Understanding GHG Emissions: Key Metrics for Humanitarian and Development Agencies

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In the realm of humanitarian and development efforts, tackling climate change is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity. As the world grapples with the consequences of global warming, it's crucial for organizations in these sectors to understand and address their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions effectively. It's necessary to "walk the talk". By measuring and mitigating carbon emissions, you can not only minimize your environmental footprint but also enhance the resiliency and sustainability of your project outcomes. Let's delve into the main GHG emission sources that humanitarian and development agencies should prioritize measuring.

First, let's think about the essentials. These emission sources are critical to assess for all organizations.

  1. Building Energy: One of the primary sources of GHG emissions for any organization is energy consumption. This includes electricity usage, generators, heating and cooling systems. Humanitarian and development agencies often have global operations. Every country has a different energy profile and availability of renewable energy. Measurement is key to know where the real hotspots are in your operations, letting you focus action where it will make the biggest impact.
  2. Transportation: Travel is an essential activity for humanitarian and development agencies, from conducting fieldwork, meeting project beneficiaries or attending conferences. Air travel tends to be a major emission source, an issue that is being tackled creatively by many agencies through optimized mission planning and virtual meeting technologies. Vehicle fleets can be critical, especially in remote and high security areas, to keep people safe and operations agile. The use of taxis and public transport for airport transfers and other ground-related travel can be important to account for as well.

Next, explore other activities that may be useful to measure. These emission sources are more ambitious, and often difficult, to measure but can be important to get the full picture of your environmental impact.

  1. Purchased goods and services: Procurement and supply chain activities can also be substantial sources of GHG emissions. From sourcing materials for aid projects to the distribution of goods, every stage of the supply chain has the potential to generate carbon emissions. By assessing the carbon footprint of their supply chains and prioritizing environmentally-friendly procurement practices, agencies can mitigate emissions and promote sustainable development.
  2. Transport and Deliveries: Development projects frequently involve large-scale distribution of goods and materials, such as food aid, medical supplies, and infrastructure equipment often in hard-to-reach areas. These activities are essential but measurement opens up the opportunity to take a data-backed examination of operations to pinpoint the best opportunities to optimize. Doing so often saves costs as well as emissions.
  3. Employee Commuting: The daily commute of employees to and from work can result in substantial emissions, especially at HQ buildings and field offices with significant staff numbers. With public transport options increasing in urban areas, measuring this activity can reveal options to promote green commuting options through subsidized passes or group transport services. Even flexible working hours and remote working can make a huge difference.
  4. Waste Management: Improper waste management practices, including landfill disposal and incineration, contribute to GHG emissions through the release of methane and other greenhouse gases. Humanitarian and development agencies often deal with significant amounts of waste, including plastics and packaging, particularly in emergency response situations. Implementing waste reduction strategies, recycling programs, and environmentally sound waste disposal methods can help minimize emissions and promote a circular economy approach.
  5. Capital Goods: Capital goods, which encompass machinery, equipment, and infrastructure may be necessary for certain development projects especially related to infrastructure or industry development. Development agencies can adopt strategies such as promoting energy-efficient technologies, prioritizing renewable energy sources for project implementation, optimizing transportation and logistics operations, and investing in sustainable procurement practices

Measuring and managing GHG emissions is essential for humanitarian and development agencies to fulfill their missions effectively while minimizing their environmental impact. By addressing key emission sources, these organizations can contribute to global efforts to combat climate change while advancing sustainable development goals. Through strategic planning, innovation, and collaboration, they can pave the way towards a more resilient and sustainable future for all.