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New 2023 Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors: Impacts and Insights

In this article, we delve into Defra's latest Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors and reveal key changes affecting everything from electricity to business travel.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has unveiled its much-anticipated 2023 Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors for Company Reporting. These new factors, which have been uploaded onto FutureTracker and are readily available to our clients, reveal some significant changes from previous years. In this blog post, we will delve into what these changes mean, but first, let's take a step back to understand the concept of conversion factors.

What are Conversion Factors?

In the context of environmental reporting, conversion factors are essentially the tools that translate various types of activities (from driving a car to disposing of waste) into their associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These factors are crucial for businesses aiming to track and reduce their environmental impact because they provide a uniform measure (usually expressed as kilograms or tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) that can account for different greenhouse gases and a wide range of activities.

For instance, the conversion factor for a litre of petrol burned in a car engine accounts not just for the carbon dioxide produced directly, but also for other GHGs like methane and nitrous oxide, and the emissions related to the extraction, refining, and distribution of the fuel.

Unpacking the 2023 Changes

This year's update from Defra includes several notable alterations to the conversion factors, highlighting shifts in the energy landscape as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let's unpack these changes:

1. UK Electricity

The conversion factor for UK electricity has increased by 7%. This is attributed to a rise in natural gas usage, coupled with a decline in the use of renewable energy sources compared to the previous year.

2. Electric Vehicles

The factors for battery electric vehicles have gone up by 5-10% depending on the vehicle size. Similarly, the factors for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have risen by 7-13% depending on size. This rise is linked to the increase in the UK electricity generation factor. Some market segments are showing even larger increases because newly registered vehicles are more energy-intensive (i.e., they consume more watt-hours per kilometre).

3. Landfill Factors for Biodegradable Materials

The landfill factors for biodegradable materials have been revised in light of updated values for methane capture and oxidation in the MELMod model. This model is now more accurate, reflecting the most current empirical data on emissions from landfills. As a result, the factors for paper and refuse landfill have increased by 11-12%.

4. Business Travel Emissions

Lastly, due to reduced load factors—largely a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic—emissions per passenger on business travel have increased significantly, up to 52% higher.

The Bottom Line

The 2023 updates to the greenhouse gas conversion factors underline the evolving and dynamic nature of environmental impact assessment. Understanding and integrating these new conversion factors is crucial for businesses committed to accurately tracking and reducing their carbon footprints.

With the addition of Defra's new conversion factors, FutureTracker is better equipped than ever to support your business's sustainability goals. As the environmental landscape evolves, FutureTracker remains your reliable partner, committed to helping you navigate these changes with confidence and precision.

If you would like to learn more about how FutureTracker can revolutionise your sustainability, you can get a free information packet by clicking here.

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