Definitions for commonly used terms. If you have a question about a term that isn't on the list, please contact us.
Accreditation is the process by which an organisation is authorised to issue certifications to third parties.
Note: Accreditation is different from certification. Accreditation is a specific organisation's process of certification and refers to the organisation that issues certification, not the organisation being certified.
Toitū Envirocare is accredited by an independent accreditation body, Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ), which confirms our certification practices are acceptable. This means that we are competent to test and certify third parties, we behave ethically and we employ suitable quality assurance. Toitū Envirocare is accredited to ISO 14065, ISO 14066, and ISO 17065.
A quantitative measure of a level of activity that results in GHG emissions or removals. Examples of activity data include kilowatt-hours of electricity used, volume of fuel used, output of a process, hours a piece of equipment is operated, distance travelled, and area of a building.
Activity data are multiplied by an emissions factor to derive the GHG emissions associated with a process or an operation.
Emissions reductions are 'additional' if they occur because of the incentives associated with the existence of greenhouse gas markets. A variety of additionality 'tests' have been proposed. Basically, demonstrating additionality means showing that the emissions reductions being used as offsets are not 'business as usual'.
Planted forests on land not previously in forest.
Assigned Amount Unit
Assigned amount units (AAUs) are tradable units derived from an Annex I Party's emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol. They may be counted by Annex I Parties towards compliance with their emissions target and are equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).
A systematic examination against defined criteria to determine whether activities and related results conform to planned arrangements and whether these arrangements are implemented effectively and are suitable to achieve the organisation’s objectives.
The range of species (including genetic diversity within species), communities and ecosystems, and the natural interactions and processes that take place above and below ground in the environment.
The total mass of living matter within a given unit of environmental area.
The part of the Earth system comprising all ecosystems and living organisms in the atmosphere, on land (terrestrial biosphere), or in the oceans (marine biosphere), including derived dead organic matter such as litter, soil organic matter, and oceanic detritus.
Cancellation refers to the transfer of an emissions unit to a cancellation account. Once this is done an emission unit cannot be further transferred, retired, carried over or cancelled.
A tool used to calculate carbon dioxide emissions from fuel and energy sources and/or production processes.
Credits are awarded for sequestering, avoiding or reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere, i.e. the carbon entered on the credit side of your account; CO2 emissions due to activities that use fossil fuels are on the negative side of the balance. A carbon credit is equivalent to one tonne of CO2 emissions.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere when solid waste, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), and wood and wood products are burned.
Carbon dioxide equivalents
The six greenhouse gases have different global warming potentials (GWP). The warming effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) is assigned a value of one and the GWPs of the other greenhouse gases are used to convert the non-CO2 gases to carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).
A measure of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted through the combustion of fossil fuels; in the case of an organisation or business, it is the CO2 emissions due to their everyday operations; in the case of an individual or household, it is the CO2 emissions due to their daily activities; for a product or service, it includes additional life-cycle CO2 emissions along the supply chain; for materials, it is a measure of the embodied CO2 emissions determined through life cycle assessment.
Being carbon neutral involves calculating total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing the remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset. The term may be used to describe a product, service, event, organisation, or individual activities.
Carbon sink refers to removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), usually via photosynthesis in plants. Growing pasture to shrublands and shrublands to forest results in accumulation of large quantities of biomass carbon. Because growth of a native forest from a starting point of a pasture takes such a long time (probably centuries), the sequestration of biomass carbon will continue for a long time. Once a forest matures additional carbon sequestration slows and stops as trees begin to die and decay. Natural processes then cycle the carbon around the forest ecosystem, from live trees to dead trees to soil and back through new establishment and regeneration, without adding any more. Soil carbon is actually the largest carbon stock, but it often changes comparatively slowly, so is not expected to act as a sink in many cases. Because of the large stock involved even small changes will be significant, so soil carbon sinks or sources are the subject of much ongoing research.
A market in which large emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) can offset their emissions by buying carbon credits from another party. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) and the Chicago Climate Exchange are examples. Emissions trading schemes are being introduced in New Zealand and Australia.
Certified Emission Reduction unit
Certified Emission Reduction (CER) units are tradable emissions units generated by projects that reduce emissions in Non-Annex I Parties under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). They may be counted by Annex I Parties towards compliance with their emissions target and are equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e).
