Carbon footprint: What is it and how to reduce it

All you need to know about carbon footprints

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a carbon footprint is a change in climate attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the world's atmosphere. Fortunately, each and every one of us can work together in the fight against climate change if we promote reductions in carbon footprints.

huella de carbono

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is an environmental indicator that represents the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs), expressed in CO2 equivalents, that are emitted directly or indirectly as a result of a specific activity. In addition to carbon dioxide, there are other gases that contribute to this greenhouse effect such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

In order to calculate the contribution of each gas, there is a parameter called the Global Warming Potential (GWP) that compares the heating power of a certain mass of this greenhouse gas with the heating power of the same amont of CO2, so that the effect of these different gases can be calculated with the same unit of measurement, called CO2 equivalent (CO2e).

GHG (t CO2e) = GHG (t gas)*GWP gas

The first step for calculating a carbon footprint is to take an inventory of gas emissions or an analysis of the life cycle depending on the type of footprint. Using this information as a base, it's possible to implement an emissions reduction strategy based on energy efficiency, cutting back on raw materials, circular economy, process improvements, etc.

How to calculate a carbon footprint

The carbon footprint calculation is based on international standards like the GHG Protocol and ISO 14064. Emissions are calculated by multiplying the consumption data (activity) by its emission factor, depending on the fuel used (scope 1), type of energy (scope 2), and the intended activity (scope 3).

Carbon footprint = Activity data x Emission factor

Whenever possible, data directly from the organization or the most similar possible is used (considering the sector and geographical area) and takes into account both emissions and removal of the CO2e.

There are various guides and tools available online to calculate carbon footprint for both individuals and organizations such as those designed by the UN, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, the UK's Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA); and many more.

What does the carbon footprint calculation include?

Throughout the life cycle of any product or service that we use as individuals or organizations, we can differentiate distinct stages that require energy and generate GHG emissions: from the extraction of the raw materials, the transportation to industry where they are transformed into products, the distribution to vendors, the use by consumers, and finally the waste treatment where they may be transformed again.

In each stage, there is an organization or person capable of measuring, controlling, and managing the necessary energy and the emissions of the process (the truck driver, managers of the manufacturing process, the user of the product, etc.). These would be considered the direct emissions generated in this stage by this person or organization. The rest of the stages of the process are considered indirect emissions, since they are still associated with the activity or product, even though the person or business does not have direct control over the process of the stage. With this in mind, emissions are classified using three scopes:

  • Scope 1 Direct emissions: GHG emissions related to combustion from sources that are owned or controlled by the business or person, for example, boilers, vehicles, furnaces, etc.
  • Scope 2 Indirect GHG emissions associated with energy: GHG emissions associated with the purchase of energy as electricity, steam, or compressed air, which are acquired and consumed by the business or person.
  • Scope 3 Other indirect emissions: GHG emissions that are the result of the business or person's activity but which occur in emission sources that are not owned or controlled by the business or person. One example would be extraction and production activities of raw materials purchased by a business, the use of products sold to third parties, or waste management activities in a home or business.

How can we reduce our carbon footprint?

Once we have an inventory, it will help us to identify where we can have a greater impact in reducing our carbon footprint and to introduce guidelines that generate a culture of carbon footprint reduction, both in day-to-day operations, as well as in the life cycle management of products or the organization.

Three repsol workers

What is Repsol doing to reduce its carbon footprint?

At Repsol, we believe the energy sector has a defining role in the development of new products and services that favor an efficient and sustainable energy transition. We are the first company in the sector to commit to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. At Repsol, we view decarbonization as an opportunity for developing more profitable businesses in order to continue growing and become the multi-energy company that society needs in this decade to sustainably meet all its energy needs. To achieve this, we've set new, more demanding business plans for our strategy, activity, and investments that are aligned with meeting the climate change objectives of the Paris Agreement to prevent an average global temperature increase of more than 2ºC.

We calculate and report the carbon footprint of our organization, where 99% of our direct and indirect emissions are verified according to the EU ETS or ISO 14064; and we were favorably assessed by the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP, a world database used by investors) with an A- rating for the second consecutive year, placing in the Leadership tier and surpassing the average in the O&G sector.

We have believed since 1992 that energy efficiency projects are key in reducing our carbon footprint in the stages where we manage operations and have set demanding reduction goals in our strategic plans. Our current plan includes investing more than 400 million euros until 2025 to reduce 800,000 tons of CO2 and to lay the foundation for transforming our industrial centers into net zero emissions facilities.

In addition, we calculate the carbon footprint of our products. We analyze the impact throughout the different stages of the product's life cycle following the ISO 14067 methodology, a strict international standard that validates the rigor of our work.

In terms of our customers' carbon footprint reduction, we aim to produce 1.3 million tons of sustainable biofuels in 2025 and more than 2 million tons in 2030, committing to a business of efficient products centered on circular economy and the production of advanced biofuels.

A smartphone with the Waylet app

Repsol helps you reduce your carbon footprint

Recently, we kickstarted a voluntary initiative to neutralize emissions called the Net Zero Emissions Commitment, which we manage through our innovative application Waylet and Vivit. Every time a customer refuels at one of our more than 3,400 service stations and pays with the Waylet application, they will have the option to offset 100% of the CO2 emissions from that fuel consumption through collaboration in reforestation projects.