• Melissa Whiteside

Climate Action: How to Take Action, Without Taking a Hit

Greenhouse Gases and the Effects on the Earth


Greenhouse gases (GHGs) occur naturally and are imperative to the survival of humans and living organisms on Earth. GHGs keep the Earth warm enough by retaining heat from the sun and not allowing it to reflect into space, thus making it livable. Unfortunately, after more than a century of deforestation, industrialization and large-scale agriculture, the quantities of GHGs in the atmosphere have reached record levels that have not been seen in three million years.


The Problem

The top five emitters of 2018 in Canada (AB, ON, QC, SK & BC) released 91% of the total GHG emissions. Out of the top five emitters, Alberta ranked the highest with a total of 272.5 Mt of GHGs, and within that same year, Canada’s building sector emitted 92.5 Mt of CO2. Read more here: more information


Changes need to be made to reduce our GHG emissions. Canada’s Green Building Council (CaGBC) believes we can reduce 19.4 megatonnes of emissions between 2017 and 2030 by undertaking deep retrofits for 60% of buildings, incorporating solar power (or other renewable energy for 40% of buildings) and switching fuel sources to reduce 20% of emissions. 


Zero Carbon Buildings

CaGBC’s ‘Zero Carbon Building- Performance Standard’, provides verification for the achievement of zero-carbon operations. A Zero Carbon Building is a highly energy-efficient building that produces carbon-free renewable energy or high-quality carbon offsets to offset the emissions associated with building operations. A net emission of zero can be reasonably achieved by completing energy audits to identify areas of improvement to reduce operational carbon and purchasing avoided emissions such as exported green power and carbon offsets.




The Solution

Energy audits provide information on the energy use in the facility and with this information, companies can discover their energy use and more importantly, the status of their carbon emissions. The final deliverable of an energy audit identifies opportunities to reduce utility usage and costs, improve reliability and reduce carbon emissions.


However, the cost of energy audits does not make sense for every business. We believe that energy efficiency and carbon reduction options should be available to everyone. In staying true to our vision of being a leader “in the use of technology and sustainable resources in engineering services to reduce energy consumption, operating and constructions costs for our clients”, we have found a more efficient way to conduct these energy audits by creating the DeCarbon app.

DeCarbon is an engineered carbon calculator that gives businesses the tools to fight for a sustainable future by providing a plan for changed behaviour, information on infrastructure upgrades to lower energy, operations and maintenance costs, and the ability to purchase carbon offsets.


The carbon calculator takes actual energy data and generates an energy use intensity (EUI/CO2) emissions audit. This audit is based on advanced engineering principles and methods from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) methodology. 

In addition to reducing energy, operation and maintenance costs, our solution provides businesses with the opportunity to participate in the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, Canada’s commitment to reduce 30% emissions by 2030 for the Paris Agreement and take steps to achieve a Zero Carbon Building. 


How Carbon Offsets Work

Carbon offsets are a reduction in carbon, or other GHGs emissions made to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Carbon offsetting allows you to compensate for carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions you produce by reducing emissions somewhere else. 


Once your carbon emissions report has been calculated through DeCarbon, a report will be produced giving you a total of your emissions expressed in tonnes. From here, you choose a certified project you would like to purchase carbon offsets for. These certified projects reduce CO2 by capturing/storing CO2 or preventing new emissions. Project types range but can include the following: reforestation, landfill gas capture and wind farms. The benefits from carbon offset projects extend beyond reducing emissions such as providing sustainable work and bettering communities, nature conservation and promoting biodiversity. 


Author: Danielle Everitt


Sources

https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/climate-change/#:~:text=Global%20Warming%20of%201.5%C2%B0C&text=With%20clear%20benefits%20to%20people,more%20sustainable%20and%20equitable%20society.


https://www.cagbc.org/cagbcdocs/2016_Building_Solutions_to_Climate_Change_FINAL.pdf


https://www.cagbc.org/cagbcdocs/zerocarbon/v2/CaGBC_Zero_Carbon_Building_Standard_v2_Performance.pdf

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