Who are the big carbon emitters?

Earlier this week, @pureandapplied brought to my attention the emissions data that has been published by the Department of Climate Change in Australia. Their report comprises data for the 2008-09 reporting year provided to the Greenhouse and Energy Data Officer by corporations whose greenhouse gas emissions exceeded 125 kilotonnes*. A few corporations are missing from the list for a number of reasons, including failure to provide their data in time for the report’s publication (a sorry excuse indeed). Nevertheless, the data makes for some interesting reading. As @pureandapplied remarked, for example, Qantas was responsible for more emissions than Shell: those air points are producing a lot of CO2-equivalent emissions!

The data is reported in two categories, “Scope 1” and “Scope 2” emissions. The definitions of the two scopes are as follows:

Scope 1 emissions are the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere because of activities at a facility that is controlled by the corporation. An example of this would be gases emitted by burning coal to generate electricity at an electricity production facility (i.e. a power station).

Scope 2 emissions in relation to a facility, are the release of greenhouse gases emitted at a second facility because of the electricity, heating, cooling or steam that is consumed at the facility. An example of this would be greenhouse gases emitted to generate electricity, which is then transmitted to a car factory and used there to power the car factory’s lighting. The greenhouse gas emissions are part of the factory’s scope 2 emissions. It is important to recognise that scope 2 emissions from one facility are part of the scope 1 emissions from another facility.

The report is very careful to note that these two scopes should be used warily. In fact, it warns that the two figures “should not be used individually, or added together” to estimate liabilities under any emissions abatement scheme. That is a red rag to a Mule, so I will indeed look at them individually and added together. The chart below shows the top 25 emitters in the Scope 1 category.

Top 25 Scope 1 Emitters

It should come as no surprise that the big Scope 1 emitters are primarily power generators, although there are a number of mining companies in there, along with Qantas thanks to its burning of jet fuel. Scope 2 tells a somewhat different story.

Top 25 Scope 2 Emitters

Here “poles and wires” make an appearance: Transgrid and the like, move energy from place to place that has been generated elsewhere. So, the Scope 1 emissions are counted by the generator, but the tranmission company wears the Scope 2 emissions. Woolworths manages an impressive fifth place, perhaps thanks to the lights in all of their supermarkets? Wesfarmers, the owners of the Coles supermarket chain, rank higher still.

Finally, here are the top 25 emitters by the combined total of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. Not surprisingly, the generators dominate once more.

Top 25 Scope 1+2 Emitters

Also included in the data is the total amount of energy consumed by each corporation. It is in these numbers that I stumbled upon something of a puzzle. Envestra produced a reasonably sizeable 627,161 tonnes of Scope 2 CO2-equivalent, but had one of the lowest levels of total energy consumption at only 193 GJ. What have they been up to? Guesses are welcome!

* Also included are those corporations holding a reporting transfer certificate.

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8 thoughts on “Who are the big carbon emitters?

  1. JamesGlover

    Since companies are also generators of profit for shareholders it would be interesting to see the companies ranked by (something like) tonnes carbon per dollar profit or revenue, or its inverse.

    Woolworths high figure may be due to transport costs but then where is Coles?

  2. Stubborn Mule

    James: I was thinking much the same thing about bringing in profits. Next step is to find the data…

    I have updated the post to note that Wesfarmers owns Coles. Since Woolies have their own trucks, I would have thought much of their transport emissions would appear in Scope 1. It may be that air and rail (provided by other companies) contribute to their Scope 2 emissions.

  3. manny

    Great post.
    I believe that since most greenhouse gas emissions are energy related (power plants, buildings, transport and industry), much of the answer in reducing emissions lies in new energy solutions – which both de-carbonise the supply of energy itself and reduce demand for power

  4. OldFuzz

    Macquarie and Delta, the top two – are wholly owned by the NSW Gov’t still. While they generate profit for their one shareholder, their value should be measured not by profit but perhaps by carbon efficiency in providing the valued electrical energy to the community – eg perhaps all power generators could be ranked by tonnes of CO2/MWh .
    The “hungry” consumers, largely including the big minimg companies who consume enormous quantities of diesel fuel and electricity do have a very active program of reduction – perhaps they should be ranked on some measure of reduction in energy consumed/tonne of product produced for the needy/hungry/wealthy consumers of their products?

  5. VerdantFlaneur

    To get stuck into some deeper analysis, suggest you access some of the reports prepared by Citi’s Elaine Prior. She’s analysed the ASX200 in terms of emissions intensity (emissions/market cap), as well as potential CPRS exposure. Some material available here: http://bit.ly/b1Uup6 .

    More recently she’s published a paper on the question of whether there is a link between greener buildings and value: http://bit.ly/bSaDku .

    Much of her analysis has been derived from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) – a global voluntary carbon and climate change reporting program: http://www.cdproject.net (interestingly, only two ASX50 companies failed to report in 2009).

    You will also find significant variation between NGERS data and CDP data given the application of different reporting boundaries. NGERS requires application of an operational boundary whereas CDP leaves boundary definition up to the company – typically companies have applied a financial boundary.

  6. Bionic Man

    CO2 is not a poison it is needed by plants for survival. There is scientific debate about whether CO2 per se causes any temperature change and quoting from globalwarmfacts.com
    “It’s a shame, the excess carbon dioxide could contribute to creating a greener planet (and the gain in albedo might save us from the next ice age). In the distant past, for millions of years, CO2 levels were 12 times higher than today (4500 parts per million then, versus 380 parts per million today), and that was a time of ice age temperatures. We can say the world is carbon dioxide deprived today”
    The focus should be on sustainable and non poisonous energy sources not CO2 levels.

  7. Stubborn Mule Post author

    VerdantFlaneur: thanks for the links, I’ll look into them.

    Bionic Man: the “CO2 is not a poison” argument has always struck me as one of the weakest in arguments against anthropogenic global warming. It seems rather like saying to a drowning man “don’t get worked up, water is not poison, it is the stuff of life!”.

  8. The Fixer

    This is an old thread, but topical nonetheless.
    CO2 is most certainly a poison in the right concentration. If you fill say, a 1000 litre tank with CO2 and then climb in and close the lid, you will die in minutes, unless you have taken a scuba tank or similar in with you. Even oxygen becomes toxic at high levels. The real point about co2 from power generation is that such co2 has been separated from the active environment for millions of years, therefore being effectively “not part” of the environment. Too much co2 in the environment would cause a truly gargantuan extinction event. This event would include our own extinction as well. Once we mine coal or pump oil, we add carbon back into our current environment that has been”out” of the environment for many millions of years, up to 350 million years in some cases.
    It is wrong to claim that this increase in carbon will not impact the environment. Look at core drill samples showing very high sea levels compared to the current levels, and ask yourself what that would mean to cities like London, New York, Sydney and many others. I would not do anything which might ‘drown my grandchildren’, so to speak.
    What about you?

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