The Power of Carbon Accounting: Tracking our Carbon Footprint and Its Limitations

In an age where environmental concerns are paramount, it is imperative that we take responsibility for our impact on the planet. Carbon accounting is vital in this regard, enabling individuals and organisations to measure, manage, and mitigate their carbon emissions. In this blog post, we will take a look at carbon accounting, understand its significance in addressing climate change, and explore its limitations.

Understanding Carbon Accounting

Carbon accounting, or greenhouse gas accounting, is a systematic process used to measure and record the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by various activities and operations. These emissions are a key contributor to climate change, as they trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to rising global temperatures and many environmental consequences.

Why Carbon Accounting Matters

Carbon accounting is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it helps us identify the sources of our emissions, enabling individuals and organisations to make informed decisions about reducing their carbon footprint. It also provides a framework for setting realistic emission reduction targets, a critical step in addressing climate change. Moreover, carbon accounting promotes transparency and accountability, holding individuals and businesses responsible for their environmental impact and encouraging them to take action to reduce emissions. Additionally, it aligns with broader sustainability goals, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future for all.

Limitations of Carbon Accounting

However, it’s essential to acknowledge the limitations of carbon accounting. These limitations can include incomplete data, as gathering accurate information on energy consumption, particularly for individuals, can be challenging in certain situations. Businesses may also face difficulties in obtaining emissions data from their supply chain partners. Even with complete data, there can be uncertainty in emission calculations due to variations in emission factors and methodologies. This uncertainty can make it challenging to compare and benchmark emissions accurately.

Moreover, carbon accounting primarily focuses on direct and indirect emissions within an organization’s control (Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions) and often overlooks Scope 3 emissions, encompassing indirect emissions related to the supply chain, transportation, and product use. Neglecting Scope 3 emissions can result in an incomplete picture of an entity’s carbon footprint. Additionally, changing baselines pose challenges, as evolving technology and emission factors can alter the baseline against which emissions are measured, making long-term comparisons and goal-setting complex.

Lastly, implementing a carbon accounting system can be complex and costly for many small businesses and individuals, requiring significant resources in terms of personnel and financial investments.


Carbon accounting is a valuable tool for measuring, managing, and mitigating carbon emissions, but it’s essential to recognize its limitations. While it can provide insights and drive positive change, it may not be a perfect solution in all cases. Nevertheless, by acknowledging these limitations and continuously working to improve the accuracy and scope of carbon accounting, we can better address climate change and contribute to a more sustainable future for our planet. It’s time to take action and be part of the solution while working to overcome these challenges.

SWITCH-On Skills is funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Find out more about SWITCH On Skills here: