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Carbon Glossary
Discover our glossary to explore more about the carbon management terminology.

Absolute Target

An absolute target is a goal set to decrease GHG emissions by a specific amount. For instance, Company A plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% over the next 5 years.

Activity Data

Activity data refers to the data of an activity that causes greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, the fuel consumption of company vehicles.


Additionality refers to the emission reductions or removals from a mitigation activity that would not have taken place without the added incentive created by the carbon credits. For instance, a project is considered additional if it exists solely due to the funding from carbon credits.


Afforestation refers to the initiative of creating a new forest in areas where they did not exist before, often for the purpose of biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is the introduction of harmful substances into the Earth's atmosphere, which can lead to detrimental effects on the environment. Air pollution is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, industrial processes, agriculture, and waste disposal.

Air Quality Index (AQI)

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a numerical scale used for reporting daily air quality with regard to human health and the environment. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. In the context of carbon accounting, the Air Quality Index (AQI) can be used to measure the impact of carbon emissions on air quality.


The atmosphere is the protective layer of gases that encircles the Earth, which enables suitable conditions for supporting life by providing oxygen and protection from solar radiation. In the context of climate change, the atmosphere plays a crucial role as it holds the greenhouse gases that regulate Earth's temperature.

Base Year

The base year refers to a specific year that is used as a benchmark for tracking and evaluating carbon emissions over time. It represents high significance as it sets the benchmark for measuring progress in reducing emissions and assessing the impact of carbon management strategies.


Derived from renewable organic materials, such as plant or animal waste, biofuels are a type of fuel known for their environmental friendliness and sustainability. Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels can be sourced from diverse origins and do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Cap and Trade

Cap and trade is a government regulatory program designed to limit emissions of certain chemicals, particularly carbon dioxide, from industrial activities. The system works by setting a cap on emissions and issuing permits to companies, allowing them to emit a certain amount of pollutants. These permits decrease each year, making them more expensive and incentivizing companies to invest in cleaner technologies.

Carbon Accounting

Carbon accounting is the process of measuring, tracking, and reporting the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that an organization emits into the atmosphere. It's crucial for understanding the scale of a company's emissions and is the first step towards managing and reducing those emissions.

Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM)

Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is a policy proposed by the European Union to adjust the price of goods imported from countries without carbon pricing policies, to level the playing field for EU producers and encourage climate action globally. It takes effect in 2026, with reporting starting in 2023.

Carbon Budget

A carbon budget refers to the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions, typically expressed in CO2e, that can be released into the atmosphere while maintaining a stable climate and staying below the 1.5°C thresholds.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), also known as Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS), is a process that involves capturing Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources and storing them underground or utilizing them for other purposes. It is a technology aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a colorless, odorless gas composed of one carbon atom bonded with two oxygen atoms. It is a greenhouse gas naturally present in the Earth's Atmosphere and plays a significant role in regulating the planet's temperature. Changes in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere lead to global warming, ocean acidification, altered ecosystems, and extreme weather events.

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e)

CO2e stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. It is a metric used in carbon accounting to express the global warming potential of various greenhouse gases. Since different greenhouse gases have varying levels of potency in trapping heat in the atmosphere, CO2e provides a standardized way to compare and combine the emissions of different gases.

Carbon Emissions

Carbon emissions refer to the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as a result of human activities. These emissions primarily come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas for energy production, transportation, industrial processes, and deforestation.

Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint refers to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions, caused directly or indirectly by an entity or activity. It is a measure of the impact human activities have on climate change through the release of greenhouse gases.

Carbon Leakage

Carbon leakage occurs when a company moves its operations to countries with weaker carbon and sustainability regulations. This  can result in an increase in the company's carbon footprint due to looser pollution control and the environmental impact. Additionally, such relocations often lead to inaccurate carbon accounting.

Carbon Negative

Carbon negative, also know as carbon positive, refers to a state in which an organization goes beyond achieving carbon neutrality by removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits.

Carbon Neutral

Carbon neutrality refers to the state where an organization's overall carbon emissions are equalized by offsetting or reducing an equivalent amount of carbon emissions elsewhere.

Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting refers to the compensation of greenhouse gas emissions emitted by an organization. This is achieved by investing in environmental projects that avoid or reduce emissions.

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration is the process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is captured from the atmosphere and stored, preventing it from contributing to the greenhouse effect and climate change.

Carbon Sink

Carbon sinks refer to anything that removes more carbon than it releases, effectively reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Carbon Target

A carbon target, also known as a carbon reduction target, refers to a specific goal or objective set by an organization to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an international non-profit organization that operates a global environmental disclosure system. It provides a consistent and transparent framework for entities to report their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change efforts.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a project-based mechanism established under the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change. The CDM allows developed countries that have emission reduction commitments to invest in emission reduction or mitigation projects in developing countries, as well as reach their emission reduction targets while also providing economic and environmental benefits to developing countries.

