A fuel produced directly or indirectly from living matter, including plant material and animal waste. Examples of biofuels include ethanol, biodiesel and biogas. Biofuels are seen as a viable alternative to fossil fuels as they can be replenished as quickly as they are used and burn cleanly.

Carbon Budget

The cumulative amount of carbon dioxide emissions permitted over a period of time to keep within a certain temperature threshold.

Carbon Credit

A generic term for any tradable certificate or permit representing the right of a company to emit one tonne of CO2 or the mass of another greenhouse gas with a carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide. Carbon credits are issued by governments, which tend to issue fewer and fewer over time, making polluting more expensive. (Source:

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e)

Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

Carbon Emissions

The amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.

Carbon Footprint

The total set of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) caused directly and indirectly by an individual, event, organisation, or product expressed as Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e). (Source: Greenhouse Gas Protocol).

Carbon Inset/Insetting

The process of compensating for carbon dioxide emissions by investing in the development of an emission reduction project within the parameter of an organisations supply chain.

Carbon Intensity

Carbon intensity is the volume of carbon emissions normalised per indicator unit (e.g. gross domestic product (GDP), turnover, Full time Equivalent Employee (FTE), Meter Squared occupied (m2) etc). Reducing carbon intensity means that less emissions per unit. This is useful to compare performance over time and/or to compare against other organisations/countries etc.

Carbon Neutral

Having a balance between the amount of carbon emitted and the amount of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere.

Carbon Offset/Offsetting

The process of compensating for carbon dioxide emissions arising from industrial or other human activity, by participating in schemes designed to make equivalent reductions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Note: it is recommended to use UN certified carbon credits.

Carbon Reduction Plan

A CRP is a requirement under PPN 06/21 for the procurement of major central government contracts.

These Carbon Reduction Plans must:

  • Be published on the supplier’s website
  • Be signed off at an appropriate level within 12 months of the date of the procurement
  • Confirm the supplier’s commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2050 (at the latest)
  • Detail the supplier’s Greenhouse Gas emissions
  • Detail the environmental management measures that can be applied in the delivery of the contract.

Carbon Reduction Plans should include UK emissions for Scope 1 and Scope 2, along with a subset of five Scope 3 emissions categories:

  • Business travel
  • Employee commuting
  • Waste generated in operations
  • Upstream transportation and distribution
  • Downstream transportation and distribution.

Full details of the reporting requirements for Carbon Reduction Plans can be found in the Technical standard for Completion of Carbon Reduction Plans

Procurement Policy Note 06/21: Taking account of Carbon Reduction Plans in the procurement of major government contracts – GOV.UK (

Climate Change

Is a change in the long-term distribution and severity of weather patterns caused by changes in global temperature.

Climate Emergency

There is no one internationally accepted definition for the ‘climate emergency’.  The term is used to acknowledge humanity is facing an existential threat and that urgent action needed.  The term is based on scientific consensus that we are at risk of passing climate tipping points and triggering feedback loops, which, if triggered are predicted to lead to excessive global warming and irreversible climate catastrophe.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a dramatic report that stated that the world is completely off track for the international goal formalised in the Paris Agreement to cap the rise in global warming to under 1.5 degrees C above the pre-industrial base line. The report stated we are instead heading towards 3 degrees C and stressed that immediate action is needed, on an unprecedented scale, so that significant progress is made before 2030 to limit the risk of a climate change catastrophe.

Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme (ESOS)

A Government policy which calls for mandatory energy audits in the UK. It requires all companies with more than 250 employees or a turnover of more than €50m to produce detailed reports on their energy use and efficiency every four years. These reports must be completed by a Registered Energy Auditor and submitted to the Environment Agency before the April deadline.

Fossil Fuels

A non-renewable fuel such as coal, oil or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.

