have already adopted a way to report emissions in the context of a global carbon budget. Based on the ‘Climate Stabilisation Index’ approach developed by Jorgen Randers and Chris Tuppen, these companies are relating the proportion of the global emission budget they use up each year to the proportion of global value creation they provide (using Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) as the financial denominator).

Autodesk graph

Autodesk’s graph showing how companies’ emission pathways compare with global ‘required by science’ goals.

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