These are the first national company reporting guidelines to be published following UNEP’s initial model. UNEP is encouraging all countries to produce their own national reporting guidelines.

Launched at the WHO Environment and Health Conference ,the guidelines are intended help businesses reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whether on a voluntary basis or in response to regulatory requirements, emissions trading or taxation. Step by step guidance and case studies will help businesses measure their emissions, set targets for improvement and report publicly on progress.

The guide emphasises that companies outside traditionally polluting sectors, such as oil and gas and chemicals, may fail to realize how extensive an environmental impact they have: industry accounts for just over a quarter of UK greenhouse gas emissions – energy (including electricity) used in industry accounts for 19% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions, and heavy industry emissions of process-related greenhouse gases accounts for another 7%; but the rest of business also has a big direct impact – around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions come from heating, lighting and running offices, shops, hotels and hospitals. Another 7% comes from business road transport (excluding commuting), and 2% from the waste that companies throw away to landfill.

A wide range of businesses have already given a positive response:

Severn Trent, Wessex Water, Anglian Water, United Utilities, Eastern Group, CGU, Railtrack and Boots are among leading companies that have already decided to use these guidelines to report their greenhouse gas emissions. Wessex Water and CGU have published their first calculations, and Anglian Water are about to; Scottish Power, B & Q, Thames Water, British Energy, Sainsburys, Allied Domecq, British Gas and Woolwich told the Government, in response to consultation on the guidelines, that they have a clear commitment to comprehensive reporting of their greenhouse gas emissions; and BP and Shell have both set themselves group-wide targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Examples of what it takes to produce 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide are:

  • Running an average car 30,000 miles
  • Flying 14 passenger long haul trips
  • Flying 110 passenger short haul trips or three times the distance on a train Flying a fully loaded freight plane 300 kilometres, or driving an articulated lorry 9,000 kilometres
  • Running a modern freight train carrying 700 tonnes of freight 1,700 kilometres – up to eight times better than carrying the same tonnage by road.

These UK guidelines are part of an international move to improve business measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions following the Kyoto agreement. They build on an initial model produced by NPI (the former National Provident Institution) and UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme).

The UK Government’s initial aim is that the top FTSE 350 UK businesses and other big companies operating in the UK should use these guidelines to identify their greenhouse gas emissions and report publicly on action they are taking to increase efficiency and reduce emissions.

They provide a voluntary standard for measuring and reporting emissions from the full range of company activities including energy use in buildings, freight transport and business travel, as well as specialist process emissions. They enable companies to take commonly available management information, such as energy and fuel bills, and convert these on an authoritative basis into estimated emissions of greenhouse gases.

Publication of step by step guidelines on greenhouse gas reporting follows Michael Meacher’s challenge in October last year to all top companies to measure and report comprehensively on their greenhouse gas emissions. A consultation draft of the guidelines was issued on 10 March.

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