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FAQs About the PLA's Carbon Footprint

What Is a Carbon Footprint?

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted to the atmosphere by an organisation or person as a result of their activities. 

Why Are Greenhouse Gases important?

GHGs are the gases that cause climate change and are added together and converted to carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), usually calculated in tonnes. GHGs are able to trap heat (longwave radiation) in the atmosphere, keeping the Earth’s surface warmer than it would be if they were not present thus causing the “Greenhouse Effect”.  An increased “greenhouse effect” can lead to global warming and climate change.

PLA Carbon Footprint Composition

The PLA’s carbon footprint baseline was recalculated for 2014 due to additional energy, fuel and waste records becoming apparent during the data search for the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) assessments.  The Carbon Footprint includes the following PLA emissions:

  • Scope 1 – direct emissions from fuel (vessels and vehicles)
  • Scope 2 – indirect emissions from energy (electricity – not included as on a renewable tariff)
  • Scope 3 – other indirect emissions (for the PLA these are waste management, business travel, water and pilotage taxis).  Typically, indirect emissions only need to be included when they form a significant part of the total carbon footprint.

Reporting the carbon footprint has been done using best practice and complies with the government guidance from March 2019.  This is guidance for quoted companies under the Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Director’s Reports) Regulations 2013 which requires quoted companies to also report on environmental matters within their Annual Report.  Companies (Directors’ Report) and Limited Liability Partnerships (Energy and Carbon Report) Regulations 2018 impose new obligations for quoted and large unquoted companies.   

Guidance for Reporting Your Carbon Footprint

UK government guidance for reporting is the best place to start for guidance in how to calculate your carbon footprint as it is also designed for all organisations who voluntarily report on environmental matters. You can find the guidance here. Chapter 3 is on voluntary reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and explains how to:

  • Determine what activities fall into which Scopes
  • Calculate your greenhouse gas emissions using the formula:

Activity data x emission factor = greenhouse gas emissions

  • What to disclose in your voluntary report
  • How to report emissions reduction actions and gross and net emissions
  • What Intensity ratios are and why you should use them
  • Offer supporting explanations for your data


  • Intensity ratios / normalisation factors - Normalising data can allow comparison over time and against different sectors.  It could be against an activity metric or a financial metric.
  • SECR - Companies (Directors’ Report) and Limited Liability Partnerships (Energy and Carbon Report) Regulations 2018 (“the 2018 Regulations”) implement the government’s policy on Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) and require quoted companies to report annual emissions and an intensity ratio in their Director’s Report.
  • CO2, carbon dioxide, is the most important of Earth’s long-lived greenhouse gases. CO2 absorbs less heat per molecule than the other greenhouse gases such as methane or nitrous oxide, but it is more abundant and stays in the atmosphere for much longer.  
  • CO2e is a standard unit for measuring carbon footprint, expressing the impact of each different greenhouse gas in terms of the amount of CO2 that would create the same amount of warming.
  • Greenhouse Gases GHG are a group of compounds and gases like carbon dioxide and methane, measured as CO2e.
  • Net Zero Carbon or Carbon neutral means balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Carbon sink is any system that absorbs more carbon than it emits and can be natural, such as soil, forests and oceans, or artificial carbon removing technologies.
  • Net Zero GHG refers to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.
  • Zero carbon means no carbon emissions are being produced from a product or service, for example, energy sources like wind and solar do not create carbon emission when they are used to produce electricity.
  • Sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, geologic formations, and the ocean.

Page updated 10/2/2022