Steps for Reducing Carbon Emissions

Published: 03rd June 2024

What are carbon emissions?

Carbon emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere in various ways.  These emissions, also known as greenhouse gases (GHGs) contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect, more widely referred to as global warming and climate change.  These greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the greenhouse effect.

Carbon emissions are emitted from several sources including both natural and human made.  The main source of natural carbon emissions is the carbon dioxide produced between the oceans and the atmosphere.  CO2 is also emitted through respiration and decomposition from plants and animals.

Human made carbon emissions include deforestation, burning fossil fuels, industrial activities such as chemical manufacturing and cement production, and waste management.

Why is it important to reduce carbon emissions?

It is crucial for the world as a whole to reduce carbon emissions.  The consequences of climate change are colossal and are already affecting environmental, economic, and social areas. Here are some of the key reasons why it is important to reduce carbon emissions:

Climate Change Mitigation

By reducing carbon emissions the aim is to mitigate the impact of climate change, and in turn reduce the extremes that are happening around the world currently such as rising sea levels, weather events and shifts in weather patterns and disturbances to ecosystems.

Human Health

Human health can and is being affected both directly and indirectly by climate change. It may impact air and water quality and can increase the severity and spread of diseases.

Preserving Ecosystems and Biodiversity

There are threats to various ecosystems and the biodiversity they support through the effects of climate change. Habitats are being significantly altered due to the shift in temperatures and patterns and therefore many species are at risk of extinction.

Sustainable Resource Management

Due to climate change the availability of natural resources including food, water and energy are being affected through extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods.

Social and Economic Stability

Again, because of the increase of extreme weather events it is taking the toll on communities and in turn causing significant economic losses.

What steps can be taken to reduce carbon emissions?

There’s still a long way to go when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.  However, a new study by Smurfit Kappa and the Financial Times has stated that 50% of businesses claim to have tangible and ambitious plans to achieve net zero by 2050So, what is involved in these steps and how can you implement them into your business?

Set a carbon reduction target

The first step is to establish measurable and realistic carbon reduction goals. Targets can be set by analysing data and looking at what can be achieved from there and what date it can be achieved by.  It is important to work out what route is best for your company, be that carbon neutral or carbon negative and outline a clear plan.  For example, Nottingham have a net zero target by 2028 that has been outlined by the data and payback periods of what is achievable in that timeframe.

There are two types of targets that can be set, those are absolute targets and intensity targets.

Absolute targets:

Intensity Targets:

Identify the opportunities for reducing carbon emissions

This should be based on your Operational Boundary and Scope. It is important to remember that small changes can make a big difference and to start with quick wins that can be implemented as soon as possible.  There are different options for support that can assist with this such as grants from external bodies.

Assess and implement the measures for reduction

It is important to assess the overall costs including installation, capital, operation and maintenance, and staffing costs. Not only that, the payback schedule of how many years it will take to pay the costs back should be considered.  Before beginning, it should be noted of how long everything will take to implement and any barriers that may affect the implementation process.  Think about the benefits it will have to the company, the environment, and the community as a whole.

Track carbon reductions and cost savings on a regular basis

Tracking and evaluating is a very important step which allows a company to monitor how successful their carbon management is. Depending on the business type this can be done either quarterly or yearly and is usually done via a spreadsheet.

Continue making reductions whilst also looking for new opportunities

As mentioned above, emission targets should be assessed on a yearly basis in order to find what is and isn’t working and re-strategize if necessary. Some ways to make further reductions include:

Think of how old the buildings windows and doors are, and whether they can be replaced or repaired if necessary to avoid leaks and drafts.  Perhaps lighting and equipment can be replaced for more energy efficient ones.  Even smaller swaps such as paper, packaging and fuel can have a big impact on furthering carbon emission reduction.

Some larger companies may be able to change to renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines and use renewable energy from utility companies.

Focus on your company’s objectives and link with carbon reduction goals

Customers and consumers are becoming more interested in the goals and values of companies with regards to the environment and reducing carbon emissions, so being transparent about the goals and targets set is important and can help overall brand image.

Final Thoughts

Reducing your carbon emissions doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it may seem.  As mentioned, there are many small steps you can implement straight away, but it is important to still create clear objectives and targets to achieve those reductions in becoming a carbon neutral or carbon negative company.

BEM Services provides expert knowledge and advice across all sectors of the construction industry, alongside mechanical and electrical engineering expertise. To find out more, contact us today.