Certification refers to the confirmation of certain characteristics of an organisation, product or system. Third-party certification involves an independent assessment declaring that specified requirements have been met.
Note: Certification differs from accreditation. Accreditation is a specific organisation's process of certification and refers to the organisation that issues certification, not the organisation being certified.
Clean Development Mechanism
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) establishes a process for Annex I Parties to implement project activities that reduce emissions in non-Annex I Parties, in return for certified emission reduction (CERs) units. Annex I Parties can use the CERs to help meet their emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Changes in long-term trends in the average climate, such as changes in average temperatures. The potential consequences of global warming include melting icecaps and glaciers, rising sea levels, and a greater incidence of extreme weather such as storms, heatwaves, droughts and floods.
Much of this change is a result of human activities that increase the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels are continuing to rise and have already exceeded anything that the world has ever seen (over the past 260 million years). Scientists expect that the world will continue to warm over the next 100 years. For more information, see Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research's climate change pages www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/globalchange/climate_change.asp.
In IPCC (Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change) usage, climate change refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. In UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) usage, climate change refers to a change in climate that is attributable directly or indirectly to human activity that alters atmospheric composition.
The period over which countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol are legally bound to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The process of enhancing actions being taken to achieve improvements in greenhouse gas emissions measurement, management and mitigation or environmental management systems.
A numerical factor used to convert use of an energy source into a greenhouse gas emissions figure in tonnes of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalents. Conversion factors are also commonly referred to as emissions factors.
An assessment that includes part of the product’s life cycle, including material acquisition through the production of the studied product and excluding the use or end-of-life stages.
A cradle-to-grave assessment considers impacts at each stage of a product’s life cycle, from the time natural resources are extracted from the ground and processed through each subsequent stage of manufacturing, transportation, product use, recycling, and ultimately, disposal.
The process by which an organisation captures data on its fuel and energy use.
The source of data, e.g. electricity or gas retailer, production data.
Greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the participant, e.g. from production processes, company-owned refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, and/or burning of fuel in boilers and company-owned vehicles.
Indirect GHG emissions that occur in the life cycle of outputs (i.e., sold goods and services) subsequent to sale by the reporting company.
A measure of greenhouse gas emissions against a key performance indicator, e.g. tonnes per unit of production or tonnes per productive man hour.
An analysis or profile of where greenhouse gas emissions are being generated, e.g. proportion from air travel, vehicle travel, or electricity used by various activities.
A measured reduction in greenhouse gas emissions or emissions intensity due to efficiency projects and/or fuel substitution.
Emission Reduction Unit
Emission Reduction Units (ERUs) are tradable emissions units generated by Joint Implementation Projects in Annex I Parties. They may be counted by Annex I Parties towards compliance with their emissions target and are equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).
Environmental Management System
An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a set of systems that leads to a reduction in environmental impacts. The EMS focuses on the causes of environmental impacts and seeks to put in place simple but effective ways of managing those causes so that impacts are reduced or avoided.
A facility is a single installation, set of installations or production processes (stationary or mobile) that can be defined within a single geographical boundary, organisational unit or production process.
A hydrocarbon deposit, such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, derived from living matter of a previous geologic time and used for fuel.
The functional unit is a measure of the function of the studied product life cycle system and it provides a reference to which the inputs and outputs can be related.
Changes in the environment resulting from both natural changes and impacts of human activities on the world's atmosphere and climate system.
The progressive gradual rise of the Earth's average surface temperature thought to be caused in part by increased concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap heat that is normally radiated into space, and reflect it back to earth.
Global Warming Potential
Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a relative measure of the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere by any greenhouse gas. GWP values for different gases are expressed relative to the GWP of the reference gas, carbon dioxide, which is assigned a value of 1.
GWP of greenhouse gases over 100 years
Greenhouse gas emissions
The major greenhouse gases (GHGs) are: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases occur naturally, but human activities such as travel, energy consumption, and agriculture increase the amount of these gases in the atmosphere. Other greenhouse gases that do not occur naturally, but are generated by industrial processes, are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
Greenhouse Gas Protocol
A standard developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for corporate greenhouse gas accounting and reporting.
