Ground engineering and environmental sciences firm Golder Associates says that, although current legislation does not hold companies responsible for the greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions generated from land clearings or soil stockpiling, businesses should incorporate these carbon deficits into their GHG emissions accounting and inventories, as well as their carbon footprint analysis.
This practice may currently be an add-on benefit, but may soon become critical when institutionalised by post- Kyoto Protocol carbon regimes, the company says. The Kyoto Protocol is a procedure put in place by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to fight global warming.
Golder Associates carbon management specialist Dr Hennie Stoffberg says that an effective method of carbon offsetting is the creation of carbon sinks. A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemi- cal compound for an indefinite period.
He adds that the process by which carbon sinks remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere is known as carbon sequestration. Public awareness of the significance of carbon sinks has been growing since the passage of the Kyoto Protocol, which promotes their use as a form of carbon offset.
“It is important to factor in the intervention of a carbon sink, such as revegetation, afforestation, reforestation, conservation agriculture and farming or urban greening, into any construction planning,” says Stoffberg.
Afforestation projects also contribute to biomass production, which could be used as a renewable-energy source to generate electricity or to produce heat.
“Most beneficial are cradle- to-cradle carbon sinks, where the quantity of CO2 contained in soil and vegetation is measured before any land clearing is done. These figures are then used in the planning of rehabilitation, ensuring that the carbon sequestration matches the original carbon source,” adds Stoffberg.
Vegetation carbon sinks provide benefits that may lead to carbon credits and the participation in carbon trading schemes. Golder assists its clients in quantifying their vegetation carbon offset projects for emission reduction schemes and registers its clients on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) website. The CCX operates North America’s only cap-and-trade system for all six greenhouse gases, and has global affiliates and projects worldwide.
Stoffberg explains that the conservation of biodiversity has always been a key focus for environmentalists and the concerned public, with the increase in rehabilitation and restoration vegetation carbon sinks enabling and increasing biodiversity.
Climate Change Risk-Mapping Tool
The accepted reality of climate change will require businesses to deal with regu- latory, environmental and social, infrastructural, repu- tational and financial risks.
Responding effectively to these threats implies strategic and operational requirements for businesses, which should generally take the twin-track approach of managing carbon emissions and adapting to the impacts associated with future changes in climate.
To respond proactively, Golder says that businesses need to determine which climate-related threats their operations may be facing currently, and in the future, how to measure and report on climate risk, what opportunities could be created from climate change, how these can be capitalised upon, and how these threats and oppor- tunities can be factored into decision-making or operational practices to ensure that resources are effectively allocated to increase resilience.
When advising clients, the company draws on its climate risk-mapping tool to conduct high-level screening assess- ments to highlight those areas in which climate change might create opportunities for, or threaten, a business.
Golder Associates business development manager Rob Hounsome says that the tool evaluates various business functions in relation to climate risk, and assists with the development of response and adaptation plans.
In terms of finance and GHG emissions risk, the tool is used to determine whether a company has assessed the financial impact of reducing its carbon footprint through purchasing carbon credits or other offsetting instruments.
When dealing with infra- structure vulnerability and physical risk, the tool looks at whether the company has experienced infrastructure damage as a result of severe weather events in the past, while, in terms of market function and regulatory risk, it investigates whether a company’s products and services are subject to known or pending climate-related regulation, which could impact on the viability of the product or service.
These questions are analysed together with the client to produce a comprehensive response report, as well as a business continuity management plan, which aims to develop organisationwide resilience.
“This type of planning should allow an organisation to survive the loss of part or all of its operational capabi- lity – in this case, of climatic impacts – and ensure organisational survival in the event of significant losses of resources,” says Hounsome.
He adds that the business continuity concept should be communicated and realised at all levels of the organisation, as well as through the supply chain.
“The climate risk-mapping tool is a high-level, client- input-driven method of iden- tifying potential impacts that may threaten the survival of an organisation under a changed climate. It offers a framework for building resi- lience and the capability of an effective response. Most importantly, the tool aims to safeguard the interests of key company stakeholders, as well as the reputation, brand and profitability of an organisation,” concludes Hounsome.