EPA’s environmental performance

Carbon management at EPA

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing society today. EPA believes it can also be one of the greatest opportunities. Managing our greenhouse gas emissions is a way we can mitigate the impacts of our own operations and adjust to the impacts of climate change.

In 2005, EPA went carbon neutral and developed a step-by-step continuous improvement framework to manage its own greenhouse gas emissions, known as our Carbon Management Principles.

This was at a time when many organisations were beginning to manage their exposure to climate risks and realise the growing opportunities through developing a strategic carbon management strategy.

It is often difficult to decide how to prioritise actions and to assess which approaches provide the best environmental and financial outcomes. EPA recognised this and decided there was no better way to assist businesses other than to tackle this problem internally and then share the process and the results.  

CMP flow measure

Carbon neutral

Every year since 2005, EPA has taken the following steps to manage its own carbon footprint and demonstrate best-practice carbon neutrality:

  • we measure our carbon footprint using the World Resources Institute/World Business Council for Sustainable Development Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard
  • identify and assess our options using the Carbon Management Principles
  • assess the reduction and offset options from a financial and environmental perspective
  • get independent verification of our greenhouse gas inventory and management plan
  • externally publish (to our website) our emissions, offsets purchased and greenhouse gas inventory management plan.

EPA's Greenhouse inventory management plan is an internal document outlining the process EPA goes through on an annual basis to develop its internal GHG inventory. This document is not intended as a guidance document, but rather a case study which can be used to provide insight into the development of a greenhouse gas inventory.

Carbon offsets

A carbon offset is a project that indirectly ‘reduces’ GHG emissions at one source by investing in GHG emissions reductions elsewhere. Offset products most typically involve projects that invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation. Offset credits should be purchased from an accredited offset scheme provider.

A range of offset products have emerged to help companies, governments and the community offset their GHG emissions. EPA initially developed a web-based Carbon Offset Guide to give companies an overview of carbon offsets and provide helpful hints to help navigate the marketplace. Although no longer managed by EPA, it continues to provide information on the range of international and Australian offsets, standards and guidance.

Carbon offsets provide EPA with a legitimate means of lowering our residual GHG impact, and are an important final component to becoming carbon neutral. However, before purchasing carbon offsets, EPA conducts appropriate research to ensure that products have been appropriately verified as delivering the environmental outcomes claimed. EPA also does a thorough financial, environmental and social assessment of current carbon offset options. As part of this, EPA looks at the following key considerations when choosing offsets:

  • additionality
  • permanence
  • leakage
  • double counting
  • timing of emissions reductions
  • monitoring and verification
  • co-benefits.

Cap and trade

In 2009, as part of EPA’s commitment to achieving real reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, EPA ran an internal carbon cap and trade scheme between its seven sites. A carbon cap and trade scheme is a model of emissions trading that involves setting a limit, or cap, on the amount of GHG participants can emit. This cap is reduced over time consistent with an overall GHG emissions target.

Whilst alternative options existed for driving GHG emission reductions (such as performance management processes), significant additional benefits were gained through the design and implementation of an internal carbon cap and trade scheme. These included:

  • engaging all staff in discovering cost-effective ways to reduce our emissions
  • being able to assist other organisations by learning first-hand about emissions trading and managing the impacts of a price on carbon
  • enhancing our reputation though an innovative program to reduce our own GHG emissions and demonstrate best practice.

At the beginning of the scheme we anticipated an overall reduction of 3 per cent. The program proved to be significantly more successful, and EPA achieved a 24.5 per cent reduction across emission sources covered by the scheme, and an average of 22 per cent across the sites involved.


In 2005–06, EPA set a target of reducing its GHG emissions by 10 per cent by 2009–10. It exceeded this goal by achieving a 17 per cent reduction.

EPA is now committed to a 15 per cent emissions reduction target by 2015, based on a 2009–10 baseline.

EPA is already set to exceed this target by achieving a 29 per cent reduction in emissions from 2009-10 until 2012-13. 

    Page last updated on 14 Apr 2014