What does the term "Carbon Productivity" mean?
The Consortium defines carbon productivity as the value created from fossil carbon resources (coal, oil and natural gas), just as capital productivity tracks the financial return on investment and labor productivity measures the value created from human resources. The term has also been used to describe the value created for each unit of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitted (McKinsey 2008, Corporate Knights 2014).
The definitions are closely linked – since fossil carbon consumption leads in most cases to GHG emissions.
Ultimately, the aim must be to understand and manage three forms of carbon flagged by Bill McDonough – durable (e.g. limestone, wood, concrete), living (e.g. lifeforms) and fugitive (e.g. atmospheric emissions).
However, defining unburned carbon as a valuable input for our industries and economies potentially provides a new perspective for innovators, entrepreneurs, managers, investors and policy-makers. As such the Consortium has focused its early efforts on fossil carbon.
What is the purpose of the Carbon Productivity Consortium?
The Consortium believes a 10x improvement in carbon productivity is both necessary and possible. We initiate and support multi-stakeholder conversations, alongside the development of appropriate tools, to drive breakthrough approaches to generate ever-more value for society from ever-less fossil carbon.
Why do we need breakthroughs in carbon productivity?
- Drastically reducing consumption of fossil carbon while protecting, enhancing and creating natural and man-made sinks for carbon
- Maintaining and growing healthy and productive economies
Balancing these challenges to remain below the 2 ̊C climate target requires us to wean our economy off fossil fuel carbon, and to achieve a huge leap in the value generated from each unit of it that we use – in other words, we need breakthroughs in carbon productivity.
How does carbon productivity align with existing approaches and tools?
Business is key to driving action on carbon and there have been many concepts and terms developed to facilitate change.
The Carbon Productivity Tool is not intended to replace existing metrics and tools, for example, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the Carbon Disclosure Project or Science-Based Targets. It complements these approaches and provides a fresh perspective that generates new insights and actions for industrial companies. The tool is grounded in the best of current LCA methodology and provides new summary metrics to derive new insights and improvement strategies from LCA data.
Is the Carbon Productivity Consortium unwittingly legitimising continued growth in fossil carbon use by industry?
No. That is absolutely not the intention. Use of a carbon productivity concept and tool should be grounded in a strategy for absolute reduction in fossil fuel carbon use in line with the Paris Agreement and a well below 2 ̊C climate target.
Is carbon productivity simply about addressing climate change?
Again, no. The focus of this initiative is on climate change mitigation. However, we recognise the risk from focusing on carbon at the expense of other environmental and social impacts. Our approach is nested within the work of the Future-Fit Foundation, which explores the ripple effects of change across other aspects of the biosphere, oceans and atmosphere. For all applications of carbon productivity, users are encouraged to consider potential unintended consequences on other social and environmental system values.