Climate Change

Climate change refers to long-term alterations in Earth's climate patterns, including changes in temperature, precipitation, wind patterns, and other aspects of the climate system. It is primarily caused by human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into the atmosphere.

Conference of the Parties (COP)

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is an annual United Nations conference on climate change. It serves as a crucial gathering where leaders from nearly all nations convene to review advancements in reducing emissions and ensure that climate targets are reached.

Corporate Carbon Footprint (CCF)

A corporate carbon footprint (CCF) refers to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions released directly or indirectly into the atmosphere by an organization, within a defined period.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

CSR encompasses a broader set of actions and initiatives that companies undertake to fulfill their responsibilities towards society and the environment. Carbon accounting and ESG reporting are specific components of CSR, focusing on measuring and reporting environmental impacts, including carbon emissions, and demonstrating transparency and accountability in the organization's sustainability efforts.

Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD)

Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD) is a proposed directive by the European Commission aimed at fostering sustainable and responsible corporate behavior. It seeks to integrate human rights and environmental considerations into companies' operations and corporate governance. The directive establishes a corporate due diligence duty, which includes identifying, preventing, mitigating, and accounting for negative human rights and environmental impacts in a company's operations, their subsidiaries, and their value chains. Large companies will also need to ensure their business strategy aligns with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is a directive introduced by the European Commission. It requires large and listed companies to publish regular reports on the social and environmental risks they face, and how their activities impact people and the environment. The directive expands the reporting requirements to a broader set of large companies and listed SMEs. The new rules aim to provide investors and other stakeholders with the information they need to assess investment risks arising from climate change and other sustainability issues. The first companies will have to apply the new rules for the first time in the 2024 financial year, for reports published in 2025.


Decarbonization refers to the process of reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, particularly those associated with human activities. It involves transitioning from fossil fuel-based energy sources to cleaner and more sustainable alternatives, such as renewable energy.

Direct Air Capture (DAC)

Direct Air Capture (DAC) refers to a technology that captures and removes carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere. The captured carbon dioxide can be stored underground or used to create products such as fuels, chemicals, or building materials.

Direct Emissions

Direct emissions, also known as Scope 1 emissions, refer to greenhouse gas emissions that result from sources owned or controlled by a company.

Double Counting

Double counting in the context of carbon accounting occurs when the same emissions are counted more than once, leading to an overestimation of emissions.

Downstream Emissions

Downstream emissions refer to the release of greenhouse gases resulting from the use, disposal, or end-of-life treatment of a product or service, sold by a company.

Emission Factor

Emission factors serve as a representative value that quantifies the release of emissions from specific sources. They play a crucial role in carbon footprint calculations, as the as they quantify the environmental impact of an organization's activities.

ESG Reporting

ESG reporting refers to the disclosure of data on environmental, social, and governance factors by companies. It provides insights into a company's sustainability and ethical practices, which can impact its financial performance and investment attractiveness. Carbon accounting is a key component of ESG reporting that specifically deals with how a company measures, reports, and manages its greenhouse gas emissions.

EU Taxonomy

The EU Taxonomy is a classification system established by the European Union to guide investors, companies, and policymakers towards environmentally sustainable economic activities. It's a tool to help increase investment in sustainable growth and contribute to a climate-neutral economy. The taxonomy is part of the EU's action plan on sustainable finance and one of the key measures in implementing the European Green Deal.

The taxonomy sets six environmental objectives:
1. Climate change mitigation
2. Climate change adaptation
3. Sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources
4. Transition to a circular economy
5. Pollution prevention and control
6. Protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems

Large companies and financial market participants are required to disclose the proportion of their turnover, capital expenditure (CapEx), and, where relevant, operating expenditure (OpEx) aligned with the Taxonomy. The disclosures should be made annually starting from January 1, 2022, and should be included in the non-financial statement or the separate non-financial report.

Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels are natural resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, formed from the decomposing plants and organisms. They are extracted and primarily used as sources of energy. However, their usage has significant environmental implications. The extraction, combustion, and subsequent release of emissions from fossil fuels, such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, contribute to climate change and other environmental concerns.

Fugitive Emissions

Fugitive emissions refer to the unintentional or accidental release of greenhouse gases or vapors. These emissions occur when gases or vapors escape from equipment, pipelines, storage tanks, or other sources.

Global Warming

Global warming refers to the long-term increase in Earth's average surface temperature, primarily caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. GHGs, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), trap heat from the sun and prevent it from escaping back into space, leading to a warming effect known as the greenhouse effect.