Global Warming

The process by which the average surface temperature on the Earth increases. This is caused primarily by an increase in the amount of GHG in our atmosphere. Global temperatures increased by 1.1 degrees between 1880 and 2021. (Source: IPCC)

Global Warming Potential

GHGs have varying global warming potentials (GWP), a measure used to compare the emissions from various GHG. This means that we need to consider the types and amounts of GHG in our atmosphere. If measured over 100 years and CO2 is worth 1, then methane is approximately 25 times more powerful than CO2, nitrous oxide is approximately 300 times more powerful, and a perfluorinated compound known as sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) used in industry is approximately 23,000 times more powerful than CO2.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG)

An atmospheric gas, such as water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that absorbs and emits radiation produced by solar warming of the Earth’s surface. Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests, have led to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions, causing global warming.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is a common approach to emissions reporting set out by independent bodies, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The GHG protocol is the world’s most accepted standard on greenhouse gas accounting for organisations and adopted by many nations, including United Kingdom.

Guarantees of Origin

A tracking mechanism that allows corporate purchasers of renewable power to ascertain that the energy was generated using clean technology. Also known as a GO or GoO, Guarantees of Origin create a tamper-proof chain of information around the energy’s progress from generation to delivery. (Source: Edie)


Methane CH4 is a greenhouse gas that is 28-36 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Net Zero

“Any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.” Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.


A voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building’s carbon footprint in use; it results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling.

Scope 1

Scope 1 emissions (direct emissions) are those from activities owned or controlled by your organisation. Examples of Scope 1 emissions include emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces and vehicles; and emissions from chemical production in owned or controlled process equipment. (Source: Greenhouse Gas Protocol).

Scope 2

Scope 2 emissions (energy indirect emissions) are those released into the atmosphere that are associated with your consumption of purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling. These indirect emissions are a consequence of your organisation’s energy use, but occur at sources you do not own or control. (Source: Greenhouse Gas Protocol).

Scope 3

Scope 3 emissions (other indirect emissions) are a consequence of your actions that occur at sources you do not own or control and are not classed as Scope 2 emissions. Examples of Scope 3 emissions are business travel by means not owned or controlled by your organisation, waste disposal, materials or fuels your organisation purchases. Deciding if emissions from a vehicle, office or factory that you use are Scope 1 or Scope 3 may depend on how you define your operational boundaries. Scope 3 emissions can be from activities that are upstream or downstream of your organisation. More information on Scope 3 and other aspects of reporting can be found in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard. (Source: Greenhouse Gas Protocol).

SECR Regulations

SECR Regulations apply to all large businesses (as defined in the Companies Act), Limited Liability Partnerships and quoted companies. All organisations that meet two or more of the following requirements must comply.

  • Turnover £36 million or more
  • Balance sheet total £18 million or more
  • 250 employees or more

The SECR report has to be filed with your company accounts each year and lodged with Companies House. It applies to the first financial year that starts on or after 1st April 2019, and each subsequent year. The reporting period is based on the reporting company’s financial year to align with existing financial and strategic reporting. SECR requires that companies include in their annual director’s report the following information:

  • Annual UK greenhouse gas emissions (in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), as a minimum relating to gas, purchased electricity and transport fuel
  • Associated energy use (in kWh)
  • An emissions intensity ratio (e.g. tCO2e per full time equivalent employee, or other suitable indicator)
  • A stated methodology used for calculating the footprint (e.g. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol)
  • A narrative of energy efficiency measures taken and planned. If no measures have been taken, this should be stated
  • In future years, the prior year equivalent figures are also required to be disclosed for comparison, but this is not mandatory in the first year.

Sustainable Procurement

Purchasing activity which considers environmental, social and ethical factors when selecting suppliers. Sustainable sourcing requires a higher degree of engagement between all parties in a supply chain. It can focus on certain hotspots or key topics (e.g. Carbon emissions from suppliers as part of a scope 3 or net zero target).

The Greenhouse Effect

Is the heating of the surface of the Earth due to the presence of an atmosphere containing greenhouse gases (GHG) (carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrochlorofluorocarbons [HCFCs]) that absorb and emit long-wave (heat) radiation. Without the effect, the Earth’ average temperature would be −19oC, rather than 15oC, and the effect is natural. However, human activity is exacerbating the effect, causing global warming by increasing the amount of GHG in the atmosphere.

Zero Carbon Energy Sources

Sources of energy which do not result in carbon being released to the atmosphere; this can include: hydrogen and synthetic non-carbon fuels (ammonia), battery power derived from zero-carbon electricity based on solar, wind, hydro or nuclear power.

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