High Value Manufacturing Catapult warns lack of common carbon reporting methods for Scope 3 emissions risks undermining UK net zero goals
A lack of common carbon reporting standards and "almost useless" data from across different industries risks "completely undermining the UK's drive to net zero", according to a group of the country's leading manufacturing research centres.
The High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC), one of a number of research groupings established by the government's innovation agency Innovate UK, has warned that due to myriad differing carbon reporting standards it is "virtually impossible" to track emissions reductions across UK industry.
A report by the group on Friday highlights particular issues surrounding Scope 3 emissions - greenhouse gases generated throughout a company's supply chain or through the use and disposal of its products and services - such as the difficulty in tracking emissions from materials extraction and processing.
Manufacturing accounts for up to 40 per cent of the UK's carbon emissions, and the overwhelming bulk of the sector's emissions - up to 90 per cent - are generated via companies' value chains, making tackling Scope 3 emissions critical for meeting the UK's net zero targets.
But HMVC chief executive Katherine Bennet warned that at present there exists numerous differing accounting standards and methodologies for tracking these Scope 3 emissions.
"Tracking carbon emissions is now an integral part of a company's annual audit," she explained. "Yet, a myriad of different carbon accounting standards and methodologies are used, meaning that the data is rendered almost useless when combined across the manufacturing sector.
"Given the energy intensive nature of manufacturing, this lack of common data makes tracking overall emissions reductions almost impossible and vital information can be obscured or lost. This risks completely undermining the UK's drive to net zero."
As such, the report recommends greater collaboration between manufacturing groups, research bodies and government departments to address the shortfall in relevant emissions data and to jointly develop universal carbon reporting standards.
It also calls for agreements over which metrics to use in order to inform the resulting standards, in collaboration with the British Standards Institution (BSI), alongside tighter guidance to support manufacturers' emissions reporting and the introduction of a more robust monitoring system overseen by an economy-wide regulator.
"Understanding these emissions is fundamental to the UK's progression towards net zero," the report states. "Current reporting is inconsistent and uses varying terminology and reporting formats. This must change to improve comparability and ensure robustness in the accounting approach."