Blogg What's in a name?...

#45 When I meet people for the first time we talk about the usual things: where we live, what we do, and so on. Asked about my work I generally say I work with “carbon footprinting and carbon offsetting” in English or “klimatfotavtryck och klimatkompensation” in Swedish. About half the time I get blank looks in response, whichever language I’m speaking. Perhaps it’s my pronounciation, perhaps not.

These terms have been in use for nearly 20 years and are probably familiar to those reading this blog. But to revisit the definitions and have them to hand, I decided to check once more, starting with the English versions. It turned out not to be so straightforward, with differences in the details: carbon dioxide v. all greenhouse gases, carbon offsetting as an activity or transfer of finance, offsetting is outside an organisation’s own activities etc.

As we all know, the devil’s in the detail, so, with thanks to Wikipedia, Collins Dictionary, the World Resources Institute and many others, here are my working definitions:

Carbon footprint

“the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that result from the activities of a particular individual, organization or community, or from a defined system or activity.” 

To unpack this a little:

What? An amount of emissions, measured in kg or tons carbon dioxide equivalent. ”Carbon” is used as shorthand for all the greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.
Who? Individuals, organisations (usually companies), communities, or a specific activity carried out by one of these.
Where? Wherever that individual, organisation or community is active, plus an allocation of the indirect emissions from production of supplies.
When? Usually done on an annual basis.
How? Measured through a process known as ”carbon footprinting”, ”greenhouse gas accounting” etc.

Carbon offsetting

”a mechanism whereby individuals and organisations fund activities and projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere in order to offset emissions from their own activities”.

What? A mechanism for funding emission reductions elsewhere.
Who? Individuals and organisations (usually companies).
Where? Elsewhere, outside the individual’s or organisation’s own operations, supply chain or sphere of control.
When? At the same time as or after the emissions are generated.
How? Through funding the activities of others to reduce their emissions or sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

To follow: with the help of my Swedish colleagues, I’ll delve into the definitions of ”klimatfotavtryck” and ”klimatkompensation”.  What’s the same in translation and what’s different?

Detta är inlägg #45 i initiativet #blogg100 som går ut på att skriva ett blogginlägg om dagen i 100 dagar med start den 1 mars 2014. 

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