Skip links

What is an emissions baseline?

Share on

In order to travel to on the road to net zero emissions, organisations need to know their carbon footprint. Therefore, this footprint should encompass all scopes to give the most comprehensive impression of the organisation’s environmental impact. Here is a little summary of what scopes are.  

Reminder: What are the different scopes? 

Greenhouse gas emissions are broken down into three scopes 

Scope 1 refers to all direct emissions resulting from the use of fossil fuels. This can be through the use of heating gas, the powering of vehicles through petrol or diesel, or the powering of onsite machinery through natural gas.  

Scope 2 refers to the direct electricity consumption of the activities of your organisation. There are two ways of calculating these emissions.  

The first is your market-based electricity consumption. This can be done by looking at your facilities’ electricity bill or smart meter.  

The second is your location-based consumption. Some areas are more energy intensive, and the National Grid holds records of electricity consumptions in all areas of the UK. As such, location-based emissions tend to be higher, as these are collected through the National Grid, and not your direct consumption of electricity.  

Lastly, Scope 3 emissions account for everything else that doesn’t fall under Scope 1 or 2. These are often indirect emissions incurred by your supply chain. There are, however, four categories of Scope 3 emissions that all organisations have control over. These are business travel, employee commuting, waste and water management.  

What is a baseline? 

A baseline is the footprint in the chosen year that a company began reporting their emissions. Hence, creating a baseline can be done retroactively, or on any year of the choosing of an organisation. 

N.B.: A baseline scenario might also often be referred to as a reference scenario. 

Why is it useful? 

A baseline allows for goal-setting and tracking of mitigation strategy progress. 

The IPCC states that a mitigation strategy is ‘constructed to meet different goals for greenhouse gas emissions, atmospheric concentrations or temperature change.’ Thus, this refers to ‘a human intervention to reduce emissions or enhance the sink of greenhouse gases.’  

In its 2018 Assessment Report, the IPCC recommended all organisations create a baseline scenario. As a result, many have selected 2018 as their baseline year. However, an organisation may choose to make another year their chosen baseline year, according to availability to relevant data.  

Whatever year an organisation chooses, it is best to bear in mind any major operational changes. With the pandemic for instance, emitting activities across all sectors were heavily impacted in a variety of ways. Therefore, 2020’s activities and emissions may not be a good example of a business and its broad future growth. As a result, in 2021 when operations resumed, an organisation might have observed a disproportionate increase in their greenhouse gas emissions that would not be representative of emissions increases between two years without a pandemic.  

How does my business create an emissions baseline? 

As mentioned above, having a baseline will allow businesses to understand the sources of their emissions. With time, this baseline will also serve to determine how much decarbonisation has occurred, in line with their emissions reduction strategy. 

At Plannet Zero, in line with international guidance, we encourage a gradual reduction. Thus, an organisation will need to create a baseline emissions scenario to be able to showcase their reduction. However, if you have not created a baseline emission scenario, at Plannet Zero we are able to get you started on your carbon journey through our One Two Zero programme. This programme is specifically tailored to SMEs, facilitating their emissions reduction.  

Our footprinting tools are user friendly and enable users to gain wider knowledge and understanding of the sources of their emissions. One of the members of our dedicated team will help you along the way and guide you along this journey.  

Share on