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

GWPs, or Global Warming Potentials, are metrics used to estimate the relative contribution of different greenhouse gases (GHGs) to global warming over a specified time horizon. They provide a standardized way to compare the warming potential of different gases by quantifying their ability to trap heat in the atmosphere relative to carbon dioxide (CO2).

GWPs are typically expressed as a ratio comparing the warming potential of a particular gas to that of CO2 over a specific timeframe, commonly 20, 100, or 500 years. For example, methane (CH4) has a higher GWP than CO2 because it is more effective at trapping heat, but its atmospheric lifetime is shorter. On the other hand, nitrous oxide (N2O) has a higher GWP and a longer atmospheric lifetime compared to CO2.

In carbon accounting and climate change mitigation efforts, GWPs play a crucial role. They allow for the conversion of emissions from various GHGs into CO2 equivalents (CO2e), which simplifies the accounting process. By expressing emissions in CO2e, it becomes easier to compare and aggregate emissions from different sources and sectors.

Greenhouse Gas

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases present in the Earth's atmosphere that have the ability to trap heat from the sun, leading to the greenhouse effect and influencing the planet's temperature. These gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG)

The GHG Protocol refers to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is a widely recognized accounting framework developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The GHG Protocol provides guidelines and standards for quantifying and managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The purpose of the GHG Protocol is to establish a consistent and transparent methodology for organizations to measure and report their GHG emissions. It offers a comprehensive framework that allows businesses, governments, and other entities to assess their carbon footprints and develop strategies for reducing emissions. The GHG Protocol is widely used by companies, policymakers, and other stakeholders around the world.

Hydrogen (H)

Hydrogen (H) is an element that is the lightest and most abundant in the universe. It exists in various forms and is commonly used as a fuel or energy carrier. It can be produced from diverse sources, including natural gas, coal, biomass, and electrolysis of water, with varying environmental implications.

Indirect Emissions

Indirect emissions refer to greenhouse gas emissions that are released as a result of the activities of an organization, but occur at sources outside of its direct operational control. Examples include: employee commuting, waste disposal, and business travel.

Intensity-Based Target

An intensity target refers to a normalized metric that sets an organization’s emissions target in relation to an economic or operational variable. This allows organizations to set emissions reduction targets while accounting for economic growth. E.g. Company X sets a goal of reducing GHG emissions by 15% per square meter within the next 3 years.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is a scientific body established to provide policymakers with objective and comprehensive assessments of climate change science, impacts, and potential response options. It was founded in 1988 by two United Nations organizations: the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The main purpose of the IPCC is to assess scientific research on climate change and produce reports that inform policymakers, governments, and the public about the state of the climate system and its potential consequences. It aims to provide a clear understanding of the risks associated with climate change and the opportunities for mitigating and adapting to its impacts.

The IPCC is highly relevant for carbon accounting and climate change because it serves as a global authority on climate science and policy. It synthesizes and evaluates scientific literature from around the world, including peer-reviewed research, to assess the current state of knowledge on climate change. The IPCC's assessments are considered authoritative and have significant influence on international climate negotiations, policy-making processes, and climate action initiatives.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that was established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005. The protocol was negotiated and agreed upon by the member countries of the UNFCCC.

The main purpose of the Kyoto Protocol is to address global climate change by setting binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It was designed to supplement the UNFCCC and establish more specific and legally binding commitments for developed countries.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a systematic methodology used to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product, process, or activity throughout its entire life cycle. It is a comprehensive approach that considers the various stages of a product's life, including the extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal.

Methane (CH4)

Methane (CH4) is a colorless, odorless gas that is the primary component of natural gas. It is the simplest hydrocarbon, consisting of one carbon atom bonded to four hydrogen atoms. Reducing methane emissions is crucial in mitigating climate change, as it can have significant short-term impacts on global warming. Efforts to control methane emissions can complement CO2 reduction strategies and contribute to slowing down the rate of climate change.


Mitigation refers to efforts and actions taken to reduce or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The primary goal of mitigation is to limit the extent of human-induced climate change by reducing the sources of GHG emissions or by enhancing the sinks that absorb these emissions.

Net Zero

Net zero in the context of carbon accounting refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. When an organization achieves net zero, it means they are effectively not adding to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas produced through agricultural and industrial activities, as well as natural processes. It has a warming effect on the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is released from sources like fertilizers, livestock waste, and fossil fuel combustion. Its implications include increasing global warming, depleting the ozone layer, and affecting ecosystems.

Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD)

The Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), also known as Directive 2014/95/EU of the European Parliament, is a regulation that requires certain large companies to disclose non-financial and diversity information as part of their annual reporting. This directive applies to large public-interest entities with more than 500 employees. The NFRD aims to increase transparency and accountability, and to help investors, consumers, policy makers, and other stakeholders make more informed decisions.

Ozone (O3)

Ozone (O3) is a gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is not usually emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.

Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Climate Agreement is an international treaty negotiated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015. It aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.


REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is an international initiative aimed at mitigating climate change by addressing deforestation and promoting sustainable forest management. The "+" in REDD+ was added to emphasize the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.


Reforestation refers to the deliberate and planned process of planting trees and restoring forests in areas where they have been depleted or removed. It is a proactive approach to counteract deforestation and restore forest ecosystems. Reforestation efforts can take place in various forms, including planting young trees, allowing natural regeneration of forests, or a combination of both. Reforestation plays a crucial role in mitigating global warming and addressing climate change.

Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTI)

The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The initiative aims to encourage businesses to set science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Scope 1 Emissions

Scope 1 refers to a specific category of greenhouse gas emissions that are reported and accounted for according to the GHG Protocol. Scope 1 emissions are direct GHG emissions that occur from sources that are owned or controlled by an organization. These emissions are a result of the organization's activities, such as burning fossil fuels on-site, operating company-owned vehicles, or emitting GHGs as byproducts of industrial processes. Common examples of Scope 1 emissions include emissions from combustion of natural gas for heating, gasoline or diesel fuel used in company vehicles, and emissions from on-site industrial processes.

Scope 2 Emissions

Scope 2 emissions, under the GHG Protocol, are indirect GHG emissions that occur from the generation of purchased electricity, heat, or steam consumed by an organization. These emissions are produced off-site but are associated with the organization's activities. When organizations purchase electricity or heat from external sources, the emissions associated with the generation of that energy are considered Scope 2 emissions.

Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions are indirect GHG emissions that occur as a result of an organization's activities but are not directly owned or controlled by the organization. These emissions occur throughout the organization's value chain, including both upstream and downstream activities. Scope 3 emissions are often the most significant and challenging to measure because they encompass a wide range of activities and can extend beyond an organization's boundaries.

Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR)

The Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) initiative is a UK government policy designed to increase awareness of energy costs within organisations, provide data to inform the adoption of energy efficiency measures, and help reduce their impact on climate change. It also seeks to provide greater transparency for stakeholders. The 2018 Regulations require large unquoted companies that have consumed more than 40,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy in the reporting period to include energy and carbon information within their directors' (trustees') report. Academy trusts are within the scope of this legislation. The criteria for being considered a large company include having a turnover of £36 million or more, balance sheet assets of £18 million or more, or 250 employees or more.

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is an independent nonprofit organization that focuses on developing and disseminating sustainability accounting standards for use by publicly listed corporations in the United States. SASB aims to provide a standardized framework for companies to measure, manage, and report on their sustainability performance and impacts.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals adopted by the United Nations (UN) member states in 2015. They are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a comprehensive plan of action to address global challenges and promote sustainable development worldwide. The SDGs build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and aim to go further in addressing the root causes of poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.

Sustainable Finance Disclosure (SFDR)

Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) is a regulatory framework introduced by the European Union (EU) to promote sustainability in the financial sector. It aims to improve transparency and enable investors to make informed decisions regarding the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects of their investments. SFDR became effective on March 10, 2021.

The main goals of this framework include:
1. Enhancing Transparency
2. Promoting Sustainable Investments
3. Mitigating Greenwashing
4. Supporting the EU's Sustainability Agenda

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty that was adopted in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The treaty aims to address the issue of global climate change and its impacts. The UNFCCC provides a framework for international cooperation to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

Upstream Emissions

Upstream emissions are greenhouse gas emissions that take place in the earlier stages of a company's supply chain. These emissions are categorized as Scope 3 emissions and are commonly referred to as supply chain emissions.

Value Chain Emissions

Value chain emissions, refer to the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with a product or service throughout its entire life cycle, including the production, transportation, use, and disposal stages.

Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM)

The Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) is a market-based system that allows individuals, organizations, and companies to voluntarily offset their carbon dioxide emissions by purchasing carbon credits. Carbon credits represent a reduction or removal of greenhouse gas emissions from an activity or project.

Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VER)

Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VER) refer to efforts made by individuals, organizations, or companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions voluntarily beyond what is required by mandatory regulations or agreements. VERs are initiatives taken by entities to mitigate their environmental impact and combat climate change.

Zero Emissions

In the context of carbon accounting, "zero emissions" typically refers to the goal of achieving a net-zero carbon footprint. It means that the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere is balanced by an equivalent amount of emissions removed from the atmosphere or offset through various means.