Greenhouse gas emissions arising from the generation of imported (purchased) electricity, heat or steam consumed by the organisation.
Greenhouse gas emissions that occur as a consequence of the activities of the participant, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the participant. Inclusion of these is on a case-by-case basis, e.g. road freight, shipping freight, and employee air travel. A materiality test is applied to decide whether indirect emissions should be included in a participant’s inventory. Indirect emissions should be included if:
They are believed to be large (individually or cumulatively) relative to the direct emissions
They contribute to the organisation's carbon liability exposure
They are deemed to be critical by key stakeholders
There are potential emission reductions that can be undertaken or influenced by the organisation.
A written and published statement from an organisation stating its intent to meet the requirements of the certification programme and/or achieve certification.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. See www.ipcc.ch
ISO 14064 and
A series of standards prepared by the International Standards Organization (ISO) for organisational greenhouse gas accounting and verification.
ISO 14064-1:2006, Greenhouse gases – Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organization level for the quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.
ISO 14064-2:2006, Greenhouse gases – Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for the quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions and removal enhancements.
ISO 14064-3:2006, Greenhouse gases – Part 3: Specification with guidance for the validation and verification of greenhouse gas assertions.
ISO 14065: 2007, Greenhouse gases – Requirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies for use in accreditation or other forms of recognition
A project-based mechanism that allows an Annex I Party (with a commitment inscribed in Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol) to implement an emission-reducing project or a project that enhances removals by sinks in the territory of another Annex I Party (with a commitment inscribed in Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol) and count the resulting emission reduction units (ERUs) towards meeting its own Kyoto target.
The Kyoto Protocol is the first legally binding international agreement aimed at slowing, and eventually stopping, global warming. It is an international plan of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One hundred and seventeen countries have signed it. Countries that ratify the Protocol agree to cut back their greenhouse gas emissions to predetermined levels over the period 2008-2012 (the first commitment period). They can do this by directly reducing the emissions they produce, buying carbon credits from other countries, or offsetting the emissions they cannot reduce, for example, by planting new forests or increasing areas of scrubland vegetation to increase the amount of carbon dioxide taken from the atmosphere. New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002. For further information on the Kyoto Protocol, see http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php.
Land-use, Land-use change
Land uses and land-use changes can act either as sinks or as emission sources. It is estimated that approximately one-fifth of global emissions result from land-use activities. The Kyoto Protocol allows Parties to receive emissions credit for certain land-use activities that reduce net emissions.
Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to final disposal.
The environmental product life cycle consists of all the direct and supporting processes (see product system) required to build, distribute, use, maintain, and retire a product, from extraction of raw materials to their final disposal or recycle.
Life cycle assessment
Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.
Long-term Certified Emission Reduction unit
Long-term Certified Emission Reduction (lCER) units are tradable units issued for afforestation and reforestation project activity that enhances removals of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere during a designated verification period in Non-Annex I Parties under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). lCERs expire at the end of the crediting period of the project. Individuals are not allowed to hold lCERs in the New Zealand Emission Unit Register (NZEUR).
The extent to which an organisation has included, or excluded, certain greenhouse gas emissions from its emissions inventory. Emissions are material if their omission or misstatement could influence the economic decisions of users taken on the basis of the emissions inventory, or error judged in the particular circumstances of its omission or misstatement.
Methods and systems used by participants to produce and continue to review their greenhouse gas emissions to build an emissions inventory and assist the organisation in meeting its objectives and targets.
Methane (CH4) is a byproduct of digestion by ruminant animals, and decomposition of organic wastes in wet environments (e.g. swamps, paddy fields). Methane emissions also result from production of coal, natural gas, and oil.
New Zealand Units
New Zealand Units (NZUs) are emissions units in the New Zealand Emission Trading Scheme, comparable to and backed by a Kyoto Unit.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is emitted from breakdown of animal dung and urine in soil.
To compensate, counterbalance or neutralise carbon dioxide emissions by increasing carbon sinks, energy efficiency initiatives or sources of renewable energy. The removal of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere through the purchase of verified emissions units or carbon credits.
A company, corporation, firm, enterprise or institution, or other legal entity or part thereof, whether incorporated or not, public or private, that has its own function(s) and administration.
A Publically Available Specification (PAS) prepared by BSI (also known as the British Standards Institution) for product and service greenhouse gas accounting.
PAS 2050:2011, Specification for the assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services
Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative
The Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative (PFSI) is a New Zealand Government programme that provides an opportunity for landowners to establish permanent forest sinks and obtain tradable Kyoto Protocol compliant emission units in proportion to the carbon sequestered in their forests. The PFSI is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Indigenous Forestry Unit. See www.maf.govt.nz/forestry/pfsi/
Product Category Rule (PCR)
Documents that define the rules and requirements for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) of a certain product category. They are vital for the concept of environmental declarations according to ISO 14025 as they enable transparency and comparability between different EPDs based on the same PCR.
Greenhouse gas emissions produced from a production process.
Projects to Reduce Emissions
Projects to Reduce Emissions (PRE) is a New Zealand Government programme that supports initiatives that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beyond the reductions that would have occurred without the project by awarding them Kyoto-compliant carbon credits. See www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/climate/policies-initiatives/projects/index.html
A legal agreement with the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Trust to ensure current and future landowners keep the area under regenerating forest protected forever. See www.openspace.org.nz for more information.
Reforestation / regeneration
Regrowth of forest on land that was previously forested by indigenous species.
An emissions unit registry is a software system for the accounting of transactions in AAUs, RMUs, ERUs, CERs, tCERs and lCERs. Includes national registries and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) registry.
Removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities. Such removals may lead to the generation of RMUs, tCERs or lCERs. They are the 'opposite' of emissions of greenhouse gases.
Removal units (RMUs) are tradable units generated on the basis of removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities. They may be counted by Annex I Parties towards compliance with their emissions target. RMUs can be used within the current commitment period but cannot be banked for use in any subsequent commitment period. They can be converted into AAUs within the national registry. An RMU is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).
An animal that chews its cud regurgitated from its rumen, a ‘second stomach’ for digesting tough plant fibres. Methane is ‘burped’ when the cud is regurgitated. Cattle and sheep are ruminants.
Removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide, either through biological processes (e.g. plants and trees) or geological processes that capture carbon.
Carbon sink refers to removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide, usually via photosynthesis in plants. Growing pasture to shrublands and shrublands to forest results in accumulation of large quantities of biomass carbon. Because growth of a native forest from a starting point of a pasture takes such a long time (probably centuries), the sequestration of biomass carbon will continue for a long time. Once a forest matures additional carbon sequestration slows and stops as trees begin to die and decay. Natural processes then cycle the carbon around the forest ecosystem, from live trees to dead trees to soil and back through new establishment and regeneration, without adding any more. Soil carbon is actually the largest carbon stock, but it often changes comparatively slowly, so is not expected to act as a sink in many cases. Because of the large stock involved even small changes will be significant, so soil carbon sinks or sources are the subject of much ongoing research.
Temporary Certified Emission Reduction units
Temporary Certified Emission Reduction (tCER) units are tradable units issued for afforestation and reforestation project activity that enhances the removal of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere after the start of a designated project start date in Non-Annex I Parties under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). tCERs expire at the end of the commitment period following the one during which they were issued.
Pertaining to the land; not aquatic.
Toitū carbonzero programme
A certification programme to measure, manage and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Toitū enviromark programme
A certification programme that helps an organisation develop, implement and maintain an environmental management system over five steps.
A term used to refer to gases found in the Earth's atmosphere other than nitrogen, oxygen, argon and water vapour. When this terminology is used, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are classified as trace gases. Although trace gases taken together make up less than 1% of the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are important in the climate system. Water vapour also plays an important role in the climate system; its concentrations in the lower atmosphere vary considerably from essentially zero in cold dry air masses to perhaps 4% by volume in humid tropical air masses.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. See http://unfccc.int/2860.php.
Indirect GHG emissions that occur in the life cycle of inputs (i.e., purchased or acquired goods, services, materials, and fuels), up to the point of receipt by the reporting company.
Voluntary Emissions Reduction units
Voluntary Emission Reduction (VER) units are generated by small scale projects that are assessed and verified by third party organisations not through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
No greenhouse gases are emitted. Generally the term used should be zero net emissions, which means the actual emissions are completely offset through carbon sequestration or purchase of other carbon credits.